Monday, August 21, 2023

Canon starts selling SPAD security camera



  •  Long-range ultra-high-sensitivity low-light camera
  •  Features the Canon-designed and developed 1-inch Single-Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD) Sensor with approx. 3.2 million pixels
  •  B4 mount that supports Canon’s lineup of ultra-telephoto 2/3-inch broadcast zoom lenses
  •  The CrispImg2 Custom Picture Preset optimizes resolution and contrast while suppressing image noise
  •  Custom Picture Mode allows users to create up to 20 customized image quality settings for various shooting conditions
  •  Haze Compensation and Smart Shade Control features reduce the effects of haze and mist while automatically adjusting contrast and image brightness
  •  Full color Infrared shooting (Night Mode)
  •  RS-422 serial remote control interface 

The MS-500 Ultra-High-Sensitivity Camera
The MS-500 is the first advanced long-range low-light camera from Canon, which was developed for viewing remote objects at a distance of several miles in color – day or night.
This camera is equipped with the ultra-high-sensitivity Single-Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD) sensor and the B4 mount1 that can support Canon broadcast lenses, enabling capture of long-range objects even in low light.

Equipped with an Innovative Ultra-high Sensitivity SPAD Sensor
The SPAD sensor captures the brightness of a subject by digitally counting each incoming light particle (photon) through a method called photon counting, which is completely different from the conventional CMOS sensor.


Conventional CMOS sensors accumulate electrons generated by light as electric charge and converts them into digital signals and reads them out. With the SPAD sensor, when even one photon reaches a pixel and generates an electron the sensor instantaneously2 multiplies the electron by approximately 1 million times by the electron avalanche effect3 and outputs it as an electrical pulse signal. By counting the number of these pulses, the amount of incident light can be detected as a digital value.

This allows the SPAD sensor to detect light more accurately with less noise compared to CMOS sensors, which accumulate light particles as analog signals. The analog signals must be converted to digital before being read out, resulting in noise contamination.


Canon's official press release [link]:

Canon Launches MS-500 - The World’s First Ultra-High-Sensitivity Interchangeable-Lens SPAD Sensor Camera

The Camera Supports Advanced Surveillance, Enabling Color Video Capture of Subjects Several Miles Away, Even at Night
MELVILLE, N.Y., August 1, 2023 – Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, announced today that the company is launching the Canon MS-500, an ultra-high-sensitivity interchangeable-lens camera (ILC). The MS-500 is not only the world’s first1 ultra-high-sensitivity camera equipped with a SPAD sensor but also features the world’s highest pixel count2 on its 1” Single Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD) sensor of 3.2 megapixels. The company announced the development of the camera in April 2023, and visitors to the Canon booth at NAB 2023 saw a working sample of the camera in action firsthand.
In areas with extremely high-security levels, such as seaports, public infrastructure facilities, and national borders, high-precision monitoring systems are required to surveil targets both day and night accurately. The new MS-500 camera is the world’s first ultra-high-sensitivity camera equipped with a SPAD sensor, achieving a minimum subject illumination of 0.001 lux3. When combined with ultra-telephoto broadcast lenses, it may be possible to capture clear color videos of subjects at a distance of several miles, even at night. The new MS-500 helps to strengthen Canon’s ultra-high-sensitivity camera lineup, which also includes the ME20, and ML Series4, allowing the company to meet a variety of customer needs in the advanced surveillance market.
Combination of SPAD Sensor and Broadcast Lenses Enable Long Range Surveillance at Night
The SPAD sensor uses a technology known as “photon counting,” which counts light particles (photons) that enter a pixel. When incoming photons are converted to an electric charge, they are amplified approximately one million times and extracted as digital signals, making detecting even small amounts of light possible. In addition, every single one of these photons is digitally counted, prohibiting the introduction of additional noise during signal readout—a key advantage of SPAD sensors. This enables clear color video shooting even under a 0.001 lux low-light environment.
The MS-500 camera has a built-in, industry-standard B4 bayonet lens mount (based on BTA S-1005B standards), a widely used mount for 2/3-inch broadcast lenses. The lens mount allows operators to utilize Canon’s extensive lineup of broadcast lenses.
Custom Picture Functions Help Improve Visibility, Including Noise and Haze Reduction
The effect of noise and atmospheric turbulence, particularly in dark environments, may cause issues with video resolution, especially in long-range surveillance applications. To help mitigate this occurrence, CrispImg2, a Custom Picture preset mode that optimizes resolution and contrast while suppressing image noise, is a standard setting in the custom picture menu. Users can also create their own custom picture profiles to adjust and save image quality settings according to various shooting environments. This feature enables users to shoot high-visibility videos at virtually any time of day or night. The MS-500 camera also includes Haze Compensation, and Smart Shade Control features that help reduce the effects of haze and mist while automatically adjusting contrast and image brightness.
Pricing and Availability
The Canon MS-500 SPAD Sensor Camera is scheduled to be available in September 2023 for an estimated retail price of $25,200.00*. For more information, please visit


