Electronic viewfinders without the bulk: Kopin shrinks the microdisplay


posted Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 3:28 PM EDT

Kopin's logo. Click here to visit the Kopin website!Compact digital cameras have come an incredibly long way over the last decade or so. Long gone are the chunky, computer-in-a-box designs of the early days of digital photography. Modern cameras can be much more pocket-friendly, and many now aim to serve not only as a preserver of memories, but also as a fashion statement.

There have been victims in this rush to sleekness, though. Viewfinders, once a feature found on almost every camera, have now largely gone the way of the dodo. They were a must on even the cheapest camera in the days of film, simply because you had no other way to know what you were taking a picture of, but now almost every digital camera has an LCD display, many camera manufacturers--and photographers who've grown up shooting at arm's length--no longer see the point. For some of us, though, they're still key. Framing with a well-designed viewfinder to your eye can feel more intuitive, help steady the camera, and isn't as badly affected by harsh sunlight as many LCD displays can be. Some designs also save power versus shooting on the LCD.

Not surprisingly, microdisplay manufacturer Kopin is doing its best to reverse the trend, and wants to put their displays into more cameras. For years, the company has worked to make them ever smaller. Every millimeter honed from the display is one that can be devoted to fitting in another component, or trimmed from the camera body. Of course, the viewfinder still has to justify its place on the bill of materials, so we wouldn't expect to see electronic viewfinders become common in budget models any time soon. For premium compacts and compact system cameras, though, the presence of an EVF might help swing a customer towards your camera.

Kopin's latest CyberDisplay model is, says the company, the smallest ever made with VGA (640 x 480 pixel) resolution. With three dots per pixel and a dot size of 2.25 x 6.75µm, the new CyberDisplay has a diagonal dimension of just 0.21 inches, or approximately five millimeters. By way of comparison, the company's previous near-VGA design had 600 x 480 pixel resolution, with a 0.27-inch diagonal. Complete with a backlight and optics, the new VGA CyberDisplay has dimensions of 17.76 x 13.3 x 20.5 mm, while retaining the 24 degree field of view of the previous design.

Despite having quadrupled in resolution, the new display is actually a little smaller than the first commercialized CyberDisplay model that debuted in some of JVC's camcorders way back in mid-1999.  Less than ten years ago, the smallest VGA microdisplay had a 0.44-inch diagonal.

Alongside the tiny new VGA CyberDisplay, the company is also showing off several other products at the upcoming Society for Information Display show in Boston. These include a 2,048 x 2,048 pixel microdisplay said to have the world's highest resolution, plus a 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) high-def color display in a 0.49-inch package, a 1,280 x 1,024 pixel LCOS display in a 0.88-inch package, and more.

Press Release

Kopin Showcases New Breakthrough in Shrinking Display Size

Ultra-Compact Electronic Viewfinder for Camera Systems Demonstrated at Society for Information Display 2012

SID Display Week 2012--Booth 177

TAUNTON, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Kopin® Corporation (NASDAQ: KOPN), the leader in microdisplays for consumer and military applications, today announced a breakthrough in shrinking the size of its color displays. By reducing the color dots to a mere 2.25 x 6.75 µm, Kopin has achieved a full-color VGA display (640 x 480 resolution) in a 0.21” diagonal size, which is by far the smallest VGA color-filter liquid crystal display (LCD) in the world. Kopin will showcase an ultra-compact electronic viewfinder (EVF) containing the VGA display at the SID (Society for Information Display) 2012 Exhibition, which takes place June 5 – 7 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in Boston, Massachusetts. The EVF will be shown at Kopin’s booth (#177).


“Our new VGA display with the smallest color dot in the industry is a major milestone for Kopin’s technology roadmap to provide more compact, higher resolution displays,” said Dr. Boryeu Tsaur, Kopin’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of Display. “This exciting achievement is enabled by our innovative process improvements and unique pixel design. This is the third time we were able to shrink the pixel size, and our new pixel is about 20% of the size we used in our displays four years ago.”

“Our ability to shrink the EVF enables our customers to offer smaller full featured cameras,” said Dr. John C.C. Fan, Kopin’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “With our smaller VGA display, new compact backlight and redesigned optics, we are able to provide an EVF with the same field of view (~24 deg) but about half the size compared to our current VGA EVF product. With a dimension of 17.76 mm (W) x 13.3 mm (H) x 20.5 mm (D), it is the smallest VGA EVF in the world.”

About Kopin
Kopin Corporation’s voice-activated, wireless, hands-free Golden-i® mobile computing headsets, lightweight, power-efficient, ultra-small liquid crystal displays and heterojunction bipolar transistors (HBTs) are revolutionizing the way people around the world see, hear and communicate. Kopin has shipped more than 30 million displays for a range of consumer and military applications including digital cameras, personal video eyewear, camcorders, thermal weapon sights and night vision systems. The Company's unique HBTs, which help to enhance battery life, talk time and signal clarity, have been integrated into billions of wireless handsets as well as into WiFi, VoIP and high-speed Internet data transmission systems. Kopin's proprietary display and HBT technologies are protected by more than 200 global patents and patents pending. For more information, please visit Kopin's website at www.kopin.com.

Kopin, CyberDisplay, and The NanoSemiconductor Company are trademarks of Kopin Corporation.

Safe Harbor Statement
Statements in this news release may be considered “forward-looking” statements under the “Safe Harbor” provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These include statements relating to Kopin’s breakthrough in shrinking display size; performance expectations and market potential for the VGA display developed with the 2.25 x 6.75 µm color dots and EVF incorporating this display . These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to: our ability to produce the VGA displays and EVF in volumes and at a cost sufficient to sell them profitably; customer demand for VGA EVF ; competitive products and pricing; manufacturing delays, technical issues, economic conditions or external factors that may prevent the Company from achieving its forecasts; and other risk factors and cautionary statements listed in the Company’s periodic reports and registration statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the 12 months ended December 31, 2011, and the Company’s subsequent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. You should not place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date on which they are made. The Company undertakes no responsibility to update any of these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances occurring after the date of this report.
Kopin - The NanoSemiconductor Company®