Capturing An Image
Foveon is not alone at the 16.8 million pixel milestone. Kodak Professional, a division of Eastman Kodak, is standing with the privately held chip maker, but on the other side of the fence. Kodak has manufactured a 16 mega-pixel CCD sensor, which it has placed in the new, medium-format DCS Pro Back. Featuring untethered operation, an LCD with histogram and new DCS Capture Studio software v.1.5, the DCS Pro Back, scheduled to ship in early 2001, is designed for commercial location and tabletop photography, as well as portraiture applications, and will generate a hefty 48MB file.
"Some people say, 'I don't need 16 million pixels,' " Zarakov concedes. "But 16 million gives the ability to have a larger reproduction size and more cropping flexibility. Because I have so many pixels, I can crop it out and still have a file with integrity."
Foveon's new chip is ready to go, Zarakov adds, for any company that wants to put a camera around it. Although Foveon does offer a digital camera for its two mega-pixel CMOS sensor, he says the company is looking to partner with other developers to find a house for the 16.8 darling. And he's not limiting the possibilities to just digital camera vendors, but considers the field open to all forms of digital image capture.
This may constitute a trend among sensor developers. Eastman Kodak made a similar announcement at Photokina: it has formed the Image Sensor Solution (ISS) division to market the company's line of CCD and CMOS sensors to OEMs, as well as other Kodak business units.
The Cameras of the Field
Sixteen million-pixel sensors aside, what digital cameras currently sit at the top of the professional market? The answer will depend on who you ask. As Zarakov notes, the terms once used to quantify the quality of a digital camera are no longer so absolute. A sensor's pixel count is important, but so is the accuracy of capturing complete color information. Most one-shot cameras capture less than 1⁄3 of the total amount of color, because each pixel is measuring only one of the three primary colors: red, green or blue. The best digital camera will have the right combination of specifications for a given photographer who will use the unit for a given application—or two.