In 1978, Sony announced that it had developed a 0.11 megapixel charge-coupled device (CCD) image sensor. Since then, underpinned by its superior semiconductor process technologies, Sony has ceaselessly pursued the development of image sensors that provide both high resolution and ease of use. While maintaining the leading market share for CCD image sensors, in 2007 Sony developed the Exmor™ image sensor by capitalizing on the low power consumption and high speed of complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology, as well as on high-image-quality pixel technology nurtured through development of the CCD. Using Sony´s proprietary on-chip column parallel analog-digital (A/D) conversion and dual noise reduction technologies, Exmor™ achieved increased speed and lower noise. Then in 2008, Sony developed the Exmor R™ back-illuminated CMOS image sensor, which enables cameras to capture clear images even in scenes lit only by candle. Image sensors are imaging elements that may be thought of as the “eyes” of digital cameras. Sony´s technologies have thus supported the advancement of image sensors, contributing greatly to enhancements in image resolution and camera speed, enabling Sony to build technical and competitive advantages.
In January 2012, Sony announced that it had successfully developed a stacked CMOS image sensor. In place of the supporting substrate used in conventional back-illuminated CMOS image sensors, this groundbreaking new image sensor layers the pixel section containing formations of back-illuminated structure pixels onto chips containing the circuit section for signal processing. Fabrication of this structure requires state-of-the-art precision in semiconductor process technology. Sony was able to make this breakthrough thanks to its unique strengths in high-resolution technologies, know-how cultivated in the CCD field and cutting-edge metal oxide semiconductor (MOS) technology. This success in developing the stacked structure opens up room for large-scale circuits to be built in, achieving further enhancement in image quality, superior functionality and a more compact size for digital cameras and mobile devices. The new structure is positioned to become the next generation of back-illuminated CMOS image sensors. Today, Sony is taking steps to further enhance CMOS image sensor technology and broaden its product lineup, paving the way for the development of user-friendly cameras that provide even greater photography enjoyment.
Sony technology is making cameras smaller and improving image quality by pushing back the frontiers of image sensor evolution. As it focuses on introducing an era of “Super Reality” surpassing human vision, Sony will continue to lead the digital imaging world by ensuring the industry´s highest quality and most advanced technologies.