Canon’s 250-MP Image Sensor Reignites Megapixel War


Canon has dropped yet another bombshell announcement in their latest press release by touting a CMOS sensor packing approximately 250-megapixels; enough to capture the logo on a passing plane flying 18km away.

That’s some impressive quality!

With 5x more pixels than the EOS 5Ds, this will be the highest megapixel count for a CMOS sensor that is bigger than APS-C yet smaller than a full-frame 35mm-sized sensor.

According to Canon, advancements in circuit miniaturisation and signal processing —Pym particles maybe?— has resulted in breakthroughs allowing the CMOS sensor to capture high pixel-counts with low signal volume; this would also mean that the miniaturised pixels can retain high-ISO sensitivity without harshly compromising on image noise quality.

APS-H-size (approx. 29.2 x 20.2mm) CMOS sensor with 250-megapixels

The APS-H sensor (approx. 29.2 x 20.2 mm) is the 1.3x crop format that has been used in the 1D line – the last of them being the 2009 1D Mark IV (discontinued in 2012) – but seemed to be long forgotten about since the introduction of the full-frame 1Dx.

This newly-developed APS-H sensor is a revival of the format. A super high-resolution 1D Mark V would be interesting but Canon suggests it will be used in a video camera, noting that they are ‘considering the application of this technology in specialised surveillance and crime prevention tools, ultra-high-resolution measuring instruments and other industrial equipment, and the field of visual expression.’

Prototype with new CMOS sensor (shown with EF35mm f/1.4 USM lens)

With an ultra-high readout speed of 1.25 billion pixels per second, thanks to high-tech circuitry, the sensor enables the capture of ultra-high-pixel-count video at a speed of five frames per second. Whatever that means, it sounds good. Despite the insane amount of pixels per square millimetre, the sensor promises high-sensitivity, low-noise imaging performance, which sounds like it would be best suited for ‘specialised surveillance and crime prevention tools’.

Finally, those movies scenes where the good guys zoom into some surveillance footage to check out a beautifully crisp, clear non-pixelated close-up because videos can effectively be cropped and magnified with no loss in image resolution and picture clarity!

Yep. This old chestnut.

If someone were to marry the ISO 4,000,000 technology with this 250-megapixel camera we’d imagine they’d probably use it to take over the world! In the meantime, who knows what camera they will bring out with this sensor, but for sure – if it’s a consumer product – there will definitely be a fair share of people complaining about ‘too many megapixels’.

Header composite image by DigitalRev.