Canon’s New 35mm Full Frame Sensor and Its Brilliant Low Light Capabilities

canon new 35mm full-frame cmos sensor

One thing we all have in common is how we have always wished for our cameras to perform better in low light situations. Canon met that challenge head on with a new 35mm sensor that I’m sure a lot of people would be clamoring to have.

Before anything else, it’s important to note that this sensor will most likely be used for surveillance and security purposes as well as observing astronomical and natural activities. It’s still hard to say when this technology will trickle down to the consumer level, though I have high hopes that we won’t have to wait too long. Just a few years ago, mirrorless cameras and DSLR sensors in compact cameras seemed like a stretch, but now it’s a reality.

The newly developed CMOS sensor features pixels measuring 19 microns square in size, which is more than 7.5-times the surface area of the pixels on the CMOS sensor incorporated in Canon’s top-of-the-line EOS-1D X and other digital SLR cameras. In addition, the sensor’s pixels and readout circuitry employ new technologies that reduce noise, which tends to increase as pixel size increases. Thanks to these technologies, the sensor facilitates the shooting of clearly visible video images even in dimly lit environments with as little as 0.03 lux of illumination, or approximately the brightness of a crescent moon—a level of brightness in which it is difficult for the naked eye to perceive objects. When recording video of astral bodies, while an electron-multiplying CCD,*2 which realizes approximately the same level of perception as the naked eye, can capture magnitude-6 stars, Canon’s newly developed CMOS sensor is capable of recording faint stars with a magnitude of 8.5 and above.

Nowadays, full-frame DSLR cameras can already record videos in low-light conditions, but this new sensor has the potential to revolutionize nighttime video capture. Check out the sample video on the Canon website.

photo of prototype used to test canon's new cmos sensor

The footage was captured using a prototype camera employing the new sensor. It includes clips of a room lit only by burning incense sticks and of the Geminid meteor shower.

canon cmos sample images3

canon cmos sample images2

canon cmos sample images

You can see the prototype camera in action at the SECURITY SHOW 2013, which will be held at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center in Tokyo, Japan from March 5 to March 8.

Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.