Facebook Pixel Sensor Without Blown Highlights May Be the Future of Photography

Sensor Without Blown Highlights May Be the Future of Photography


Sensor Without Blown Highlights May Be the Future of PhotographyHow would you like to never blow a highlight again?

Most photographers would jump at the chance, which is why a recent paper published by German researchers has generated such excitement.

The paper discusses a new image sensor that researchers successfully built, one that offers the potential for avoiding all blown highlights.

Currently, CMOS sensors work by way of pixel cell photodiodes. You hit the shutter button, exposing the sensor to light. Each pixel cell has a photodiode, which receives light waves and converts them into a current. This current is then measured by the camera and ultimately turned into an image file.

But here’s the thing:

The pixels in our cameras can reach a point of saturation. Once a certain amount of light hits a photodiode, that individual pixel cell stops processing light waves. And it creates a blown-out, completely white spot. When this happens many times during the same exposure, you end up with blown highlights.

Yet the researchers on this new project have found a way to get around this.

Imagine a pixel. Once it’s fully saturated, it can’t measure any more light.

Unless it can reset itself, going back to zero, so it’s ready to process light once more.

That’s what these researchers developed. They created “self-reset” pixels, which go back to zero upon becoming saturated. But the initial data isn’t lost; instead, it’s recorded by the pixel, so that the camera gets an accurate reading of the amount of light in the scene.

The final image, theoretically, would retain detail in every highlight, even when light levels are extremely high.

Now, while researchers have already created an experimental sensor with self-reset pixels, it will be some time before this invention is incorporated into electronics (if it’s incorporated at all). However, if this line of research does pan out, photography will be utterly transformed. It will suddenly be possible to stop thinking about exposure when shooting in good light. All you have to do is overexpose, and your images will turn out just fine. You’ll instead be able to focus entirely on other aspects of photography: color, composition, lighting, and more.

What do you think about this new invention? Would you like to see cameras that don’t blow out highlights? Or do you think it would make photography too easy? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Jaymes Dempsey
Jaymes Dempsey

is the Managing Editor of Digital Photography School, as well as a macro and nature photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan. To learn how to take stunning nature photos, check out his free eBook, Mastering Nature Photography: 7 Secrets For Incredible Nature Photos! And to see more of Jaymes’s work check out his website and his blog.

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