November 18, 2014

Sony's New Sensor May Offer 21 Stops of Dynamic Range & a Base ISO of 5120

Sony 6K Sensor 16,000fps 21 Stops Dynamic Range
Last week, a leaked document gave us hints about an impressive new sensor from Sony. A few more details and rumors have surfaced since then, and that new sensor is sounding more promising than ever.

To recap why this sensor could theoretically provide a massive leap forward in all aspects of image quality, it uses a new technology called Active Pixel Color Sampling that allows each pixel to sample RGB data individually, which eliminates the need for color filter arrays and complex debayering processes. Because of this technology, Sony can use roughly 1/3 of the amount of pixels to output an image with the same resolution as a much more pixel-dense sensor of the same size. This also means that the individual photosites can be much larger, which theoretically will allow for tremendous gains in low-light ability and dynamic range, depending on how the sensor data is processed.

That leads us to the more recent developments. The fine folks at the Sony Alpha Rumors Forum were recently sent a few documents that provide more details about how the sensor works and how it is theoretically expected to perform in terms of ISO and dynamic range. Here is one standout chart from their post which shows latitude

Sony Sensor ISO & Dynamic Range
Credit: Sony Alpha Rumors

Yes, you read that correctly. If this graph is factual, and that's a big "if," Sony's new sensor will have a base ISO of 5120 and slightly more than 21 stops of dynamic range at that sensitivity. Those specs alone are enough to leave most of us salivating, but it's important to keep a few things in mind.

First and foremost, this is still a rumor, albeit a well-informed one from a supposedly reputable source. Nonetheless, it is a rumor. Secondly, manufacturers are notorious for inflating numbers, especially when it comes to theoretical performance of an unreleased product (I'm looking at you, RED). Lastly, even if this rumor turns out to be true and the new sensor is capable of this kind of extreme performance, that does not mean that whatever product it ends up in will be able to handle the absurd amount of data (and heat) that it will produce. The end product will probably end up with a much more tame set of specs, although it's still likely to be impressive.

Another interesting theory on this new sensor comes from Andrew Reid's site. Over on EOSHD, he speculates that this new sensor is much more likely to be bound for a high speed cinema camera of some kind, as opposed to a new Sony smartphone as the original rumor indicated. Although I think he's on to something with that assessment, it is still based on spec sheets that are un-confirmed and hypothetical. Still though, despite my skepticism, most indications are pointing towards Sony jumping into the extreme high frame rate filmmaking space with the likes of Phantom. I, for one, would love to see that happen.

To learn more about the leaked documents, and to read them for yourselves, head on over to Sony Alpha Rumors. While you're there, it's worth reading the comments of that article because there are some interesting and well-reasoned opinions about this sensor.     

Your Comment

19 Comments

Better start saving my pennies...

November 18, 2014 at 7:04PM

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Connor Day
Director of Photography
370

A big ole jar of penis

November 19, 2014 at 9:51AM

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Dre Kahmeyer
Director
260

Well, that's one way of getting a new camera.

November 19, 2014 at 1:49PM

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Anyone disappointed about the sensor size though?

I don't mean to undercut super exciting tech news, I just can't get excited about a m4/3 sensor.

November 19, 2014 at 10:42AM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1157

A m4/3 sensor that can do 21 stops at base 5100 ISO is pretty exciting (though its not gonna deliver all of that), especially since it can be combo'd with a Metabones adapter to at least get to Super 35.

November 19, 2014 at 1:25PM

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Haha! You crack me up! A sensor that overcomes most of the shortcomings of a smaller sensor with 22 stops of dynamic range and a natiVe ISO of 50,000. Not that any of this is true, but our problem is the sensor size... Oh man! My cheeks hurt.

October 25, 2015 at 11:02PM

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Great time to be a film maker. I am so excited for CES this year. Possible iDX mark II 5d Mark IV and this new sensor being released on one of sony's new cameras. Sony has been doing some amazing things these days.

November 18, 2014 at 7:24PM

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Walter Wallace
Spokesperson/Entrepreneur
1064

I wouldn't be holding my breath for Canon to come out of the dark.

