Behind every great camera is an equally great sensor – and giant leaps forward in imaging technology are often precipitated by advances in sensor tech. Excitingly, Curve One, a French start-up company, has recently announced that it has created a curved image sensor that's commercially viable. This is pretty groundbreaking and could have a massive impact on the imaging industry at large.
The main issue with flat imaging sensors is that, when developing optics, a greater deal of effort is required to correct issues. Extra optical elements are required to fix some of the unwanted curvatures that occur. These extra aspherical elements increase the overall size and weight of the lens. The design is also less efficient and can create problems with corner resolution.
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The curved design attempts to mimic the human eye and the shape of the retina. The great thing about this particular design is the fact that Curve One is using already available sensors and then changing their shape. This prevents the need for extensive research and development.
Producing optics for curved imaging sensors allows the potential for smaller lenses due to requiring fewer elements. This is turn could also mean we have lighter and compact existing lenses. Or this could mean that manufacturers can push the envelope even further and produce exotic wider apertures that may not currently be possible.
This benefit could be compounded with the advantage of mirrorless cameras and their shorter flange distances. We've already seen how companies like Canon and Sigma have made use of the shorter flange distance. We now have f/2 zoom lenses and tiny f/1.4 prime lenses – but if curved sensor technology is thrown into the mix, we can't help but wonder how much further optical technology could leap forward.
However, while this is exciting news, don't expect to see these curved sensors being implemented any time soon. This is a huge leap forward in sensor technology and it will take time to incorporate into commercially available cameras.