Interview: Switching from CCD to CMOS and Why CMOS Cameras From Basler Are a Cut Above the Rest
René von Fintel, Head of Product Market Management at Basler, talks us through the changeover from CCD to CMOS cameras in the aftermath of Sony's announcement a year ago that production of CCD sensors would be ending.
How is the market handling the switchover from CCD to CMOS?
The switchover is moving forward surprisingly quickly in terms of the adoption of CMOS sensors for new design-ins within facilities and systems. Most customers have taken the imminent discontinuation of Sony's CCD sensors as an occasion to reconsider their current CCD cameras and replace them at the next possible opportunity with CMOS-based cameras. This makes sense for two reasons: New CMOS cameras can deliver faster speeds and better image quality on the one hand, yet through their low prices also offer a better price/performance ratio on the other.
Which application fields lend themselves to CMOS sensors as CCD replacements?
In a nutshell: Anything CCD sensors could do in the past can now be done by CMOS sensors. There was a time when the sensitivity and global shutter behavior of CCD sensors set them apart. At this point, however, CMOS sensors give the same benefits, even at higher frame rates. So in principle any application could work, although we've observed that the areas where our customers are switching over more quickly include factory automation, lab automation, microscopy and traffic monitoring.
Not all CMOS cameras are alike – what benefits do Basler CMOS cameras offer?
You're right – not all CMOS cameras are alike. We are currently seeing that many manufacturers are integrating the same CMOS sensors into their cameras and presenting them to their customers. The problem is: You can put that same sensor into two different cameras, but there's no guarantee it will deliver the same image quality. There are in fact a great many factors that need to be taken into account when it comes to integrating CMOS sensors. There are often hundreds of different register settings that require fine adjustment, as well as a variety of challenges related to the complete integration of the standardized software interface. Beyond this, many manufacturers include different functions within their firmware, which can lead to very different results. Quality can also vary greatly due to soiling on the sensor or any tilt in the camera or sensor housing, for example. We at Basler work to offer our customer stable results by going beyond the nominal quality levels delivered by the sensor maker. All in all, we recommend that customers test the cameras within their systems and see for themselves what a difference it makes. We have seen cameras from competitors, for example, that suffer from distracting stripes on their images, or where the minimum exposure time for the camera didn't match the sensor's settings. This kind of failed integration typically arises when a manufacturer is pushing as fast as possible to get product on the market. While that is certainly one of our goals, we never allow it to compromise quality and performance.
What factors should customers keep in mind during switchover to help identify the right camera and manufacturer?
I see three key points: the camera hardware, the firmware and software in the camera and the selection of the right manufacturer as a partner. At the hardware level, this means choosing a camera interface, camera size or EMVA data, since those properties most clearly express the physical characteristics of CMOS sensors. Firmware and software are very often what separates the wheat from the chaff: Extensive packages of different firmware features often vary between different cameras. Our Basler PGI feature set for example can cut the computational load on the PC side and aids in powerful image optimization even when working with more affordable CMOS sensors. Beyond these hard factors, however, the camera manufacturer itself also plays a role for the customer. The cameras are frequently the dominant component in a system. Our customers value Basler for our highly stable delivery chain and short delivery times, for example. Our support team and distributor network are also known for their outstanding service. We offer quality systems and extended availability of all our components, a crucial factor for many industrial and medical engineering customers.
Additional information on this topic is below:
- Here in our Vision Campus: CMOS sensors are the technology of the future for industrial cameras