The Canon EOS R3 stacked sensor is “designed” by Canon but probably not made by them

May 4, 2021

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.

The Canon EOS R3 stacked sensor is “designed” by Canon but probably not made by them

May 4, 2021

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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Well, this is an interesting one. One of the big highlights of the Canon EOS R3 was that out of the various Canon “firsts” it was celebrating, one of them was a brand new Canon BSI stacked CMOS sensor. All of the promotional material from Canon UK even said “designed and manufactured by Canon”. This wording seems to have changed, though.

Now, the wording on the Canon UK website now simply reads that the sensor was “developed by Canon”. And an interview between Russian photography website PhotoWebExpo and Canon Russia’s Head of Product and Consumer Expertise, Andrey Tischenko suggests that while Canon may have designed it, it might just be Sony that’s making it for them.

If true, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Sony is very experienced with BSI stacked sensors, having produced a great many of them. During the Interview, Mr Tischenko was asked about the sensor, and if this is was Canon’s first stacked sensor.

Q. Will the Canon EOS R3 get a new sensor? Or will it be similar to the one in the Canon EOS R5?

The sensor is new because we have already stated that this is the first backlit Stacked Sensor BSI we have developed ourselves. Accordingly, this is a completely different matrix than in the Canon EOS R5.

Q. Is this Canon’s first stacked sensor?

Full-frame format yes, but in fact, one of the most popular compact models in the PowerShot series, the Canon G7x Mark III has a 1-inch Stacked CMOS sensor. That is, such technologies have already been applied in our cameras, but it is the Canon EOS R3 that will receive the first full-frame sensor of this technology.

As noted by the folks at Canon Watch, though, the sensor in the Canon G7X Mark III is actually made by Sony. So, if they’re touting that as the leading example, then is the sensor inside the EOS R3 also going to be made by Sony? The question was pretty explicit, “is this Canon’s first stacked sensor?” As in, a sensor made by Canon. Not “Is this the first Canon camera to contain a stacked sensor?”, so I feel the answer is a little… evasive, or at least misleading.

While Canon does manufacture their own sensors and nobody doubted the initial Canon UK claim that it was a “designed and manufactured by Canon” sensor, the wording change on the Canon UK website does suggest that it’s not them that’s making the sensor that will go into the EOS R3.

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to find that Canon is having Sony make the sensor, too. Even Sigma has temporarily abandoned their own full-frame Foveon sensors in favour of Sony Bayer sensors in the Sigma fp and Sigma fp L to get cameras out quickly.

Mr Tischenko also confirmed in the interview that the EOS R3 is not intended to be a flagship camera. It does not replace the 1DX Mark III, but sits above the EOS R5 and below the 1DX Mark III. And while he didn’t specifically mention an impending EOS R1 release, his wording suggested that it would definitely be coming at some point. He refused to comment on the APS-C Canon EOS M product line.

It’s an interesting interview with some good insights into Canon’s plans, even if you have to read a little between the lines for some of it. You can read the full interview on PhotoWebExpo.

[via DCLifeCanon Watch]

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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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22 responses to “The Canon EOS R3 stacked sensor is “designed” by Canon but probably not made by them”

  1. Dušan DuPe Pethö Avatar
    Dušan DuPe Pethö

    Or FUJIFILM gfx100 S

  2. Michael Estwik Avatar
    Michael Estwik

    Just wait for the patents to show up…

  3. Viggo Næss Avatar
    Viggo Næss

    “Probably” based on what exactly? ??‍♂️

  4. Nuri Gedik Avatar
    Nuri Gedik

    Canon made them own sensor. its could be about new patent..

  5. Boris Mitendorfer Avatar
    Boris Mitendorfer

    Who cares…

  6. Duncan Dimanche Avatar
    Duncan Dimanche

    that might be the best thing that happens to Canon since the OG 5D :)

  7. Eric Hines Avatar
    Eric Hines

    I’d take a sony sensor in a canon camera any day. Better weatherproofing, neater UI. Down.

    1. Simon Bertrand Avatar
      Simon Bertrand

      Neater UI ?

    2. Eric Hines Avatar
      Eric Hines

      Sony menus have been trash forever

    3. Simon Bertrand Avatar
      Simon Bertrand

      Eric Hines That’s what i taught, i misunderstood your comment. Can’t relate, i’ve been on canon forever

  8. Ivan Heng Avatar
    Ivan Heng

    Made by other company
    This fact meaning will effect production cost and market selling price

    Price going to be very expensive

    1. Grom Hellscream Avatar
      Grom Hellscream

      affect*

  9. Jared Kotil Avatar
    Jared Kotil

    If it’s designed by Canon, it’s a Canon sensor. If it’s a Canon camera, it’s a Canon. The manufacturer of a chip doesn’t matter. You don’t try to call an iPhone a”Broadcom” because they made the chips for them. See the false logic? These titles and stories on who made a sensor are just stupid. No tech company makes 100% of all the innards.

