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Nikon D7000 has a Sony sensor (confirmed)

Chipworks.com is doing something that I always wanted to do - to teardown a camera apart. Few weeks ago they took a Nikon D7000 and documented the guts of the camera. The interesting part? The sensor model IMX071 is made by Sony (direct link to image). This is probably not a surprise, but till now I could not find a proof besides the identical DxOMark score of the D7000 and Sony a580.

There has been some speculations in the past that Nikon recently started producing their own sensors. For the D3100, Nikon described the sensor as:

“The D3100 is equipped with a new Nikon DX-format CMOS image sensor and a new image-processing engine, EXPEED 2, both developed by Nikon”.

Tetsuro Goto mentioned something similar in this interview:

“We have a longstanding relationship with Sony. If the sensors for Nikon D3s, D3 and D700 are designed by Nikon, Nikon D3x and those of the small APS-C sensors are from Sony. We want to use our own sensors in SLRs most popular [small sensor APS-C, Ed], as the performance of our sensors are better. However, it will take some time as it takes to achieve economies of scale.”

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  • burak

    so.. what has begun now?

    • sirin

      IT

      • Discontinued

        What rhymes with “it”?

        There you have your answer, burak.

        • Rocking Kenwell

          Ess-Aitch-Eye-Tee?

  • AS

    This is the same old story…Nikon designs its own sensors but Sony manufactures them. Even the D3 and D3s sensors were manufactured by Sony, even if the design was a Nikon exclusive.

    • Jan

      This is the same old story…Nikon uses Sony sensors. Nikon camera performs better than Sony camera with the same sensors. Same thing with Pentax & Sony.

      Sony doesn’t do much right, it’s a design company, not a tech company. Like Apple, except Apple products also work.

      • Eric

        “Nikon camera performs better than Sony camera with the same sensors. Same thing with Pentax & Sony.”

        For the sake of accuracy I have to correct this. Nikon may perform better than Sony with the same sensor, but it seems as though Pentax has managed to get more out of that sensor then Nikon has. The Pentax K-5 has a better DXO score (which is pretty meaningless to me I must say). However, even in from the real world tests the K-5 does seem to slightly out perform the D7000. Of course the K-5 is also a more expensive camera; so it should.

    • Douglas

      actually, you are wrong on one point… the D3 was NOT a sony sensor. actually it was the only camera in recent memory from Nikon that didn’t have a Sony manufactured sensor as verified by Sony themselves. There where rumors at the time (and personal hopes on my part) that the D3 sensor was actually a product of Kodak (still unconfirmed) and that Nikon was ready to purchase Kodak company and begin manufacturing of their own sensors. This sadly never came to fruition and remained stricktly rumor mill and Nikon has since continued working with Sony for their sensors.
      Also, Nikon does not “design” most of the sensors per-say. Sony still designes them and manufactures them, but before they are manufactured for Nikon (which is why Sony will release a camera with the same resolution about 3-6 months before Nikon), Nikon will examin the chip and tweak the algorithms to work with Nikon’s processor, which is why Nikon consistantly outperformes Sony camera’s even when they have the same sensor manifold.

      • Just A Thought

        Same sensor different image processing pipeline. Where is your proof that D3 does not use a Sony sensor.

        Quite frankly, it’s thanks to Sony that Nikon is still a player in this arena. If Sony had not created its CMoS sensor and allowed Nikon to buy it then there is good chance that Nikon would not survived Canon’s customer grab. Remember the IDMK2 days – Canon had the lowest noise. Nikon was stuck with D2H and D1X. Remember when you read that 6MP was enough?

        D1X had a binned sensor – as per rumors. The D2 line used the same sensor but did not combine pixels – no more rectangular pixels – as per rumors. Then rumors has it, Sony provided Nikon the life saver sensor in the D3 and the CMOS DX sensors for the rest of the line. Maybe Nikon users should start thanking Sony??? Does anyone think that Canon would have sold Nikon sensors?

  • killjoy

    Manufactured by Sony does not mean they designed the specs.

    Just saying.

    • MP

      and you can put your head in sand…
      what is the problem in use sony sensor if it is the best around???

