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Sony announces 12.7-megapixel SLR sensor

Sony will sell this to other companies, but don't be surprised to see this CMOS sensor in the Japanese electronics giant's upcoming SLR cameras, too.

Sony announced a 12.7-megapixel sensor Monday for SLR cameras, the IMX021 built with a CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) manufacturing process.

Sony's 12.7-megapixel IMX021 sensor
Sony's 12.7-megapixel IMX021 sensor Sony

The company will sell the sensor to others as well as "promoting its use within Sony," so don't be surprised to see some 12.7-megapixel SLRs coming soon. Sony has promised an advanced amateur SLR this year and a professional model next year, and there are indications that Sony's advanced amateur model will arrive soon.

The sensor can produce up to 10.4 frames per second, a high rate indeed, assuming that camera makers can produce shutters, image processors, memory bandwidth and other technology to keep up. Its design permits use of low-frequency processing electronics, which is handy, because high-frequency circuitry can increase image noise. It's an APS-C-sized sensor, meaning that it's about the same size as those used in most Nikon and Canon SLRs, and it employs 12-bit analog-to-digital conversion, providing 4,096 shades between dark and light.

A sample costs 40,000 yen, or about $350. Presumably buying them in production quantities will be lower.

The sensor's pixel size is 5.49 microns square, a notch smaller than, for example, 7.2 microns for the Canon 5D or 6.4 microns for the upcoming Canon 1Ds Mark III. Pixel size is a key factor in determining sensitivity, but others include light-gathering microlenses, the amount of space on the sensor that must be sacrificed for electronics, and image processing electronics.

The sensor will be built at Sony Semiconductor Kyushu Corporation's Kumamoto Technology Center, the company said.