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Fujifilm Super CCD SR Frequently Asked Questions

Fujifilm Super CCD SR Frequently Asked Questions - Confused about this new technology? Have it all explained in this SR & HR Frequently Asked Questions

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Only just announced this new Super CCD SR technology from Fuji is already creating quite a stir. Promising an improved ability in capturing highlight and shadow detail, the technology is both exciting and confusing. For your convenience, this Frequently Asked Questions will resolve most questions you might have about the Fujifilm Super CCD SR or Super CCD HR

Super CCD SR

Q. What are the main benefits of Super CCD SR?
A. Due to an innovative new CCD arrangement, cameras featuring Super CCD SR are able to capture highlight and shadow detail that conventional digital cameras miss. Overall, it will provide a more faithful representation of the actual subject and greater dynamic range. Specific benefits are:

it combats the bleached out effect that often ruins flash photography
it allows you to shoot confidently even in very bright, contrasty conditions
it delivers detail in areas that normally get lost, such as cloud detail outdoors
increased exposure latitude provided by the sensor means that it is more forgiving of incorrect exposure

Q. How is Super CCD SR different from a normal CCD?
A. Super CCD SR uses a new CCD arrangement, based on the diagonally mapped, octagonal sensor arrangement that Fujifilm pioneered with Third Generation (3G) Super CCD. However, with Super CCD SR, not one, but two photodiodes capture information on the same area of the image (these are arranged in a 'double honeycomb' structure).

The sensitive primary photodiode registers the light reflected off the subject at a high sensitivity (similar to a conventional Super CCD photodiode), whilst the secondary photodiode captures highlight information from the same part of the image, recorded at a lower sensitivity.

Because it is set at a lower sensitivity than the primary photodiode (in other words, records a darker image), the secondary photodiode is able to 'see' additional detail in bright areas normally beyond the reach of conventional photodiodes. This also frees up the primary photodiode to deliver a better quality rendition of mid to dark tones.

This combination of primary and secondary photodiodes produces an image that is more richly detailed than conventional CCDs, resolving more detail in highlight and dark areas of the image.

Q. Is there a simpler way of explaining the technology?
A. A useful way of explaining this is to compare the technology to an audio speaker. Formerly, audio speakers relied on just one large speaker cone to deliver all of the musical range, meaning that bass and treble notes were obscured. This was overcome by developing a secondary, high sensitivity cone (known as a 'tweeter'), radically improving the sound quality. The primary and secondary photodiodes in Fujifilm's new technology effectively mirror the hi-fi speaker. This is why Fujifilm is marketing this as 'High Fidelity Photography'.

Q. Surely you can achieve the same exposure effect as Super CCD SR by adjusting the balance and contrast in an editing program like Photoshop?
A. You can alter contrast and brightness in an editing program such as Photoshop, but you cannot retrieve detail that the camera has failed to capture. For instance, when a bright area on an image 'burns out', the detail cannot be retrieved, as the relevant photodiodes in that area have hit their relative maximum values.

Q. Is there any similarity between Super CCD SR and the recently launched Foveon sensor?
A. Technically, the sensors are fundamentally different to each other. The only common ground is that both have opened up a worthwhile discussion on new definitions for the traditional 'pixel'.

Q. Why is Fujifilm using new terms such as 'photosite' and 'photodiode'? What's wrong with 'pixel'?
A. 'Pixel' is a potentially ambiguous term, and should only be used to describe a point of information in the final image. When innovative technology is brought onto the market, it is not always appropriate to describe it in the same way as existing, conventional technologies.

In the past, one tiny light sensor on the CCD delivered one dot on the final image. Then, it was convenient to use the general term 'pixel' to refer to this. Now, Fujifilm has developed a system where two tiny light sensors (the primary and secondary photodiodes) are located at each light point (the photosite). There are 6.2 million effective photodiodes, grouped in pairs at 3.1 million photosites. These generate 3.1 million richly detailed points of information on the image. However, before the final image is recorded to the media, the camera's LSI algorithms calculate intermediary values, which then produces an output image of 6.03 million pixels (points of information in the final image).

Q. Who will find Super CCD SR more beneficial - mainstream consumers or professional photographers?
A. It will appeal to anyone who appreciates genuine image quality. Initially, we expect great excitement from the enthusiast sector, but the innovation is beneficial to photographers of all levels.

Q. Is Fujifilm going to equip all its future digital cameras with this technology?
A. No. The cost of the sophisticated manufacturing techniques involved in making the Super CCD SR structure will make the technology unsuitable for entry level cameras. Also, Fujifilm recognises that it will still need to satisfy the market demand for out-and-out resolution: this is fulfilled in the form of the 1/1.7" Super CCD HR (High Resolution).

Q. What is the difference in resolution between a 3G Super CCD camera outputting 6 million pixels, and Super CCD SR outputting the same amount?
A. Neither conforms to the description of a 'true' six million pixel camera. However, the Super CCD SR camera offers six million sensors and also delivers better quality resolution than 3G Super CCD.

Q. Would you compare a camera featuring the Super CCD SR sensor to a 'true' 6 million pixel camera?
A. Yes. Not because it delivers the same resolution, but because it will deliver a better overall image. Our experience is that there is a tendency to over-concentrate on looking at magnified resolution detail in an image, rather than assessing how impactful the picture will be to an everyday observer. With Super CCD SR, the camera will be able to resolve and handle a greater range of light intensities, thus giving a balanced image free from burnt-out highlights and featureless shadows. A 'true' six million pixel camera will probably have an edge over Super CCD SR in resolution, whilst the Super CCD SR camera will deliver a better overall image. We would expect the comparison to be an interesting one.

Q. When will a digital camera with Super CCD SR be launched in the UK?
A. An announcement will be made prior to PMA in February.

Q. How much will it cost?
A. TBC, although it can be confirmed that the product will not be a low-end, mass-market product.

Q. Are any other digital imaging companies using Super CCD SR or similar technology?
A. No, this technology is unique to Fujifilm.

Q. Is Super CCD SR only available with 6mp output?
A. For the moment, yes.

Super CCD HR (High Resolution)

Q. What are the benefits of Super CCD HR (High Resolution)?
A. It allows for a smaller camera body by taking the technology of 3G Super CCD and fitting it into a smaller sensor, meaning that you don't need a bulky camera to achieve high resolution images. Despite its small size, virtually no compromises are made in the image quality currently offered by 3G Super CCD. It means that high resolution cameras of the future need not possess a large physical size.

Q. When will digital cameras incorporating Super CCD HR be launched?
A. An announcement will be made prior to PMA in February.

Q. How will the cameras be priced in comparison to Fujifilm's current digital camera range?
A. This information is not currently available.

Q. In terms of hierarchy, how will the two new sensors be positioned in relation to each other?
A. We expect Super CCD HR to be the more widespread of the two, becoming the definitive mid- to high-end sensor for Fujifilm cameras, effectively superseding the current 3G Super CCD.

The increased photographic scope of the Super CCD SR product will mean that it fulfils even more demanding needs, used by photographers who want to enhance the impact of their photographs. Therefore, it will be positioned at a premium to other Fujifilm sensors, however the company's offering will not necessarily focus on the extreme 'high end' of the market. Anyone who wants to improve the depth and quality of their photographs will want to be using this sensor.

For more details, visit the new Fujifilm Super CCD website.
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