A steady increase in performance, functionality, and miniaturization has characterized the evolution of CMOS cameras. The first CMOS cameras were introduced in the early 1990s and were primarily used in low-end consumer electronics such as webcams and security cameras. These early CMOS cameras had limited resolution and image quality compared to CCD cameras, which were the dominant technology at the time.
However, over the past two decades, CMOS cameras have steadily improved performance, largely thanks to advances in CMOS technology and manufacturing processes. Today, CMOS cameras are used in various applications, including high-end professional photography, scientific research, medical imaging, and industrial inspection.
In this article, you’ll be able to get more details on how CMOS cameras work, their use cases, as well as five imaging features that make them one of the most popular solutions in the market.
What are CMOS cameras – and how do they work?
A CMOS camera is a digital camera that uses a Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor to capture and process images. Unlike traditional CCD (charge-coupled device) sensors, which use a complex manufacturing process to create a single large sensor, CMOS sensors can be manufactured using standard semiconductor manufacturing techniques, resulting in a smaller and less expensive sensor. Also, unlike older CCD cameras, CMOS cameras use less power and have faster readout speeds, making them popular in various applications.
The basic operation of a CMOS camera is as follows: when light enters the camera lens, it is focused onto the CMOS sensor, which converts the light into an electrical charge. Each pixel on the sensor corresponds to a specific point in the image, and the electrical charge at each pixel is read out and converted into a digital signal. The camera’s image processor processes this digital signal to create a final image.
Use cases of CMOS cameras
CMOS cameras have many potential business use cases due to their high-quality image capture capabilities, low power consumption, and versatility. Here are a few examples:
- Security: CMOS cameras can be used for surveillance and security purposes in businesses, retail stores, and other public places. They can capture high-quality video and images in well-lit and low-light environments, making them useful for monitoring and identifying potential security threats.
- Manufacturing: CMOS cameras can be used in manufacturing processes to inspect products for defects, measure dimensions, and monitor production lines. They can capture images at high speeds, making them useful for inspecting fast-moving objects.
- Medical: CMOS cameras can be used in medical imaging applications, such as endoscopy and dental imaging. They can capture high-quality images in small spaces and at different angles, making them useful for diagnosing and treating medical conditions.
- Agriculture: CMOS cameras can be used in agricultural applications to monitor crop growth, detect pests and diseases, and optimize irrigation. They can capture high-quality images of crops, soil, and plants, making them useful for precision farming.
Five key features that showcase the advantages of CMOS cameras
CMOS cameras have several imaging features that highlight their advantages over other types of cameras. These features include high resolution, low noise, high dynamic range, fast readout speed, and low power consumption.
- High Resolution
CMOS sensors can produce high-resolution images, allowing for more detailed images with greater clarity. As technology has advanced, CMOS sensors have achieved higher resolutions, up to several hundred megapixels in some cases.
- High Sensitivity
CMOS sensors can capture images with high sensitivity, which means they can capture images in low-light conditions without sacrificing image quality. First, the individual pixels on a CMOS sensor can be made larger, allowing for more light to be captured. Additionally, the use of backside illumination (BSI) can increase the efficiency of light capture by placing the photodiodes on the backside of the sensor instead of the front.
- Low Noise
CMOS sensors have lower noise levels than other types of sensors, such as CCD sensors, due to how they are designed. Each pixel on a CMOS sensor has its own amplifier, which amplifies the signal from the photodiode. This results in a higher signal-to-noise ratio, reducing the amount of noise in the image. Hence, by producing images with less visual distortion and graininess, CMOS cameras can improve the accuracy and reliability of many imaging tasks.
- High Dynamic Range
CMOS sensors are capable of achieving high dynamic range by using a technique called ‘multiple exposure’. It involves capturing multiple images of the same scene at different exposure levels and combining them to create a single image with a wider dynamic range. High dynamic range in CMOS cameras is particularly important for outdoor applications where there can be a wide range of light intensity within a single scene. By capturing a wider dynamic range, CMOS cameras can produce images with more detail and better color accuracy.
- High-Speed Imaging
CMOS sensors are capable of capturing images at very high frame rates, making them ideal for applications where fast-moving objects need to be captured with high temporal resolution. Some CMOS cameras are also capable of high-speed data transfer, allowing for real-time analysis of the images as they are being captured. This feature is particularly useful in scientific and industrial applications, where analyzing the images in real-time may be necessary to monitor and control a process.
e-con Systems’ cutting-edge CMOS camera modules for a variety of industries
e-con Systems’ CMOS camera modules are perfectly suited for industrial, retail, agricultural, and medical environments. Our camera modules can be easily integrated with a wide variety of embedded platforms – including NVIDIA Jetson. So, they are ideal for imaging applications like autonomous mobile robots, point-of-care diagnostic devices, fundus cameras, autonomous shopping systems, smart traffic devices, auto farming devices, etc.
We also offer a range of customization options for its CMOS cameras. Our experienced team of engineers can work with clients to develop customized camera solutions that meet their specific imaging requirements. This can include custom sensor selection, lens selection, integration with hardware and software, etc.
Our CMOS cameras include:
- e-CAM180_CUMI1820_MOD – 18 MP AR1820HS MIPI Camera Module
- e-CAM131_CUMI1335_MOD – 13MP 4K Camera Module
- e-CAM120_CUMI477C_MOD – 12MP Sony® IMX477 Camera Module
- -CAM120_CUMI412C_MOD – Sony® Starvis™ IMX412 Camera Module
- e-CAM84_CUMI485C_MOD – Sony® Starvis™ IMX485 Ultra-Lowlight Camera Module
- e-CAM82_CUMI0821_MOD – 8MP (4K) HDR MIPI Camera Module
- See3CAM_50CUGM – 5MP Sony Pregius IMX264 Monochrome Global Shutter Camera
- e-CAM55_CUMI0521_MOD – 5MP AR0521 MIPI Camera Module
- e-CAM519_CUMI335_MOD – Sony® Starvis™ IMX335 Camera Module
Of course, if you are looking to integrate CMOS cameras into your embedded vision products, please write to email@example.com. You can also visit our Camera Selector to get a full view of our camera portfolio.
Prabu is the Chief Technology Officer and Head of Camera Products at e-con Systems, and comes with a rich experience of more than 15 years in the embedded vision space. He brings to the table a deep knowledge in USB cameras, embedded vision cameras, vision algorithms and FPGAs. He has built 50+ camera solutions spanning various domains such as medical, industrial, agriculture, retail, biometrics, and more. He also comes with expertise in device driver development and BSP development. Currently, Prabu’s focus is to build smart camera solutions that power new age AI based applications.