Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chipworks Reviews DSLR Sensors: Sony and Nikon

Chipworks starts a series of full frame DSLR sensor reviews. The first part talks about sensors found inside Nikon cameras from 2004 till today. Chipworks has analyzed the pixel structures of APS-C and full frame sensors used in 10 Nikon DSLRs. Six cameras use Nikon-designed, Renesas fabricated CIS, while four cameras are based on Sony sensors:

A shared pixel structure was used in both Sony latest 36MP 4.75um-pixel IMX094 (made in 0.18um process) and Renesas 7.3um-pixel NC81366W (using 0.25um process):

Sony IMX094 from the D800
Nikon NC81366W from the D4

Thanks to RF for the link!


  1. Slightly off topic but relevant ...

    Who is fabbing the 24.2MPx APS-C NC81369R sensor in the Nikon D3200?

    Using the same argument as the Chipworks fill factor argument for the D800 (it’s the same pixel density) it would seem this would need to be in 0.18 µm process too.

    Is Sony fabbing a Nikon designed (or shared IP?) CIS for Nikon?

    Or is there another fab with an 0.18 µm process making CIS?

    I suspect some of this is in the Chipworks report for the NC81369R sensor but I’m just after the free “blog” level details. :-)


    1. Nikon using Renesas to fab its in-house designed CIS is no surprise.
      Nikon was a member of the Mitsubishi zaibatsu (pre-WWII) and subsequently remained closely-tied to the Mitsubishi keiretsu (post-WWII). Mitsubishi Electric is a major shareholder of Renesas Semiconductor, so naturally Nikon goes to them for the fabrication of its CIS. The fact that DXOMark find very close image quality results between Sony's 24MP chip and Nikon's own 24MP chip as used in the D3200 shouldn't be taken as an indication that Nikon somehow "copied" Sony's design or Sony licensed some design patents to Nikon. The most likely scenario is that both Nikon and Sony are so good at CIS design that they both achieved great image quality via different designs. Nikon just lacks its own semiconductor fab.

  2. It seems that SONY design minimizes the presence of STI inside the pixel. They are really CCD guys!

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  4. Kevin,

    The ratio of the areas between FX and DX (D800 & D3200) is 9:4 ;
    [The ratio of corresponding sides (or the diagonal) is 3:2, and the crop factor is 3:2, but the ratio of the areas is what matters for pixel density and the relevant ratio is 9:4]
    Therefor the camera w/ the same pixel density as the D800 is the D7000, not the D3200.

    1. "the ratio of the areas is what matters for pixel density"

      Well, for most of us* what matters for pixel density is the pixel pitch, as listed in the table above. DPR and some other photography websites started to use pixel density as a metric only because they were not sure exactly what the pitch was from what the camera makers released and could only guess.

      *us = image sensor technologists and camera engineers

  5. On the Nikon sensor, there is an halo around the poly gate. But on the SONY sensor, there is no such halo. Any one can give me an explanation please?


  6. What can of defect specification we can expect with such big sensors?
    The important hidden factor of IQ is defectivity, and camera users are not much aware about exact defect spec.

    Any idea about such secret numbers?


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