Camera Sensor Stacking And Pixel Binning For Better Low-light Performance. – Pixel binning is an imaging technique used in cameras to improve output image quality by increasing sensitivity. Whether in a cell phone camera or embedded camera module, the principle is the same for pixel binning. Also called image binning or camera binning.
Pixel binning can be a tricky topic if you’re completely new to camera and sensor technology. Learning some camera concepts first will help you develop a basic understanding before we get into the details of how pixel binning or image binning works.
Camera Sensor Stacking And Pixel Binning For Better Low-light Performance.
A pixel is the most basic unit of a sensor that collects the light it contains. It is also called photosite.
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The sensor consists of thousands or millions of pixels (depending on the resolution) arranged as a matrix, as shown in the image.
Instead, they have fine-grained structures designed to collect light that can be converted into electrical signals.
Pixel size isn’t just the size of individual sensor pixels. The bigger the pixel, the higher the amount of light it can collect. Usually expressed in micrometers (or microns). 1 micron is equal to 1 million meters (10
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In a commonly used embedded camera module, the pixel size can vary from 1 micron to 4 microns. A pixel size greater than 2 microns is considered large.
For example, the VCI-AR0821-CB, an AR0821-based C-mount camera comes with a 2.1 micron pixel size. This means that each pixel will be a rectangular hole 2.1 microns long. This can be considered a large-pixel camera.
Resolution is the total number of pixels in a sensor or camera. As the resolution increases, the number of pixels increases. This results in improved image quality due to less pixelation in certain areas of the image or scene. However, many other parameters determine the quality of the output image (which is one of the reasons why pixel binning is needed in cameras).
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The resolution of the camera is obtained by multiplying the number of vertical columns and horizontal rows. For example, a Full HD sensor comes with 1920 columns and 1080 rows. When the two are multiplied, the resulting value, which is close to a million, will be 2 million pixels. This is typically defined as 2 megapixels (MP). This means that a 13MP camera (such as the VCI-AR1335-CB, 13MP camera AR1335) will have 13 million pixels.
Many modern embedded vision applications require very high resolution (often greater than 10MP) cameras. High resolution means a large number of pixels, which means that the sensor has increased in size. However, due to the limitation of the fact, the sensor cannot exceed a certain limit in size. This causes sensor manufacturers to reduce the pixel size (for example, 1.1 microns in the AR1335).
As the pixel size decreases, the sensitivity of the sensor decreases significantly as the smaller pixels can only absorb a smaller amount of light. This can result in poor image quality, especially in low light conditions.
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Pixel binning is the process of combining multiple pixels into one. This gives the new ‘Super Pixel’ access to more photons without having to play with frame rate or exposure time.
The most popular type of binning is 2X2 binning, where 4 adjacent pixels are combined to form a superpixel. This reduces the solution to a quarter. For example, if you apply 2×2 binning to a 12MP camera, your effective resolution after binning will be 3MP.
The difference with color cameras is that the CFA (color filter array) causes Bayer patten formation on the sensor.
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Here, pixel binning works differently by combining pixel values from pixels of the same color as shown in the figure.
As shown in the image, pixel values of similar pixels are combined or averaged to collect additional photons.
Data from multiple pixels are combined in the display process with the help of an ISP (Image Signal Processor). Depending on the type of binning you use, the number of pixels to be binned may change. While 2 × 2 binning involves binning 4 pixels, 3 × 3 binning process bins 9 pixels. Some of the latest smartphone cameras come with 16 to 1 or 4×4 binning. However, this is not widely used in the world of embedded cameras.
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Experience using Quad Bayer was also conducted. Unlike standard Bayer filters where a pack of 4 pixels contains 2 green, 1 red and 1 blue pixel, Quad Bayer combines the four pixels in the pack to create a 1 color super pixel. Quad Bayer follows the same composition as the standard Bayer design (50% green, 25% red and 25% blue).
An obvious question that comes to mind is, if pixel binning is designed to increase the effective pixel size, why not use a camera with that pixel size in the first place?
If resolution isn’t a priority for you, it’s fine to do it that way. A sensor that comes with a specific pixel size tends to perform better than a sensor that uses a pixel size that uses binning.
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But there are some practical reasons why designers of embedded vision systems, such as robot engineers or smart traffic manufacturers, may not want to do this.
The first practical reason is that binning should be done to increase the sensitivity of the camera in certain lighting conditions if the mounted optical device is to be operated in an area with varying light availability.
The second is a commercial reason where manufacturers want to boast the high resolution of their camera-based products (say 4K) for marketing purposes. In such situations, pixel binning is often used to achieve higher sensitivity. We often see this applied in the smartphone camera market where manufacturers use resolution as a marketing modifier with all their cameras using binning to improve image quality.
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He sees engineering in everything he does. With 2 decades of experience in the embedded space with a wide range of products including embedded cameras, system on modules, panel computing solutions, etc., we know what it takes to build a great product.
Embedded vision is one of the key areas of our innovation where we combine our engineering expertise with active R&D (research and development) efforts to design the cameras our customers want. As such, we support our customers in all aspects of integration and customization – pixel binning, choosing the right frame rate or other camera requirements for the application. Now read: Quad Bayer vs Quad Pixel AF: What they are, how they work and how they differ 154 comments
The Olympus OM-1 sensor has 80 million photodiodes, which are used to deliver 20MP images and X-sensor-type phase detection. This is sometimes misidentified as a quad bayer design. That’s not the case, so let’s take a look at how these two different systems work, how they differ, and why ILC, which knows how to use a Quad Bayer sensor, hasn’t released the details.
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The Quad Bayer pattern (right) uses an enlarged version of the conventional Bayer pattern (left). Each color strip spans four photodiodes, each with its own microlens in front of it. Image: Image taken from Sony Semiconductor
It uses a Bayer color filter design, but each color patch expands four photodiodes instead of one. Each photodiode has its own microlens, so if necessary, it can be used as an individual pixel.
This allows you to use the sensor in three different ways, depending on whether your priority is low-light performance, handling high-contrast scenes, or trying to extract more detail from the scene.
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As you can imagine, the first application of this technology was in smartphones, where it was used to detect small light and dynamic defects on small sensors. Samsung has its own version called ‘Tetracell’ and a nine photodiode variant called ‘Nonacell’.
This three-mode approach is a direct parallel to Fujifilm’s Super CCD EXR system, which debuted in 2009. It basically uses a double Bayer pattern (and 1/2 pixel offset) instead of a full quad design, so it offers less detail. In high resolution mode, but the principle is very similar.
For high resolution mode, try ‘remosaicing’ the Quad Bayer output to Bayer-like data. This process is not perfect. It should be noted that Sony describes this as a ‘conceptual’ diagram. The ‘deleted’ data will not have the color quality of a conventional Bayer sensor with the same number of pixels.
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Interestingly, there is evidence of a Quad Bayer sensor being used in the Panasonic DC-GH5S and Sony a7S III. No company has said this or shown any outward sign of using anything other than Bin mode (low light). However, the fact that both cameras are very focused on video makes it higher
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