Canon announced a new full frame sensor with global shutter
Image courtesy: Canon

Canon has announced a new 19-megapixel full-frame camera sensor with a global shutter. But don’t get too excited just yet.

What is a global shutter?

Most cameras that shoot video use a rolling shutter. This means that the image from the sensor is captured progressively, line by line. It all happens very quickly, but it isn’t instantaneous. A camera sensor with a global shutter captures the image from the whole sensor at the same time.

Why is a global shutter better?

Because a rolling shutter captures different parts of the image at different times, you can get unwanted artifacts in your image where there is fast motion. The so-called “jello effect” is caused by rolling shutter. To find out more, read this article: The rolling shutter effect explained. Global shutters don’t have these issues and are great for shooting fast movements. In addition, because a global shutter works more like the way a piece of movie film captures an image, it results in a more film-like look to motion.

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Canon’s new sensor

On its website, Canon Japan announced the new sensor, officially named the LI5030SAC. Although it is billed as a 19-megapixel sensor it actually has a resolution of 5,688 pixels by 3,334 pixels. This equates to a resolution of 18.96 megapixels. It’s still over double the resolution of 4K video. It’s a full-frame sensor and can record video at frame rates up to 58 fps. The sensor also has large pixels at around 6.4 μm. Canon says this means the sensor has high sensitivity, so it will be good in low light.

What’s the catch?

The specifications for Canon’s new global shutter sensor sound great, but sadly we are unlikely to see it in a regular video camera or cinema camera any time soon. Canon says it’s intended for industrial usages, such as day and night monitoring in harbors and railways and traffic surveillance cameras. The company also mentions the observation of microstructures with a microscope and the inspection of parts in factories. As well as a color model, the sensor will be available in a monochrome variant. There will also be a version that captures visible light and near-infrared regions simultaneously.

What we think

Sensors with global shutters are much better for video making. This is because they don’t suffer from the rolling shutter effect and give a more filmic image. Unfortunately, they are much more expensive to make and can have a lower dynamic range. As a result, the vast majority of video and cinema cameras have rolling shutters. However, the fact that Canon is still working on sensors with a global shutter is a promising sign. We can only hope that the research behind these sensors will one day lead to wider availability of global shutter sensors for filmmakers.

Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.