The idea of a curved sensor has been around for years already, with Sony having patented its own medium format design in 2017. This was then followed by French start-up Curve One announcing the first commercially viable full frame curved sensor in 2020. It now seems that this technology has taken another step forward, with Canon patenting its first lens design for a full frame curved sensor.
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Rumor website Canon Watch has reported that Canon has filed a patent application for 12 different pieces of glass, including three 51mm lenses, three 35mm lenses, a 65mm, two 82mm lenses, a 97mm, a 130mm and a 31mm.
While Canon is notorious for filing hundreds of patents a year (most of which will never hit the market), this is still an exciting move from the imaging giant, as the benefits of curved sensors are substantial.
Curved sensors are designed to mimic the natural curve of the human eye and the shape of the retina. The benefit of this curved design is that lenses can be smaller, lighter and more compact. This is due to the inefficiencies found in lenses designed for flat sensors, which require optical elements to counteract the unwanted curvatures that can occur.
These elements increase the size and weight of the lens – plus, you can often have issues with corner resolution in ordinary flat sensor lenses as well. A curved design will have no need for these extra optical elements, enabling a lighter and smaller build.
We likely won't see any commercial products revolving around curved sensors for a few years yet, as this technology will take time to implement. However, there's a strong argument to be made that, like the move from DSLR to mirrorless, curved sensors will be the next big step in imaging technology.