      • PHB

        The whole conversation is silly.

        Nikon and Sony are both constrained by the capabilities of the Sony process. There are only so many ways that a cell can be put together. VLSI companies have been trading parts of designes for decades now, its called standard cell libraries. The limitation here being the Intellectual Property in the designs.

        The fact that a Sony camera has the same chip is not too surprising. Sony and Nikon both need to serve that market, neither really competes directly. Making a set of masks is a huge expense. Sharing that cost across two companies is a major cost saving.

        Now Nikon must have decided to go that route quite a while back. Sony almost certainly has access to Nikon’s IP under a sharing agreement. So why wouldn’t Nikon be telling Sony which bits they want?

    • TaoTeJared

      Agree.

      Nikon can design all the specs and it is made by someone else and still call it a Nikon design. I can’t believe anyone somehow believes that Nikon can stand up an entire multi-million dollar plant to create sensors in just a year.

      It’s just like saying Dell and Apple make their own LCD/LED displays.

      • TaoTeJared

        That’s agree with killjoy

  • http://www.jsvfoto.com jsv

    So when will Sony come up with a cheap full frame that can handle high iso?

    • twoomy

      A year before it appears in a Nikon! :)

      • booyah!

        +1

      • scurvy hesh

        The D700 is only 2399 at our local shop. thats relatively cheap for how rugged and capable of a camera it is. I just might buy one now. You can also get refurbs for less than 2200 online. I have bought a few Nikon Refurbs over the years with great results. Many of them are sample/demo cameras that have been looked over and fixed (if its even needed) totally worth it! As of now I see no Sony camera having that low light capability. The 850 is a compelling piece of equipment though, and I cant lie and say that I wasn’t tempted by the resolution, but after making 16X20 prints from My friends D700 I have to say it is already better than what I was getting with 35mm film (at least to my eyes) Also I do a lot of low light shooting and the High ISO capability is just sublime. My only beef is the lack of a 100% viewfinder. Its about the same size as the one in the D300s. Granted, Nikon Really has mastered the DX viewfinders and it is probably a compliment on the DX series made by Nikon. But WHY Nikon??? Give me a 100% FX finder with a D700 body and I wont even care if you ad video or more resolution. Well, maybe a little bit more rez, but its not that big of a deal. I dont really take landscapes anyways.

    • Jan

      what, ur really keen on a light stand and flash attachment nobody else in the world can use eh?

    • Just A Thought

      “So when will Sony come up with a cheap full frame that can handle high iso?”

      Rumor has it that a new Full Frame from Sony to be released this year. No info about high ISO but it will have a LOW price = under $2kUS per rumor.

      Would that be cheap enough for ya?

    • PAG

      According to the rumor link that Admin posted below…

      The whole sensor fiasco started few weeks ago when rumors started to float around that Sony will stop producing full frame sensors, which could put Nikon in a difficult position.

      If that’s true, then dreams of a line of inexpensive killer Sony FF cameras seem misplaced. Of course, it’s just a rumor.

  • Anonymous

    Now those who were saying that I am not right about the sony sensor should apologize! :-)

    See, I told you so!!!!!

    • iamlucky13

      Personally, I never bothered to get into the argument, but the side that bothered me were the ones insisting that Sony making the sensors made Nikon’s worthless.

      While it would be nice to have that as an excuse why my pictures don’t garner me international acclaim, I never understood the argument.

      • Worminator

        The argument was always only between the “Nikon is bestest ‘cuz they make the bestest sensors” fanboys and the “Shut up you twit it’s a standard Sony part” realists. I don’t recall anyone dissing Nikon either way, except perhaps for their continued obfuscation on this very point.

        You will never catch anyone at Nikon admitting that that Nikon cameras use Sony sensors. This institutionalized deviousness annoys me: I would prefer to think Nikon was above that kind of thing.

        Yeah I know, Pentax doesn’t announce it either, but at least they don’t actively insinuate the opposite.

        • Discontinued

          Well said ! ! !

          Admin,
          many thanks for the confirmation.

