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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

High Performance CMOS Imagers and Higher Integration

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High Performance CMOS Imagers and Higher Integration

As the CMOS imager becomes more specialized, developing a system with such an imager separate from other devices makes the most sense. For high-end applications where image quality is of primary concern, camera-on-a-chip solutions are proving un-viable, resulting in a market shift toward a system-on-a-chip....

by Yuzo Shida

February 2003

support circuitry
The typical support circuitry needed around a CMOS imager; internal configuration may vary depending on the imager.
(Photo: Analog Devices)

Since the CMOS imager is processed in most mainstream semiconductor technology in the world today, one would assume it would be able to take advantage of all the benefits that come along with it. These include easier shift to smaller linewidth geometries, a capability for higher integration and lower power, and the economies of scale that lead to lower costs. Due to these assumptions, the CMOS imager was expected to become the imager of choice for a multitude of imaging applications such as digital still cameras and camcorders, eventually making the CCD obsolete. Though predicted for many years in imaging circles, this has obviously not occurred, as CCD and CMOS imagers co-exist, each exploiting its advantages in certain types of applications.

The aforementioned advantages of developing an imager with the CMOS process may hold true for applications that do not require a high level of performance such as PC and cell-phone cameras. However, for applications that require low noise levels, high sensitivity and overall high image quality, the high-performance CMOS imager is not able to reap the full benefits of using the standard CMOS process. Rather, it is limited by a number of factors that have proven counter to the overall market shift toward the SOC or the "system-on-a-chip."

PROS AND CONS
Certain characteristics of the CMOS imager and its advantages over that of the CCD lend itself to non-consumer, high-performance applications, particularly where low cost is not of primary concern.

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