Casio have made an interesting announcement about a very high speed digtal camera which they are working on. It's a 6MP camera which can shoot at an astonishing 60 frames per second at full resolution and a mind blowing 300 frames per second in VGA (640 x 480) resolution! Though Casio don't describe the senor in their press release, it's likely to be the Sony IMX017CQE. Here's what Sony have to say about this sensor:
"....The IMX017CQE sensor can also capture 6.4M-pixel high-resolution still images during moving images capture without interrupting the moving images capture. This allows it to implement seamless imaging in which the user has no need to be aware of the boundary between still and moving imaging. It furthermore supports 300 frame/s ultrahigh-speed imaging, making it possible for consumer cameras to capture moving images without missing any of the decisive moments that were previously impossible to capture...."
You can read more about the sensor at http://www.sony.net/Products/SC-HP/cx_news/vol47/np_imx017.html
Clearly this is a step towards what I've long thought will be the future of consumer digicams, a combined still and video camera which is as good at both functions as separate devices are today. Right now you can take videos with still cameras, but they aren't as good as those shot with a video camera. You can take stills with video cameras, but again they aren't as good as those you can take with a still camera.
The major problem I can see is how do you store the data? With a 6MP sensor, you're making JPEGs that are maybe 2MB each. At 60 frames/sec you are generating 120MB/second or 7.2GB per minute. Even the biggest memory cards would fill up really fast! Obviously there are more efficient compression schemes for video, but even so handling that much data would be a tough task and storing it all might need a lot of memory! If you were shooting stills you'd need a pretty sizable buffer of fast memory if you want to record for more than a few seconds at 60 fps. Just for comparison, the new Canon EOD 1Ds MkIII can handle 21MP images at 5fps, but that's a data rate which is only about 1/3 of that which this camera would require.
Here's what Casio have to say about it:
DOVER, NJ, AUGUST 31, 2007 Casio Computer Co., Ltd., announced today that it is developing an entirely new digital camera with hitherto unseen high speed performance and image capture functions that make the most of its cutting-edge digital technologies. This revolutionary camera of the future will be able to take still images at an astonishing shooting speed, to catch fast-moving subjects at the crucial moment. It will also take movies that capture movement so fast that it cannot even be seen by the human eye. The first prototype will be on display at the IFA, a consumer electronics trade show, in Berlin, Germany, which opens on August 31, 2007.
Casios digital cameras have been setting the pace since 1995, when the company introduced the QV-10, a digital camera for personal use with an LCD display that played a major role in creating the digital camera market. In 2002, Casio commenced sales of the card-sized EXILIMŽ series of LCD digital cameras, which feature superb portability and response speeds. Casio is constantly seeking to expand the market by delivering greater ease of use and the kind of innovative functions that only digital cameras can offer.
The prototype of Casios latest revolutionary camera features a new high speed CMOS sensor and a high speed LSI image processing chip. This 6.0-megapixel, 12x optical zoom, high-performance digital camera prototype with CMOS-shift image stabilization function offers not only ultra-high speed burst shooting for still images, but also high speed movie recording.
For still images, the camera achieves ultra-high speed burst shooting of 60 images per second at maximum resolution the fastest in the world.* Moreover, using Pre-shot Burst Mode, (a ultra-high speed continuous shooting mode that captures images from the scene prior to the moment when you actually press the shutter button), users can be confident they will never miss the most crucial photographic moment.
The camera can also capture movies at VGA resolution at an incredible 300 frames per second, which means it can record movies for replay in ultra-slow motion, a function that has only been possible so far with a limited range of professional movie equipment.
* As at August 31, 2007, for consumer market digital cameras. Based on Casio survey.
Main Specifications of Prototype
Effective pixels: 6.0 million
Imaging element: 1/1.8 inch high speed CMOS sensor (total pixels: 6.6 million)
High speed burst shooting: 60 images per second at 6.0 million pixels, JPEG
High speed movie: 300fps, Motion JPEG, AVI format, VGA
Lens/focal distance: 12 lenses in 9 groups, F2.7 to 4.6, equivalent to approximately 35 to 420 mm on a 35 mm film camera
Zoom: 12X optical zoom
Image stabilization mechanism: CMOS-shift image stabilization
Monitor screen: 2.8-inch widescreen TFT color LCD, approx. 230,000 pixels
Viewfinder: Color LCD, approx. 200,000 pixels
Dimension and weight: 5.01 (W) x 3.13 (H) x 5.12 (D). Approx. 22.93 oz (excluding battery and accessories)
The precise product release date, pricing, brand name and specifications remain to be determined. Casio will continue working on the camera to further improve performance and functionality, and is determined to produce an amazing digital camera that offers brand new ways of enjoying photography and creates new applications for digital photography.
The image shows the prototype. The printed and engraved designs on the prototype are only provisional.