  • Invisible Man

    Hi,
    We don’t really care who make the sensor, all we want is the D900 !!!!!!!
    Even if the sensor will have to come from Canon of Pentax !
    :o

  • http://www.christopheracat.com Christophe Racat

    Part of the Sony sensor is developed by Nikon, and manufactured with machinery supplied by Nikon has (…) Sony.

    • Just A Thought

      Full Frame sensors apparently produced in joint venture plants with Toshiba. Rumors is that there is no Nikon equipment in that plant. Would you be able to better photos of your pet cat if there was Nikon equipment there??

      Sony/Toshiba produces great sesnors which Nikon uses – get over it.

      Time has proven that the Sony sensor of high quality and is long lasting. Some of you Nikon folks seems to have what is rumored to have an inferiority complex because Nikon uses Sony sensors. Sony makes sensors for Canon P&S and yoiu dont hear Canon fans crying in wind about the excellent Sony sensors. Or Pentax users for that matter.

      Ferrari makes some amazing cars, but Ferrari masterpieces run on tires made by other companies. And no there is no Ferrari machinery in the tire factory which supplies Ferrari. Why would there be?

      Sony makes great sensors and allows Nikon to buy them. Now bow slowly towards the east and thank the Sony gods in Japan for allowing that to happen.

      • MRPhotoau

        Yes, well said. I have not always used Nikon, but have for about 15 years and am very hapy with them (Sony parts and all) I could’t care less where the bits come from as long as the camera performs the task that I need it to. I get paid for my work and have never had anyone complain at my bodies only having 12MP or that they have Sony sensors, I don’t think they care. What they do care about is that I can produce what they are paying me to produce. My friend Nikon provides me with the gear that does that and with tens of thousands of $s invested in them I am not about to change. When my gear runs its cycle and dies it is replaced with whatever is available, even if a new one will be out next week. I need it today not tomorrow.

        My point is, ‘If your D… (insert your number) is working for you why would you want to throw away money to get another one that will do the job great, but only until the next one is rumoured to come out.’ If you do blow your images beyond 60″ or you have a habit of cropping a lot (???) then go for it and get a new bigger sensor, otherwise just send me the cheque and I will take your shots for you with my dinosaurs.

        Newsflash!!!! It is a rare customer that will purchase over 30×40 and if they plan to they will often hire a person using MF so just enjoy what you have. Also if you CAN see a difference between a 30×40 shot with a D3 or a MF with a Phase One 80MP back, then you are actually in the minority.

        If you are cropping alot then I would suggest you spend the money on books and maybe even a longer lens.

  • Blair

    Developed and manufactured are 2 completely different things. I seriously doubt Nikon is going to buy a chip fab plant, that production would be outsourced to a company that can handle it from a volume and quality control standpoint.

  • jerl

    Well, we can find out more if someone is willing to shell out the big $$$ for the reverse engineering info.

    Any takers?

  • http://www.flickr.com/markustsang Markus

    Nikon never said they produce sensors, is always develop/ design by Nikon, then pass to Sony for mass production.

    how many times do we have to go through this ..?

  • broxibear

    Maybe the sensor going in to the Sony A77 is the same one that’ll end up in the D400…
    http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/sr4-short-a77-status-update

    24 megapixel sensor
    FullHD
    ISO will go ‘up into the hundreds of thousands’

    • Sensor

      I don’t see this happening any other way…

    • http://nikonkrab.multiply.com/ HDZ

      Nice if 24MP.

      I think a lot of peoples love megapixel.

  • Jhon

    Nikon people told it is made by Sony in their interview article in Japanese magazine, when D7000 was released.
    It was 3 months ago…

  • zzddrr

    I just want to make one point clear; if nikon had serious things to do with the sensor design then the label on the sensor would not be sony. It would say somewhere “nikon”. I think this is an identical sensor with the A580’s. On the other hand if I recall the A580 is 12bit and the D7000 is 14bit but that’s the readout.

    There is nothing wrong with that except the infamous case of the D3x and A850. Now I would love to see these brave dudes at Chipworks.com to rip apart a D3x. Then we’ll know what’s under the hood :-) so we’ll know certain why Nikon is ripping us off.

