Sony has announced a massive 247MP medium format CMOS sensor

Apr 2, 2024

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Sony has announced a massive 247MP medium format CMOS sensor

Apr 2, 2024

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Sony IMX811 medium format sensor

Sony has announced the new Sony IMX811 BSI CMOS sensor. Sony announces new sensors all the time, and most of them go unnoticed. But this one’s a little special. It’s a medium format sensor offering a whopping 247 megapixels.

Now, don’t get too excited. This isn’t a global shutter sensor like the Sony A9 III (buy here). The company says it offers a 64.84mm diagonal and shoots 19,200 x 12,800 pixel images. And it can shoot 16-bit images at up to 5.3fps.

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The IMX811-AAQR is a diagonal 64.84 mm (Type 4.1) CMOS active pixel type image sensor with a square pixel array and 247.04 M effective pixels. This sensor incorporates maximum 24 dB PGA circuit and 16-bit A/D converter. 16-bit digital output makes it possible to readout the signals of 247.04 M effective pixels at high-speed of 5.3 frame/s in all-pixel readout mode

Sony IMX811 Flyer

Sony IMX811 – Coming to mirrorless cameras near you?

Sony has put the sensor in its “industrial lineup”, but don’t let that get you down. Fuji, Hasselblad and Phase One have all used Sony’s “industrial sensors” in its medium format cameras. So, we may indeed see some new announcements from one or all of those companies in the next couple of years.

Despite the 5.3fps frame rate at its maximum 16-bit colour depth, it can go faster. If we drop down to 12-bit colour – a standard bit depth for raw video – it does increase. Unfortunately, it still tops out at 12fps.

Now, those are “all-pixel” readouts. It’s possible that we can see higher frame rates with pixel binning or other techniques to at least give us 4K, 6K or 8K, even if it can’t give us video at the full 19K resolution of the sensor.

Is Sony working on a medium-format camera?

There have been rumours for a long time about Sony releasing a medium-format mirrorless camera. Personally, I can’t see this happening. At least, not in the near future. It may happen eventually, but right now, it just doesn’t make sense.

Sony’s full-frame and APS-C sensor Alpha series bodies are wildly popular. They don’t need to expand into medium-format cameras. And they likely don’t even want to start up a whole new R&D team to develop lenses for a market that will be significantly smaller than their current one.

That being said, when we step out of the world of Alpha and into Sony’s CineAlta line of cameras, it’s entirely plausible that Sony may one day create a medium-format cinema camera. There are a lot of pre-existing lens options in the world of cinema that will fill the larger sensor.

If and when that will happen is unknown. But I think Sony releasing a medium-format cinema camera is going to be much more likely than a medium-format mirrorless camera. There’s more chance of Fuji, Hasselblad and Phase One using it in a mirrorless camera than Sony.

Of course, this may ultimately not end up in any mirrorless cameras from any company. But even if it doesn’t, it gives us some indication as to the direction in which medium format sensors are heading. And right now, that seems to be “resolution is king”.

You can check out the complete flyer for the Sony IMX811 sensor on the Sony website. And if 247-megapixels isn’t enough for you, you can always have a go at building your own 489-megapixel large-format camera.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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