Kodak says digital cameras will work better in dim conditions with a superficial but significant change to image sensors.
Eastman Kodak's high-sensitivity image sensor is a significant update to the traditional "Bayer" pattern that prevails in the vast majority of digital cameras. The Bayer pattern, named after Kodak inventor Bryce Bayer, has pixels sensitive to red, green and blue light. The brightness of the image at any given point is inferred from the green pixels, while the blue and red pixels add colour information.
In the new sensor pattern, half of the pixels are "panchromatic" -- sensitive to all light frequencies. These pixels supply brightness information at higher sensitivity, which is important because human vision relies more on brightness and colour for discerning fine details. Meanwhile, the red, green and blue pixels supply colour information. As with the Bayer pattern, software reconstructs a full-colour image with red, green and blue contributions to each pixel.
Kodak says a sensor with the high-sensitivity pattern has double to quadruple the light sensitivity as the same image sensor using a traditional Bayer pattern. That means images shot in low-light conditions will be less noisy. Both of these images were taken with a sensitivity setting of ISO 1000 and a shutter speed of 1/10 second, but the left image used a traditional Bayer pattern and the right used the new high-sensitivity pattern. The cameras were otherwise identical, Kodak said.
Higher sensitivity means faster shutter speeds and, therefore, less camera shake at a given noise level. These two photos have comparable noise levels, but the one on the left, with a traditional Bayer pattern sensor, was taken at ISO 100 with a 1/60-second exposure, and the one on the right with the new sensor pattern at ISO 300 and a 1/180-second exposure.
Faster shutter speeds also can freeze motion better. On the left, a traditional Bayer-pattern sensor, ISO 50 and a 1/60-second exposure. On the right, the new sensor pattern, ISO 200 and a 1/250-second exposure.