    • Just A Thought

      Contact LifePixel, the guys who remove the IR cut filter from DSLRs turning them into IR photo taking wonders. They take apart cameras and get real close and personal with camera sensors. I’m pretty sure that they have taken apart a D3 and very likely a D3X (for Military, Nasa and Police work comes to mind). A D1X was converted by them and when it came out it was lower priced than a D3X but would not be termed as having been low cost either. Fantastic IR camera BTW.

      http://www.lifepixel.com/ir-tutorials/nikon-d1x-digital-infrared-conversion-instructions.htm

    • IC

      zzddrr, your completely wrong about the company label on the chip.

      I’m an IC designer myself. In our company we design/develop our own chips. This means that we decide how transistors, capacitors, resistors, inductors and so on are to be connected to each other. We produce layouts of all the masks required by the semiconductor foundry. As long as we follow the design rules, which basically are geomtrical rules, i.e. this thing must not be closer than say 0.1 um to that thing and so on, we can do what ever we want. The foundry does not care at all. We can buy access to their cells, if existing, if we find that appropriate.

      After some months we receive the chips. These chips have the logotype of the foundry put somewhere on the chip and are easy to see in a microscope. This does not mean that the foundry has had anything to do with the chip design except the manufacturing part.

    • killjoy

      “I just want to make one point clear; if nikon had serious things to do with the sensor design then the label on the sensor would not be sony.”

      Wrong. Could not possibly be more wrong. The reality is 180 degrees opposite to what you say. Sorry but it’s true. The sony label will be on there no matter who designed the sensor.

  • sgts

    16mp-24mp-32mp look to me like they are going to be the new benchmarks this year

  • http://www.truphotos.com gnohz

    An eye opener to see the D7000 dissected. Would love to see other camera bodies such as D3s, D700 etc :D

  • Ali

    Nikon is not ripping anyone off, if it is anyone that is ripping someone off it would be Sony, ask any Sony A700 user (including myself), especially those with priceless Minolta glass. Reason why I am frequenting here now is waiting for D700 and D300s replacements to replace my A700, because Sony decided to keep there tradition of being a electronics company, and implemented that to their DSLR products. I tried a electronic viewfinder and hated it, absolutely terrible, also the image quality takes a beating from the reflection of the mirror(Sony cameras already were terrible in hi iso situations which I mostly shoot in). It looks like Sony is going to a Pellicle mirror for all of there cameras, and the replacement for my A700, looks like it is going to be first EVF Sony pro body. So here I am stuck with my Sony lenses without a decent body from Sony.

    I hope Sony proves me wrong with the A700 replacement, but I doubt that. If I had classic Nikon lenses instead of Minolta I wouldn’t be confused, and would have a bit more to spend on a body, so who is really ripping off who?

    • Panfruit

      The difference in image quality as shown via DXO between the a55 and the a580 is not a good sign. If Sony only makes an SLT version to replace the a700, then it seems certain that it will not perform up to its sensor, just like the a55. :(

      And Sony claims teh a700 to be priced to compete with the Canon 60d, instead of like the Canon 7d or Nikon d300 — also a huge disappointment. :/

      Sony really does have a lot to prove to anyone who wants something other than a cheap entry-level crapfest.

    • Just A Thought

      “If I had classic Nikon lenses instead of Minolta I wouldn’t be confused”

      If you had classic Nikon lenses then you would NOT be able to use any of them on any DSLR produced by Nikon By “classi”c I mean pre AI lenses.

      If you had newer screw drive AF Nikkon lenses (like AF-D lenses) then you would not be able to Autofocus them on many Nikon DSLRs in Nikon latest lineup.

      In contrast any age Canon branded AF lens will work on DSLRs in Canon’s lineup – keeping in mind differences between FX and DX (EF and EFS). Any Canon DSLR will also be able to mount pretty much any Nikon lens ever made – yes via a low cost but high quality adapter available on eBay. Same with most any Leica, Contax/Yashica, Olympous and many other brands.

      Sony can mount and use old Minolta AF lenses, yet new Nikon bodies cannot AF with relatively new screw drive Nikon AF lenses.