    1. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      Jared Kotil Except that Canon does make sensors themselves (Apple has never made their own processors) and even sell them to third party manufacturers. That’s what makes this interesting. Why is Canon not manufacturing it themselves?

      It would be like AMD contracting NVIDIA to make GPUs for AMD graphics cards. :)

      1. Carlos D Avatar
        Carlos D

        I thought Apple did make their own processors a long time ago, before subcontracting it out

        1. cheers22 Avatar
          cheers22

          Never have, going all the way back to the Apple I. During the PowerPC era they were part of AIM, but all those processors were manufactured by IBM or Motorola.

          Since Apple started designing its own processors for the iPhone, et al., they’ve been made by Samsung and (currently) TSMC.

    2. Jared Kotil Avatar
      Jared Kotil

      John Aldred Actually, Apple now does make its own processors and is buying more and more companies to bring everything “in house.” But that is another discussion. Canon may continue or maybe moving away from making their own sensors and are now contracting and outsourcing it out. If you replaced Sony, with some other name, no one would blink. Their Image Sensor business is just another division. Nikon, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic also made their own sensors but also use other manufactures including Sony to make their designs for sensors. Sensor cost and pricing is really based on volume to reduce the cost. Sony has made huge investments in that arena and in 2019 almost owned 50% of the image sensor market. That includes everything from cameras to phones, to surveillance cameras, to drones and everything else. I’m an old Nikon shooter and they started outsourcing their sensors 10 years ago. They just couldn’t keep up with the capital investments to keep building equipment to make cutting edge sensors. Nikon kept designing their sensors and Sony and a couple of others, made them. Eventually Nikon learned to take Sony sensors and overlay their software to maximize everything from it even better than Sony.

    3. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      Still, it doesn’t exactly strike confidence in Canon-manufactured sensors if Canon doesn’t have enough faith in them to use them in their own cameras. I can see you’re either never going to get my point or you’re intentionally avoiding it. So, I’ll bow out now. Best of luck. :)

    4. Jared Kotil Avatar
      Jared Kotil

      Oh I get it – I really do. One of Nikon’s last designed sensors was the 12mp D3, the 16mp D4. They were cutting edge and amazing. Their sensors always (at the time) had more dynamic range, better low light, etc. Then they started outsourcing their designs to Sony, and Tower Semiconductor (once TowerJazz) to manufacture and now I don’t believe they make any of their own sensors. The arguments on the Nikon side were never ending. Everyone was worried about the output files, the color, etc. as Sony’s are usually not the best at this. Canon has a unique look as well. At this point, Nikon has learned to overlay its “image science” to keep the “Nikon look” and performance is usually better than Sony’s output files. I still think Nikon’s files are the best for editing. The interest in who makes Nikon sensors is still there, but the concern about performance has basically disappeared. I have no doubt that Canon will figure out it’s “image science” overlay and it will remain. Fuji has done that as well as their cheaper cameras have Sony sensors.

      Honestly in the last 5-7 years, Canon’s sensors seem to be lagging behind in some categories when they are tested (and that is splitting hairs and still very good) but that gap seems to be getting wider. Sony’s new manufacturing process that created the A1’s sensor, is at the front of the industry. No one has anything close to that ability to manufacture sensors at that level. Given Covid, the crunch of technology parts creating year out delays maybe Sony will be the only ones with that manufacturing ability for a few years. Maybe it is a one off event till Canon can catch up, since Canon’s sensor business spans many industries as well, or maybe it is the future. I doubt that, and think it is just a gap-fill, but who knows.

      Two things will be always true – One – Japanese companies will never admit they have fallen behind and need help to keep up. The culture will not allow it. Two – to keep prices down in a ever shrinking market, consolidation must happen because companies can’t afford the continual large outlays of capital to keep innovating on every single piece and part of their product. This isn’t a bad thing. If a couple of companies become the big players in the image sensor area, then they have the capital to continually innovate and build the machinery to push technology forward. That helps all of us.

  10. Geoff Holman Avatar
    Geoff Holman

    probably in the headline means you don’t have to read the story.

  11. j fortunato Avatar
    j fortunato

    When you can tell me who makes every single part of whatever brand you like this nonsense will matter, it’s cost-efficient to share manufacturing costs and if it helps keep the price down it’s a good business decision. I’m not a Canon user but if I were I could give a s*** less where the parts were made as long as the package as a whole worked well, end of story

  12. cheers22 Avatar
    cheers22

    The question is ambiguous, the interviewer did not ask if this is the first stacked sensor made by Canon. Claiming that that meaning is clear and that a reference to a previous Canon camera with a Sony sensor indicates that this new sensor is manufactured by Sony is a bit of a logical stretch.