Fujifilm and Panasonic collaborate on ‘industry-leading’ organic/CMOS sensor


Fujifilm and Panasonic have announced the joint development of a sensor technology that combines a light-sensitive coating on top of a CMOS chip. The companies claim higher dynamic range and sensitivity than current CMOS sensors, along with the ability to receive light at steeper angles – making it easier to design cameras with wide-angle lenses and allowing lenses to be mounted nearer to the sensor. The announcement extends from the work Fujifilm has been conducting on organic (carbon-based) photo-senstive materials and combines it with CMOS underpinnings developed by Panasonic. The result is a chip that uses CMOS technology only for circuitry – with the organic layer taking over the role of converting light into electrons.

Although the companies don’t detail a timeline for production, the joint presentation made at the VLSI Technology show in Japan shows images of pixel designs on the 0.9μm and 3μm scales. The smaller pixel would allow the creation of a 20MP sensor for mobile phones, while the larger one would result in a 41MP APS-C sensor.

Press Release:

Fujifilm and Panasonic jointly develop an organic CMOS image sensor technology using organic photoelectric conversion layer

A schematic of how the Fujifilm/Panasonic sensor uses an organic photo-sensitive layer near the front of the sensor(left), compared with a convention CMOS design (right)

FUJIFILM Corporation (President: Shigehiro Nakajima) and Panasonic Corporation (President: Kazuhiro Tsuga) have developed organic CMOS image sensor technology that uses an organic photoelectric conversion layer with a photoelectric conversion property at the light receiving section of an image sensor to achieve performance beyond that of conventional image sensors**. Applying this technology to the image sensors of digital cameras and other imaging devices expands its dynamic range*** and enhances sensitivity*4 further to prevent highlight clipping in bright scenes and capture a dark subject with vivid colors and rich textures.

The industry has put into continuous efforts to explore image sensor technologies for increasing their number of pixels. This has dramatically improved sensor resolutions, but, in order to further boost image quality, it is necessary to expand the dynamic range, enhance sensitivity and prevent cross-talk or color mixing between pixels. Panasonic took advantage of its semiconductor device technology to boost image quality for its high-performance image sensors. Fujifilm, on the other hand, has developed highly-reliable organic photoelectric conversion layer with high absorption coefficient to be used on a sensor’s light receiving section instead of silicon photodiode*5 in its effort to build a new image sensor technology.

In the latest collaboration, Fujifilm and Panasonic have combined Fujifilm’s organic photoelectric conversion layer technology with Panasonic’s semiconductor device technology to jointly develop an organic CMOS image sensor that outperforms conventional image sensors. The new organic CMOS image sensor offers the industry’s highest dynamic range of 88dB, advanced sensitivity 1.2 times more sensitive than conventional sensors** and broader range of incident angle*6 to enable the production of more sensitive and compact cameras with better image quality.

The two companies will promote the application of this organic CMOS image sensor technology to a wide range of products including security cameras, in-vehicle cameras, mobile device and digital cameras.

Fujifilm and Panasonic will present the research results at the 2013 Symposium on VLSI Technology (VLSI2013) to be held in Kyoto on June 11, and the 2013 International Image Sensor Workshop to be held in Utah, U.S.A. on June 15.

* Performance of the light receiving section of image sensors, as of June 11, 2013 according to Panasonic data.
** Estimation from Panasonic image sensors
*** Range of light that can be recorded (ratio between the brightest and darkest areas recorded)
*4 The sensitivity of image sensors refers to the conversion ratio of light into electric signals. The greater the sensitivity is, the clearer you can capture low-light scenes.
*5 A type of photo detector that senses incident light, installed for each image sensor pixel to convert light into electric signals
*6 Range of incident light angles for efficient conversion into electric signals

Transmission electron microscope images of the 3μm (left) and 0.9μm (right) organic/CMOS pixels the companies have developed.

The organic photoelectric conversion layer (OPF), in relation to the microlenses (ML) and color filters (CF) is indicated.

Overview of the newly-developed organic CMOS image sensor technology

A conventional image sensor consists of a silicon photodiode for capturing light, metal interconnect, color filter and on-chip micro-lens. The newly-developed organic CMOS image sensor technology uses organic photoelectric conversion layer with high absorption coefficient instead of the silicon photodiode, reducing the thickness of the light receiving section down to 0.5 microns, i.e. one severalth of the thickness of a silicon photodiode. This structure provides the following benefits:

  1. Industry’s highest dynamic range of 88dB to prevent highlight clipping and produce a vivid and texture-rich image even in low light

    Panasonic’s semiconductor device technology has improved the signal saturation value*7 by four folds compared to that of conventional image sensors. Coupled with the newly-developed noise-cancelling circuit, the sensor technology provides the industry’s highest dynamic range of 88dB, preventing highlight clipping in bright scenes and capturing a vivid and texture-rich image in low light.

    *7 The maximum amount of electric signals that can be handled. Receiving a signal greater than this value leads to highlight clipping.

