It tames bright lights.
Captures a candle's glow.
Freezes the fastest motion.
Slices reality into hundreds of thousands of tiny pieces.
It's a part of your camcorder that receives little attention, yet may be the most technologically advanced component in the case.
Meet your image sensor.
The image sensor is your camcorder's eye. Its job is to convert light into electrical impulses. Like the human retina, it relies on complex optics to focus an image on its surface. Unlike the human eye, which has no need for further design changes, the CCD sensor has experienced incredible advances in the past few years.
Chips in the Making
CCDs are manufactured using the same techniques that generate integrated circuits for computers and other electronic devices.
A large silicon wafer is precisely layered with different types of semiconductor material; each layer reacts in a controlled way to those surrounding it. The final layer is photosensitive, changing its electrical properties in response to light. In combination with the semiconductor material below this silicon layer creates and holds the electrical charge that later becomes the image.
The silicon wafer is exposed to a photographic etching process that divides the surface into dozens of discrete sensors, each less than an inch across. At the same time, each sensor is etched with thousands of microscopic pixels, storage registers and support circuits. When the process is complete, the mid-visual sensors are cut from the wafer and quality control verification begins.
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