      For the greatest lens compatabiilty visit the Canon booth. Heck even Pentax can use their really old M42 screw lenses – as can Canon. Read the camera manuals – you cannot use per-AI Nikkors on any current Nikon DSLR. You cannot autofocus screw drive AF Nikkors on many current Nikon DSLRs.
      So much for you classic Nikon lens collection. BTW Nikon made some amazing glass – 50-300 f4.5 huge lens buy very sharp, 70-150mm E (the E was their economy line but with the 75-150 is stood for Exceptional), 300mm 2.8, 80-200mm 4.5 could not be beat in its day and 80-200mm 2.8 and their primes were top notch. The build quality was astounding. Excuse me while I go and wipe the tears from my eyes – thinking about the golden age always does that to me.

      • Brian

        The reason for the simplicty for the Canon compatability is because Canon scrapped their long running lens and mount design in the 90’s and had to completely start over fresh. Nikon did not throw away there lenses and cameras when autofocus came around. That is why there are so many old lens designs still offered. The lower end consumer Nikons do not have a built in AF motor, you have to manually focus and the AF indicator works just fine. As far as I know there are no new screw drive AF lenses being introduced. Just the old ones still in production.

        • Just A Thought

          Actually the reason why Canon DSLRS are so compatible with so many brands of lens is their bodies are slightly thinner – lens mount flange to sensor plane distance is smaller.

          How does one meter on a Nikon DLSR when using an F mount AIS Manual Focus lens?

          The answer depends which model Nikon DSLR you are using. On some you cannot meter at all, even if you can mount the lens. On the top end Nikon models you can average and spot meter but not matrix meter.

          BTW every Canon body mounts and will meter just fine with just about any Nikon lens ever made (albeit via an adapter). You just have to watch with the Full Frame models, as some Nikkor wide angles have the back end going too far into the body which could interfere with the mirror – Canon DX – EFS bodies not really an issue.

      • BadassCat

        Ignore this Canon fan,…and do your own research.

        Every lens Nikon has made(short of some really odd ones) since 1959 works with all Nikon digital bodies.

        Some won’t meter,..usually the two bottom line bodies have no screw drive,but all WORK and Mount.

        Unlike Canon junk from the 80’s.

        I just got a mint 300 AF(non AFS) f/4 on ebay for about what a 70-300VR zoom new was,..and on a D90,..it’s super.

  • SGN

    I don’t care even if Nikon uses a sensor made by Mattel inc or Walmart if it give us good images.

    • Just A Thought

      “I don’t care even if Nikon uses a sensor made by Mattel inc or Walmart if it give us good images.”

      Bingo. FIVE STARS. We finally have a post from a real photographer. Very Well put.

  • http://www.split.hr/Default.aspx Željko Kerum
  • Ole

    So what if it made by Sony? Sony probably has machinery built by Toshiba, Philips, Samsung, Panasonic, all of whom probably have their machinery built by Hyundai, Fujifilm, etc etc. In the end, it’s all about the images.

    Admin: Keep up the good work. I recently became aware of this website, and now I check it everyday!

    • Just A Thought

      “recently became aware of this website, and now I check it everyday!”

      Like many mind altering things, be aware that it can be quite addictive

  • Brian

    Take your computer apart and look close at the circuit boards and drives. MOST of these parts will be from another company. There are a hundred brands of TV’s out there, but only about 3 companies in the world make TV’s. Sony can not justify the huge expense of a sensor plant just for their products. So they sell to other companies to pay for it all. I saw into a TV plant in Malaysia once. That one plant, one building was making TV’s for several companies. Boeing, as big as it is buys it’s jet engines from other companies because they are in the airplane business not jet engine business. It does not come down to any one individual part, it is how everything is designed and put together. I never used Nikon film im my F5 either.

    • Just A Thought

      “Take your computer apart and look close at the circuit boards and drives. MOST of these parts will be from another company. ”

      I did what you told us to do and you are correct the parts are from lots of different companies. But now I have a BIG problem thanks to you. I cannot seem to get the computer back together and get it to work. Helpfull info for others: its probably better to power off the computer if you follow Brian advice and take your computer apart. I got shocked a few times and had a bit of sparking while following Brian’s advice. Brian never said to power off the computer before taking it apart!!!!!