  2. 1.2 times higher sensitivity than conventional sensors to capture clear images even in low light

    The transistors and metal interconnects in each pixel, fabricated using Panasonic’s semiconductor device technology, are coated with photoelectric conversion layer, developed using Fujifilm’s organic material technology. The area of the light receiving section becomes limited in conventional image sensors because of the existence of metal interconnects and the need to form light shield film to prevent light incidence into areas other than the photodiode in each pixel. However, the organic CMOS image sensor technology coats the sensor with organic film, which can harvest all the light received on the sensor. This boosts sensor sensitivity by 1.2 times compared to conventional sensors to deliver clear images even in low light.

  3. Range of incident angle expanded to 60 degrees for faithful color reproduction (See the image sensor illustrations above)

    The thickness of the organic film with high absorption coefficient, developed by Fujifilm, has been reduced to just 0.5 microns, or one severalth of the thickness of silicon photodiode in the light receiving section. Since the conventional silicon photodiode measures at least 3 microns in depth, the range of incident angles was limited to around 30 – 40 degrees. The thin film, achieved with the organic CMOS image sensor technology, has enabled the expansion of this range to 60 degrees, efficiently utilizing light entering at an angle for faithful color reproduction with no color mixing. It also gives greater flexibility in lens designs, facilitating the reduction of overall camera size.

  4. Offering high reliability for broader applications

    Fujifilm has developed a process technology to produce inorganic films for protecting the organic film. It prevents the entry of moisture and oxygen into the organic film to safeguard it against performance degradation. The sensor technology has cleared reliability tests involving the application of stress such as temperature, humidity, electrical voltage and light, paving the way for the use of the organic CMOS image sensor in a wide range of applications.



This news makes sense. Oly and Sony partner up, Panasonic left alone partners with Fuji, the two halfs become stronger. Interesting to watch the camera companies evolve over time. First Pentax Ricoh, Sony Oly, now Pana Fuji, maybe one day they will all merge with Leica ;).



Oly and Sony didn’t partner up. Sony invested in Oly, mainly to get into medical electronic business. Sony is selling sensors to Oly, but they were selling them to Nikon and Pentax before that anyway.

Oly still makes M3/3 cameras that compete directly against Sony’s Nex.

Fuji and Panasonic are also competitors. Fuji doesn’t sell M4/3 cameras.

As for Ricoh Pentax, that’s different. There is no such thing as “Pentax” as an independent entity. “Pentax” is a brand name used by Ricoh.


I’m completely aware of all that, but I’m glad you feel good about taking the time to try and correct my essay like a teacher that uses a happy ruler :). As usual, you never disappoint!


ET2 – you forgot to mention that now Oly is helping Sony with development of new lenses. Aslo, if rumors are correct, and Sony releases mirrorless A-mount cameras, I’m pretty sure Oly will help with some CDAF know-how/technology as well.

So, yeah, they kind “partnered up”.

Meanwhile, Canon sits all alone. Poor thing :(

Just another Canon shooter

Do I have to feed it?


no, but you will only find it at the health food stores


It’s great to see new technologies under development, breaking limits. I hope that it’s technically successful and can be manufactured reliably and at a fair cost!

Richard Murdey

Slightly disingenuous in the diagram they released.

It shows an organic layer, a bottom electrode, and a “protective layer” on top. For this to work, the protective layer actually has to be conductive, so it can function as a counterelectrode. Which means you are having to make transparent electrodes which has its own set of difficulties.

Photoconversion (light energy creates separated, mobile electric charge) is pretty hard to do in a single organic layer. I wonder if the photoconversion layer is actually composed of an organic solar-cell like multilayer structure or whether instead it works on the principle of photoconductivity.

(Sorry, its close to my day job. I actually wondered a while back whether anyone was thinking of making an organic image sensor. The idea has been kicking around for 60 years, but of course the process tools and materials available are vastly different now…)


Assistant Professor with one of your fields of expertise being organic electronics… Very swish =)

As for the top electrode transparent electrodes aren’t too much of a problem, especially with the hope of something useful coming out of all the money being thrown at graphene. There are also clearly going to be gaps between the pixels. I won’t claim to know much about the layout of an imaging sensor but can’t the top electrodes just run as a grid in these gaps?


Wow! can’t wait for a real camera with this sensor in it.
Finally something exciting.


What does this design mean for sensor longevity? Would this stand up to heat cycling for video use?


The sensor performance may fade over years because of the organic element.


Why do you say this?


It’s a good news.
But I don’t know if they can have a relation between the pixel dimension with the lens resolution? Or only making this to present the technologie more than the real usage.
The pixel see, the lens see, and after all, we see…


As I predicted several years ago, it’s good to see organic semiconductors coming to cameras even though it’s a hybrid. Well done Fuji and Panasonic. I expect to see fully organic or at least organometallic semiconductors further down the track.


Some of these benefits are already available with BSI.

