Sony will not release the 24 MP sensor to other brands

Interesting post on dpreview from someone who talked to the Sony Alpha 900 team at PhotoPlus last week:

"They claim that they convinced the sensor division at Sony (the folks at PhotoPlus were camera designers) NOT to sell the A900 sensor to anyone, in order to build Sony's camera market share."

Canon has been doing this for years. This basically means that Nikon may not have a choice of sensors beyond 12 MP and their only way up is to go medium format (MF sensors are not restricted to a certain manufacturer). There is a dark area of who exactly produces the D3 sensor, but it seems that Nikon may not be getting the latest 24 MP sensor from Sony, which is actually a good news (based on online reviews of the A900).

This is a rumor which I cannot confirm.

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  • S3 Shooter

    Possibly a Fujifilm sensor? Fujifilm has been putting their own sensors into Nikon bodies and branding them as Fujis … I’d love to see Fuji images with the latest Nikon technologies and speed.

  • Anonymous

    You guys seem to be forgetting the Nikon DESIGNS its top-end sensors in house and contracts the fabrication out to companies such as Sony. Nikon could probably care less about Sony ‘high-noise’ sensor, they will have their own design that may or may not be fabricated by Sony.

    In the past, Nikon contracted some of Sony’s designed and produced sensor in the lower level cameras.

    Just because a sensor is being fabricated by Sony doesnt mean it isn’t Nikon’s design.

    • Ernst

      In the case of Sony specifically, there are some business conflicts for them to act as a contract fab for a direct competitor. Their relationship with Nikon must be strained, if not nearing an end.

      Plus, Nikon doesn’t want to share their pixel design secrets with the manufacturer of the Alpha. They can sign all the contracts they want — design “theft” remains a real concern in this business.

  • Nikkorian

    I could imagine high pixel count to be a niche.

    Most people nowadays will have online publishing in mind or prints up to letter size. Even if you crop an image, 15 MPx should be enough. Also it seems that lens quality becomes a limiting factor in this range as well? I’d say that for most people much more important than the quantity is the quality. My priority would be a much higher dynamic range and secondly high ISOs.

    I think the general trend will go in the direction of quality. I could imagine that in the future, pro models will be optionally available with high pixel numbers for those who really do need them.

    • Joachim

      oh boy – look at the dynamic range of the A900 at the dpreview test. It outperformes the D700 and D3 by a mile at ISO 200!!

      Talking about dynamic range is dependent on pre conditions.
      I would be more satisfied with high DR at low ISO and low noise than with mid dynamic range at high Iso and medium to high noise level.

      A tripod is no show stopper for me personally. So I am waiting and waiting till Nikon brings put a high resolution, high dynamic range (@ ISO 100 to 400) semiprofessional camera in the 35 mm format. It’s probably not a niche – it’s probably the only way out of low margins and low profit with high competition and thus relatively cheap selling crop cameras. (From a Marketing perpective)

      So be careful assuming high pixel cound limits the dynamic range – the DR is mostly limited by the tehchnology – far less by physics. I assume that newer generations of sensor cells will improve the DR even when the size goes down for a single cell. Just have a look at the P65+ => higher DR and higher resolution – they are at some 11.5 stops of DR while the DSLR’s are currently below 10 with comparable or bigger Pixels!!

  • mcananeya

    “they convinced the sensor division at Sony … NOT to sell the A900 sensor to anyone”

    Right. And while you’re at it, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. It is far more likely they Sony couldn’t convince anyone else to BUY the sensor!

    – Canon produces its own sensors
    – Nikon can design its own sensors (e.g., D3/D700 sensor) and have them manufactured by third parties. Now that Sony is competing with Nikon in dSLRs (and given the less-than-stellar initial reviews of the A900 sensor) this may be increasingly likely going forward
    – Pentax/Samsung cameras now use Samsung sensors
    – Panasonic/Olympus can’t use a full-frame sensor in their system and have their own sensors anyway
    – Leica uses Kodak sensors
    – Sigma makes its own sensors
    – Fuji is out of the dSLR game

    So who exactly would Sony be selling the sensor to, even if they were “willing” to sell it? Believe me, Sony would LOVE to sell the sensor to someone else. There just aren’t any takers.