      Now I have to use the laptop to make this post. Just glad that you did not suggest to take the laptop apart, as it cost a lot more. Oh, should I send the bill for the computer repair to you or to the site moderator?? No worries about the cost of the hospital visit – they said it was electrical burns (only 1st degree) – as I have free health coverage from my employer.

  • garooka

    As far as I can remember at some point it was established that the FX Nikon sensors are manufactured by NEC. Google it. As for DX chips the circuitry is made by Sony but the microlens part of the sensor is Nikon’s specufic. I am not sure Nikon itself make microlenses or just designs them or even puts them over the circuitry. You see, a sensor is a complicated, many-layer and multiaspect device. And it’s also just a part of the whole imaging system which also includes other parts, such as A/D convertes, image processing chips etc.

  • Anton

    Well in this case:
    Apple does not produce iphones, ibooks and ipads;
    Nvidia does not produce anything;

    It was never a question of whether Nikon makes the sensors, it was a question of who designs the sensors. You know, to make sensors you would need a plant. You can’t make sensors out of thin air. I have never heard that Nikon bought a plant (you can read the financial documents for that, and BTW that can’t be a secret, so there is nothing to speculate about), so it can’t make sensors, but it can design and therefore produce them. (Remember that nikon is a Japanese country and that there knowledge of English might not be perfect, therefore certain mistranslations may occur)
    So, until you read in financial documents that nikon bought a plant, there is no way that it can make them by itself.
    Period, once and for all.

    • Daemonius

      Lol, I should save my words.. Its exactly as you written it.

  • Daemonius

    You dont get point.

    Developed means “invented/designed”. It doesnt mean they actually manufactured it. They didnt. All today Nikon cameras have Sony manufactured sensors. But only few of them have sensors designed by Sony. Key to why is D700/D3/D3s so good is in fact that Nikon designed those sensors, they just gived Sony instructions what they want them to produce.

    Thats why Sony doesnt have any 12mpix full-frames, cause sensor design isnt their and they cant use it (unless they wanted to pay Nikon for that design).

    Not sure about K-5 sensor. Its Sony, thats sure, but I think its same story as with Nikon. Pentax designed or altered Sony design and let them make it for them. Or maybe its just very smart firmware.

  • killjoy

    Lotta people here yakking about how Sony “saved” Nikon because they built their sensors.

    Those people are what I like to call, completely ignorant to the engineering process involved.

    Like this guys says:
    “Developed means “invented/designed”. It doesnt mean they actually manufactured it. They didnt. All today Nikon cameras have Sony manufactured sensors. But only few of them have sensors designed by Sony. Key to why is D700/D3/D3s so good is in fact that Nikon designed those sensors, they just gived Sony instructions what they want them to produce.”

    Bingo.

  • RUH

    I hate Sony Ericsson and if Nikkor glass were not so damn good, I would switch brands.

  • TT

    If these sensors were designed by Nikon, Sony would have not be able to sell it Pentax (and others, such Fuji x100 and Lecia X1). These sensors are 100% designed and made by Sony.

  • http://Tweakers.net xarafan

    Thom Hogan already declared in a posting on 1 oktober 2010 that according to his sources the sensor of the D3100 was Nikons own design, while the D7000-sensor had to come from Sony.

  • Jean-François Blais

    Nikon D7000, Sony A580 and Pentax K-5 use the same Sony sensor.

    The difference in DxO Mark results is down to A/D converter pipeline of each camera manufacturer: in this case, not much. All three have very similar performance in DxO Mark, with Pentax slightly edging ahead by applying a bit more noise reduction in RAW, instead of leaving NR to JPEGs.

  • Luis Garcia – portug

    I see so many talk talk about the sensors , but I do not see what is most important:

    Nikon made in China and Nikon made in Thailand

    this is bad very bad, at least for the nikon purists like me, that owns NIKON for 30 years !!!
    the responsability of the Nikon Brand , can never go outside JAPAN !!!!!

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