November 18, 2014 at 11:42PM

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matt
743

Unfortunately the 5D4 will not be exciting for video. Canon aren't going to undercut their C100 Mk2 market, and the C100 Mk2 isn't exactly exciting itself. My guess is the 5D4 will have 60p and be a bit sharper (along the lines of the Nikon D750 at best) but that's about it. Canon are Canon, after all.

November 19, 2014 at 5:37AM

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Matt James Smith
Lintel Films
88

Can you say foveon? Detecting RGB at each site is what the foveon does.

November 18, 2014 at 8:21PM

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see the link Ed,

"The Sony sensor has the world first sensor capable of capturing the full color spectrum info in one single pixel. Sigmas Foveon sensor used on DP cameras uses three layered RGB pixel ordered vertically but the new Sony sensor has just one single layer. "

November 19, 2014 at 12:04AM

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Peter Staubs
Camera Assistant
493

Sweet even at 640 iso it's almost 19 stops. Getting 5000iso down to something useable in daylight with ND's would be an issue otherwise. Great native iso if shooting slow-mo too!

November 18, 2014 at 11:38PM

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matt
743

Holy Shit Bateman.

November 19, 2014 at 1:56AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
928

If this is true, it would mean the dead of cinematography and photography as well as the final triunph of shity videographers and all those who "run a business" with a camera.
This is the road towards the end of an art form. Just imagine how the art of lighting and creating moods and aesthetics with lighting will be lost, since all you'll need is "point and shoot". Pretty much what "videographers" do nowadays.

November 19, 2014 at 5:44AM

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ivanguar
168

Personally I think this looks like a video sensor built for scientific or military use. The highest fps the sensor is capable of are not going to be of any use for cinema (conformed to 24p I doubt movement would even be perceptible). Plus the sensor size isn't saying filmmaking-specific to me. Who knows ...

November 19, 2014 at 5:45AM

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Matt James Smith
Lintel Films
88

great news for camera devellopment. hope to see t soon in a camera with specs and price like gh4( except for the absurd price of the connection unit with sdi etc). I didnt like Sony, had a lot of sony cameras, they all had malfunctions and t cost me a lot, but maybe they will make a cheaper and better product now with the heat of othsrs and the opportunity with this new sensor. Viva la imaginairy aquisition.( halelluja)

November 19, 2014 at 6:35AM, Edited November 19, 6:35AM

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Going to need a lot of ND!

These stats seem too good to be true, but it really depends on how long till this is usable.

November 19, 2014 at 9:37PM

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Alex Smith
Documentary/Cinematographer
1422

This is incredibly exciting! I'm so glad there is a more ergonomic and practical competitor to the Red cameras. Is this perhaps the rumoured new Sony A9 range?

November 19, 2014 at 10:14PM

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Hemma Hoo
Video Producer
81

What ever camera they build with this sensor- Please -PLEASE have the following:
1- Global Shutter
2- Internal raw at 4K @ 240fps
3- 12 - 16bit color depth
4- Let us have all that Dynamic Range no less than 15 stops
5- Low Light (obviously the sensor should be able to handle it based on released specs
6- Interchangeable lens mount and/or sensor (for upgrading to future sensors while staying on the same body)
7- let us completely control the image in camera: import luts, have great, if not new Logs, ISO/ASA from 50- 80,000 with clean images, no noise at all.
8- Did i mention ALL INTERNAL RECORDING
9- Internal ND Filters (3-4 stops)
10- XLRs for on board audio
11- OLED Viewfinder & Monitor
12- Compact body like the basic F-55 or Red Epic. with the should pad from the AS7
(Must weigh under 8lbs)
13- Under $30,000.00
14- no need for touch screen, it can be an optional add on.
15- Pull out of the box add a lens, slap on a brick, insert your media and ready to shoot

I would rather buy a camera body that can support these functions and spend money on new Sensors that be installed by myself, like owning a film camera and just buying the stock.

November 20, 2014 at 11:36AM

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David Carmichael
Shooter, editor
135