    And where do you get the nonsense that Nikon doesn’t have any options to go above 12MP without going to medium format? What’s keeping them from coming up with their own high-resolution sensor? In fact, I am sure that it what they have been doing for quite some time now.

  • Douglas

    alot of people have tossed around who the manufacturer of Nikon’s FX 12mp Sensor is. It is Confirmed that the Sensor in the D300/90 IS a Sony made Sensor, but im 100% sure that the FX sensor is NOT Sony made. Some people have suggested Panasonic as a Contract Manufacturer for the Nikon Design Sensor, personally i find this unlikley. I looked over the list of companies with the capabilities to manufacturer sensors and one above all other stuck out to me… Kodak! It makes sence to me on SO many levels its not even funny! Kodak is NOT a competing SLR maker, Relationships between Nikon and Kodak go back longer than the Digital Age, and Nikon and Kodak where partners in Producing the very first Digital SLR. Since that time Kodak has gotten somewhat of a bad reputation in the Digital camera market (mostly due to their P&S camera designs and poor build quality) which makes sence to me why Nikon would keep quiet that they where manufacturing the sensor of Nikon’s Design.

  • Archer

    CMOS Image sensors are made by other companies that are not even close to being in the DSLR business. To name a few Micron Technologies (largest producer in the world), STMicroelectronics, OmniVision, Toshiba, Samsung etc etc.

    Nikon could easily use anyone of them to produce it and have no reason to depend on Sony’s A900 sensor.

    I remember reading here that Nikon rejected the A900 sensor as being not good enough for what they have in mind in the 24MPx or higher resolution range.

  • Yay!!! I’ve been doing in my power to make that Sony A900 sensor rumor a non-possibiliy; crossing my finger’s, hoping, blowing on dandelions, sacrificing small animals to pagan gods.

    I’m glad it wasn’t all in vain… I’ll miss you my little gerbil friend….

  • Dan Wells

    I was the person who talked to Sony and heard this in the first place. If it’s true (and Thom Hogan, whom I trust, says that the Sony rep should not have said anything – this was either a slipup or deliberate misinformation), the impact on Nikon is that a 20+ MP camera is dependent on an internal sensor design project – much more complicated than simply plugging an existing sensor in. That sensor could be great (D3/D700 sensor), mediocre (D2h sensor), or badly delayed. The Alpha sensor is a devil we know (superb low ISOs, gets noisy above about 800), while a Nikon-designed sensor will probably be better, but might be a year away (and could be a flop).


    • Thanks Dan!

    • Anonymous

      I’m not buying it. I’ve worked for three big conglomerates and one division can never stop another division from selling something because they each have their own profit centers.
      That’s not to say that Nikon wants or needs this sensor. And Kodak is definitely a possibility as they are producing many of the high MP MF sensors.

    • PHB

      I really don’t think this is likely. Sony is not a single company, it is a complex net of interconnected companies. The fab will be a separate company from the imaging company. There will be a majority Sony shareholding but there will be others, quite likely including Nikon. There is no way that Nikon would depend on the Sony fab if they didn’t have confidence that it would build their designs.

      In theory you could get a design fabbed at any facility. In practice the production of DSLR sensors is somewhat specialist and dedicated fabs are preferred.

      The issue is more likely to be that Nikon has no urgent need to launch the D3x before Xmas. They do have an urgent need to make every D90 and D60 possible. Churning out D700s is going to be a higher priority at this point.

      • jo-1

        mhh – not quite – I was working for a Semiconductor company and the manufacturing of an image sensor is much easier compare to other products like high performance processors. The transfere of a manufacturing site simply takes some qualification effort and this might delay a project by some months. But in principal it’s only a question of qualification of a manufacturing site – nothing more – nothing less.

