A couple of months ago Panasonic unveiled its plan to improve digital cameras by replacing the ubiquitous Bayer filter. The company claims a Bayer filter blocks 50%-70% of the light entering the camera, while its new color splitter design uses all the available light. A new video goes into more detail on the tech.
According to Panasonic, the color splitters are a pop-in replacement for Bayer filters, so the same sensor tech can be used. Also, the splitters can be made by current manufacturing processes, the big problem was that getting the design right took a lot of computing power to run simulations.
Faster computers and new algorithms finally allowed Panasonic to get the job done. Here’s the gist of how it works – pixels are arranged into groups of four and color splitters is put over two of them, a red and a blue splitter (check the image above). So, instead of filtering out light, the new tech refracts in the pattern below. Traditional RGB colors are calculated with simple formulas.
So, while sensors themselves don’t change, getting extra light compared to a Bayer filter setup leads to improved camera performance, particularly in low-light situations. Here are demo photos taken by Panasonic at F/4.0, the company’s color splitter photo is on the left, the old Bayer tech photo on the right.
Here’s the video in question:
If the manufacturing is as simple as Panasonic says it is, we hope to see color splitters hit mobile phone cameras as soon as possible. Those tiny sensors certainly need all the light they can get.