Thursday, July 30, 2015

Light Closes $25M Series B Financing

Light has raised a $25M Series B round of funding. All of Light existing investors participated in this round, in addition to new investors Formation 8, which led the round, and StepStone. This brings Light’s total funding to around $35M.

The Light camera prototypes are now up and running. The company has doubled the size of its team in the last three months and plans to double it again before the end of the year.

Forbes publishes an article on the Light's financing round:

"The way Light’s camera technology works is by placing multiple cameras on the back of a phone — around 6 or 11 cameras. Light stitches together all those images with its software to come out with high-resolution photos. Depending on how many cameras the phone maker chooses, it can achieve between 32 megapixels and 52 megapixels.

Light’s cameras can also zoom using what’s called folded optics, which is a method of bending light to make the camera’s size requirements more compact. Light can zoom between 70 millimeter and 150mm.

The Light module is paired with a Snapdragon application processor from Qualcomm.

"The build of material costs will be at least $60 for phone makers to add Light’s technology, but [Light CEO] Grannan points out that that’s nothing compared to having to shell out $2,000 for a nice DSLR camera."

"Light expects the first phones to come out with its camera will be in 2016."

Light camera-phone

Toshiba Unveils PDAF-Equipped Sensor Lineup

BusinessWire: After presenting its first image sensor with PDAF 2 weeks ago, Toshiba announces a full lineup of these sensors, all based on 1.12um BSI pixels. The part numbers of the new sensors are same as the previously announced ones, but with -121 suffix to indicate a PDAF-enabled version:

Sample shipments of devices in the series will start in August, and they will be rolled out in turn.

Sony Reports Another Increase in Image Sensor Sales

Sony reports its quarterly results for the quarter ended on June 30, 2015. Few quotes:

"[Sony Devices Segment] Sales increased 35.1% year-on-year (an 18% increase on a constant currency basis) to 237.9 billion yen (1,950 million U.S. dollars). This increase was primarily due to a significant increase in sales of image sensors reflecting higher demand for image sensors for mobile products, the impact of foreign exchange rates, as well as a significant increase in sales of camera modules. Sales to external customers increased 41.2% year-on-year.

Operating income increased 18.8 billion yen year-on-year to 30.3 billion yen (249 million U.S. dollars). This significant increase was primarily due to the impact of the above-mentioned increase in sales of image sensors and the positive impact of foreign exchange rates.

Canon Commercializes its ISO 4,000,000 FF Image Sensor

BusinessWire: Canon introduces its first multi-purpose camera, the new ME20F-SH, with exceptionally high sensitivity to capture Full HD video with a minimum subject illumination of less than 0.0005 lux (color, no light accumulation, f/1.2, 30P fps, 50 IRE, at maximum 75 dB gain setting, equivalent to an ISO sensitivity of over 4,000,000). Nighttime surveillance and security, cinematic production, reality television, and nature/wildlife documentaries are just some of the ME20F-SH’s many possible usage applications.

Canon’s new multi-purpose camera employs an enhanced version of the 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor that was originally developed in 2013. The ME20F-SH sensor has pixels measuring 19 μm, said to be more than 5.5 times the surface area of the pixels on the CMOS sensor featured in select top-of-the-line interchangeable lens cameras. Furthermore, the sensor’s pixels and readout circuitry make use of Canon proprietary technologies to achieve both reduced noise and exceptionally high sensitivity on subjects with a minimum illumination of less than 0.0005 lux. This multi-purpose camera allows users to discern subjects under even some of the dimmest lighting conditions, such as environments lit by artificial illumination or under a moonless night sky. Furthermore, similar to Canon’s Cinema EOS System of professional digital cinematography cameras, the ME20F-SH camera includes Canon Log and Wide DR.

ME20F-SH is expected to be available in December 2015 at a suggested retail price of $30,000.