        (almost) All fabs should be highly interested to increase their load. Huge 35 mm sensors would be nice for all fab managers since it raises the load of the manufacturing machines by the shier size of the chips. Since the Semiconductor business went down over the last months – it could be a good negotiation point for Nikon to select a new Si vendor.

        Sensors are quite easy to manufcture – processors are much more difficult – IMHO (I was selling processors)

  • Pablov

    I have to admit that “they convinced Sony” sounds kind of weird.. But in the facts maybe the sensor is not on sale anyway, so that is what would really matters.

    If this is true then Nikon is already designing their own’s sensor (or buying another brand’s) since some time ago (if they ever wanted to use Sony’s)

    If anyone is really wanting to know who made the D3’s sensor, there’s a possibility to find the answer in the sensor itself (thus, opening your lovely D3, dissasembling it..and watching by yourself ๐Ÿ˜€ )
    Beware: warranty would be void ๐Ÿ™‚ (I wouldn’t do it unless you are really a technician, or dollars are poping out of your pockets ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    I don’t like the A900’s sensor, so it could be good news. Time will say (as always) ๐Ÿ™‚

    • czekker

      just opened my D3 – it’s a Kodak sensor..

      • are you serious? Send me a picture

        • Markus

          … probably is not anymore able to make a picture with his camera ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • BrettA

    Like others, I also heard that Nikon rejected Sony’s 24 MPx sensor for image quality issues and expect Sony would just love to sell elsewhere. Whatever direction Nikon actually takes – it surely has to get there or close to it in fairly short order – I suspect we’ll all be pleased.

    But regarding usage issues, I’d love a *good* 24 (or much higher) rather than my D700’s 12, not for current display but for an OLED future of 6′ to 10′ (or even ‘wall-sized’) cheap displays, as we’ve been hearing since at least 2002. I’d like the Kodachrome equivalent of ~40-60 MPx and am comfortable we’ll get there, at least in a reasonable time. And I don’t care who fabs at all.

  • Anonymous

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been told by two sources (a Nikon rep at PhotoPlus 2007, and more recently the co-owner of my favorite Nikon dealer in New York) that Nikon makes the D3/D700 sensor. I was incredulous both times, insisting that Sony makes the sensor. Both shrugged and told me that Nikon makes it.

    • Douglas

      it is a nikon Design, not a Nikon Produced sensor… Nikon doesn’t have the manufacturing capabilities to make it themselves…

  • Max

    Sony doesn’t really have to use Sony sensor. There are other many sensor design and manufacturing places such as Omnivision, Aptina (former Micron Imaging), etc. It is true these were never associated with Nikon DSLR products in the past, but this is going to change very soon. Just wait…


    • RBR

      Sony has invested huge sums of money in fabs to produce sensors for themselves and others. One of the company’s stated objectives is to gain market share as a sensor manufacturer for other companies. I just can not see them having someone else manufacture their sensors unless they became truly desperate. Someone else designing or refining the design of a sensor for Sony to produce? That would not surprise me.


    You will NEVER see the Nikon D3 / D700 sensor in a Sony body, unlike the sensors that Sony has made for Nikon in the past which eventually end up in Sony bodies too. (6 MP, 10 MP…) NEVER. Whoever fabs the actual sensor itself, the design is Nikon’s and it will never show up in another body, ever.

    Secondly, I *believe* it to be truth that, even if Dan’s story about the reps is true, …they were lying through their teeth- Nikon REJECTED the A900 sensor because it (obviously) doesn’t come close to meeting Nikon’s standards for ISO performance. Nikon cannot afford to have a flagship’s sensor be that noisy now that the 5D mk2 has set such a precedent.

    Whether or not Dan’s story about the reps is true, whether or not the “D3X” was originally going to have the A900 sensor at all, the fact remains that Nikon is waiting and will, as always since the D3, do it RIGHT THE FIRST TIME…


  • Can’t Believe It

    Bump for crazy rumor that definitely did not prove to be true.

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