  1. Looking forward to capturing some low-light imagery with this camera in the coming week. I wonder how close the specs of the final product match the Morimoto et. al. paper published in IEEE IEDM.

  2. This is all a little odd from a marketing standpoint. Broadcast (and cinema) cameras have high list prices because it is expected that they will be leased for a project, not purchased. B4 lenses are priced with a similar strategy - a typical Canon model is around $5k.
    Security is not project-based. To set up port surveillance, you have to buy a bunch of cameras to cover the area and put the cameras in enclosures. Further, the lenses need to be remote-controlled, which broadcast lenses generally are not.
    Finally - RS422 control - seriously? These days, security systems are largely Power over Ethernet or maybe one of the coax schemes where one cable handles power, control and video.
    I'd be interested in reading the logic behind this product and its pricing.

    1. I think security mean - secret police, spy and military

  3. This is wrongly described as security camera here. This is for sure a camera aimed at broadcast and TV production market and was also labeled as such by Canon.

    1. Canon's press release uses words like security and surveillance. Do you have any references of TV and broadcast production market applications that Canon is targeting?

  4. Hard to see this in broadcast or TV production, only 1080p and its sensitivity is not that much of an advantage in controlled light studios, except maybe for some extreme cases. They are clearly labeling this product as a security and surveillance camera, where it makes sense - uncontrolled light environment, light starvation is common. Relatively low resolution calls for lots of optical magnification upfront, and my guess is that their broadcast lens line offered the best choice. That, and the long standoff distance. I would not be surprised if the intended deployment scenario had some serious pan/tilt mount for snooping around the scene.

    Not sure about the comment about RS422 control, this has SDI output, and several control options, including Ethernet. I think the 12-pin lens connector on the front does enable remote lens control. Overall it looks like a well-designed and flexible package.

  5. Not sure whats the point of SPAD here, even for broadcast. This low light images can be achieved by full frame sensors too.

  6. Just a rubbish. The power cosumption is 23.7W! The Brigates' night vision camera is about 0.0005lux BW, only 300mW.

  7. The Canon press release looks like a description of a security camera. But I think the underlying problem for Canon is how to market this camera with a unique (at least in pixel count) SPAD sensor operating in QIS mode. I would be marketing it as a scientific camera for perhaps semi-professional astronomers, life science research and other science applications "where every photon counts" and where a larger FOV is needed compared to other SPAD sensors. $25K is not so much for that functionality with 3Mpixel resolution, especially if the camera sensor can be cooled. If the camera has hooks for additional functionality with time gating or other high speed timing functionality, that would be an additional benefit of the camera. Security and broadcast do not seem like compelling use cases at this price. There are a lot of folks in the computer vision research business that might buy one for exploratory purposes. Heck, I am thinking about it myself. But maybe Canon does not want to deal with very early adopters and the myriad of questions just for the sale of one camera each. I admire Canon for bringing a camera with this high res SPAD array to market. I hope they gain some traction.

  8. I'd like to know if this being a colour camera, how much reduction there would be in the QE of the sensor because of a Bayer CFA on the sensor? Or is this less of an issue for SPAD sensors? I am interested to use this for astronomical imaging (lucky imaging).

    1. Regardless of the underlying sensor technology, the CFA filters out photons which reduces signal-to-noise ratio. Not sure how much of a reduction in QE/PDE is incurred. But that is the cost you pay for color.

  9. SPAD image sensor is not a new concept, why is corresponding product coming up so late? What's the major challenge of it?


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