A DSLR comparison picture from Canon Japan site:

Canon plans to make sample images avaliable in Sept 2015 on this link.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nokia OZO Combines Eight Cameras into One

Nokia announces OZO, said to be the first commercially available VR camera designed and built for professional content creators and the first in a planned portfolio of digital media solutions from Nokia Technologies, the company's advanced technology and licensing business. Conceived at the company's R&D facilities in Tampere, Finland, OZO captures stereoscopic 3D video through eight synchronized global shutter sensors and spatial audio through eight integrated microphones.

Verge shows many pictures from the new camera presentation in LA:

Samsung Enters Mass Production of 1um Pixels

BusinessWire: Samsung announces the industry’s first 1.0μm-pixel-based 16MP sensor for mobile devices. The new S5K3P3 leverages the company’s ISOCELL pixel technology.

As a trendsetter in the mobile image sensor business, we are pleased to be the first to deliver the most advanced 1.0μm-pixel imager, which meets both high-resolution and slim design requirements for smartphone cameras,” said Kyushik Hong, VP and Head of S.LSI Marketing at Samsung Electronics. “Starting with 16Mp sensor, Samsung plans to further expand 1.0μm-pixel product category and lead the image sensor market for high performing slim mobile devices.

Built with 1.0μm pixels, the new 16MP image sensor reduces the module’s overall height by 20%, compared to current 1.12μm-pixel based 16MP sensor modules, enabling a module z-height that is less than 5mm.

In addition, the S5K3P3 takes advantage of Samsung’s ISOCELL technology to deliver image quality that is on par with 1.12μm-pixel based image sensors. Using ISOCELL technology reduces color crosstalk of neighboring pixels by adding physical barriers between each pixel.

Meanwhile, the newly announced OnePlus 2 smartphone goes in the opposite direction and uses larger 1.3um pixels in its 13MP sensor from Omnivision. The phone also has laser-assisted 200ms-fast AF:

"Despite being a go-to measure for smartphone cameras, megapixels fail to tell the whole story. The true test of a camera is the quality of its image sensor and optics. Our sensor contains large 1.3µm light-collecting pixels—the biggest ever in a 13MP smartphone camera—for unmatched low-light performance."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Intel RealSense Front Camera Reverse Engineering

Chipworks publishes a report on Intel structured light RealSense camera reverse engineering.

The front-looking camera uses changing light pattern projected through ST-manufactured MEMS mirror:

The RealSense's IR image sensor has a lot of circuits around the pixel array:

Intro to 2nd Generation Sony Global Shutter Sensors

Point Grey publishes a nice Youtube video explaining the differences between 1st and 2nd generations of Sony Pregius CMOS sensors:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rumor: Qualcomm Vuforia Group is Up for Sale

One of the recent rumors I got: "As a part of QCOM's restructuring efforts announced this week, the Vuforia team is being put up for sale. After the Metaio-Apple purchase, which took a key client opportunity off the table, and with Google Android with their own internal solution, it is not surprising that QCOM management would make this move as a part of their restructuring efforts."

Just over a month ago, Vuforia won Auggie Award: "The Qualcomm Vuforia mobile vision platform won an Auggie Award for “Best Tool” for the third year in a row at this year’s sixth annual Augmented World Expo (AWE). Hosted by, AWE celebrates wearable computing, gesture devices, the Internet of Everything, and of course, augmented reality (AR)."

The company's Vuforia Youtube channel has a lot of demos of the platform:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pelican Imaging Layoffs?

Somebody posted in comments that Pelican Imaging has just layed off most of the company. Whether this is true or not, their technology page points to a big shift in direction: instead of being a main camera for smartphone, the company now proposes a supplementary camera array for just a depth map:

"This unique "array + main camera" approach allows mobile handset manufacturers to choose their own primary camera module (whether it’s 8MP, 13MP, or 20MP), and benefit from excellent image quality paired with the depth data from the scene."

Update: EETimes confirms the layoffs:

"The company said that approximately half the staffing of 25 was let go.

A spokesperson for Pelican Imaging confirmed that the company has "reduced some of its staff recently, to allow the company to focus on core product development."

"Regrettably, Mark Fulks has left the team at Pelican. Mark is a very well respected leader and we wish him success in his next endeavour," the spokesperson said.