What will be interesting to see is how the technology performs with the large sensel sizes typical in DSLRs rather than the small sensels used in smartphones.



Panasonic definitely needed to be doing something. Their sensors s….., well….they’re not good.

Mike Ronesia

They are not that far off the Sony sensors being used in M4/3’s right now. Not sure what “not good” means to you but I sell plenty of work done with Panny sensors.

Robert Morris

Not really that much of an improvement an 84db sensor already exist and has been in production for a good while now. So what’s the fuss with this one?


Good to see two major companies sharing research and development.

Collaboration is such a rare word these days of patent fights and litigation.

If we all could just get things together, we all would all be driving on the same side of the road all over the planet…



As long as we are not all driving on the wrong side (the right) of the road!

hee hee hee!!



Not as rare in the camera industry. Ricoh Pentax, Sony Oly, now Fuji Pana ??? Sony and Hassy too even though that first product is a laughing looney disaster.



Ricoh owns Pentax brand. Sony only sell sensors to Oly, just like they sell it to Nikon and Pentax. There might be some collaboration on lens design, but Oly’s m4/3 is still a competitor product to Sony’s Nex.

Fuji and Panasonic are also competitors. Fuji doesn’t sell m4/3 cameras.

There is no similarity to Ricoh Pentax


Ah yes, of course you’d not miss this one either! Always 100% reliable you are! I think we all know what’s happened, you call it what you like I’ll call it what I like. It’s partnering to me, period.


Anyone astonished by these claims of enormous dynamic range can head over to Thom Hogan’s website ( bythom.com ) where he explains how far from astonishing this is, and how less impressive it sounds when put in the right context.


I wonder how far off they are from comercial development


Well, at least they aren’t making insane claims of 300% more sensitive etc., that some of these announcements have seen.


Ok, here are some clarifications from http://www.slrlounge.com/breaking-news-panasonic-fuji-developed-worlds-first-organic-sensor.

Fuji/Panasonic organic sensor: 88 dB = 29.2 EV
Nikon D800E: 46db = 15.3ev
Calculations and formula at the link above – wow!.

The organic layer is .5 microns vs 3.0 microns so the incident angle can be increased from 30-40 degrees to 60 degrees while reducing color mixing.

I had read on another link that there was no apparent easy way to manufacture these sensors at this time though…

Richard Murdey

It’s not too different from an OLED television in terms of manufacturing technologies, the trick though is the much higher pixel densities required in a sensor makes patterning the organic layer much more difficult.

I wouldn’t get too hung up on the dynamic range comparisons. The organic photoconversion sensor is still in the experimental stage and specifications are obviously going to change drastically.

The takeaway at this stage is 1) it is demonstrable (it works!) and 2) it has several advantages over conventional technologies both in theory and practice.


Is it edible too?


haha funny 😀
Organic means carbon-hydrogen based, eg benzene is also organic (one for the science geeks)


Yeah, but is benzene edible?



Are you edible?


Awesome, we have a new unit of comparison:

“one severalth”…


R Butler

I liked that one too.


Organic-Inorganic Hybrid Sensor may indeed be the next thing. Sony too had filed a patent in Spring 2012, with a similar organic layer that supposedly enhances sensitivity and the DR, apparently, also eliminating the need for OLPF.


Film will rise again!


On gizmodo they were saying 29.2 stops… here 1.2 the sensitivity – not sure if that computes, but it’s nice to see some “out of the box” development going on out there with such promise.

The incident angle seems like a real winner also – 60Deg vs 30-40Deg – anyone know what the incident angle was for film?


Sounds promising!

Jimmy jang Boo

Time will tell… but it’s still Bayer sensor and I think the future is Foveon.


Bayer sensors are currently the top performing sensors so it’s a technology that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Foveon won’t take off unless someone figures out how to solve the poor high ISO performance and color shifts.


I hope Foveon pans out – it’s been such a long tortuous time… I wonder what the workload change on the processor is not having to do all the Bayer calculations to fill in the blanks – might also make for faster shots.

Jimmy jang Boo

Rest assured Canon has deep pockets.


Sony’s patent for organic layer does indeed include a three-layer stacked structure and I won’t be surprised if Fuji’s patent does too.


Bayer sensors use each pixel’s area to pick information on only 1 of the 3 colors it uses to build images… that means by pcking just 1 color you are trowing away 2/3 of the incident light, there was already a research about a sensor wich used a lens for each pixel, that separated the 3 colors to different angles so each one would be picked by an individual photocite, wich would be like picking almost 100% of incident light (think of the 3ds screen inversed )…i see more future on that, even if the eficiency is not 100%


Coolpix A the most recent APS-C camera is good up to ISO 6400
very hard to beat that

talk is cheap. seeing is believing

Source Article from http://www.dpreview.com/news/2013/06/12/Fujifilm-and-panasonic-organic-CMOS-sensor-industry-leading-dynamic-range-and-sensitivity

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