New Nikon multi-pixel PDAF sensor patent

A new Nikon patent P2017-135422A was recently published in Japan for a multi-pixel PDAF sensor. The patent as originally filed in 2012 and my understanding is that it was just recently approved. (source)

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  • There it is. The mirrorless AF answer…. for Nikon

    • Mark Bradshaw

      Er…..OK lol

    • me too 😉

    • Chris Phillips

      Matt I gather you are the DR Dude, a question outside of the subject: Could one conclude on the DR of the D850 from this 8k lapse video they released? Could you make a “safe” assumption on what the DR would be like judging solely from these lapse images released?

      • Eric Calabros

        Judging DR from a horribly compressed 8bit image provided by YouTube?

        • Chris Phillips

          Just trying to see if the DR would suffer from the higher iso pump. I guess no ha?

    • … … …

    • Maria


  • zipduck

    So this is nikon’s dual pixel AF equiv? Finally.

    • Peter

      They recently filed a quad pixel PDAF patent. To me this seems to be a theoretical move to keep all the options…

  • sandy

    I wondered if it might be patent issues slowing it down.

    • Justanotheropinion

      Probably. Looks like they were able to adequately distinguish it from other multipixel AF systems.

  • Chris Phillips


  • Justanotheropinion

    Sounds good. I hope they use it.

  • Günter Hofstädter

    soúnds good yes, hope it works

  • Eric Calabros

    Dual or multi-pixel affects DR, in a bad way
    Careful what you wish for

    • Depends how you implement. If Nikon proceeds in a conventional “linear time” strategy, yes, DR can be compromised. If Nikon proceeds with some simple relativity – time dilation, spacetime distance between two events ( s^2 = -(ct)^2 + x^2 + y^2 + z^2 ) like – say a photon passing near photosites. Nikon can temporarily bend, or more so, “pulse” a very large mass with infinitesimally small (near zero in size), near the photosite gaps, slightly forward and behind, hence, optimally finessing the spatial environment through a maximized scenario. Surprised Thom hasn’t mentioned this… Instead of Dual Pixel, I would call it Dual Axioms.

      • Eric Calabros

        I haven’t watched Big Bang Theory enough to understand your comment

      • Robert Falconer

        Yes, but what about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle? 😉

      • TheInfinityPoint

        No you can’t do that. By even mentioning “a very large mass” one needs to invoke the Einstein field equations from general relativity, not the simple spacetime relation you’re using which is special relativity. Yes I’m a physicist, lol.

        • Hans98Ko

          Now, I like this kind of friendly technical discussions.

          • TheInfinityPoint

            You need either (a) a lot of mass or (b) a more moderate amount of mass that is extremely concentrated, to bend light. Candidates for (a) include massive galaxy clusters of about 10^15 times the solar mass (1 solar mass = 2*10^30 kg) or for case (b) a black hole of any mass. Although case (a) is regularly used by us astronomers now, I’m not aware of any case where we’ve observed (b), but since GR is accepted as a correct theory we know light will bend around black holes. So, Matt’s camera would either have to involve very massive clusters or black holes, both of which are quite unfeasible lol.

      • Brent Rawlings

        Anyone who types what you just did wins Post of the day. Congrats!

  • Eric Calabros

    I think this is the US version of this patent

  • Adam Brown

    A 5 year old patent….. This could be something that was contemplated (or even used?) in the Nikon 1… It could be an idea they long abandoned.
    No telling if this has any applicability to any upcoming mirrorless.

    • Eric Calabros

      Its “continuation” of a patent filled in 2012

  • Shutterbug

    Peter – any info coming in that this (or something similar) might be on the D850? It wouldn’t surprise me as they have had on-sensor PDAF in their 1 series for a long time now.

    • Eric Calabros

      It should surprise you and anyone else

      • Shutterbug

        Not really – Nikon has been using on sensor PDAF even before Canon implemented it. Putting it in their DSLRs is late to the party, but it would not be the least bit surprising, to me anyway.

    • MB

      I think Nikon used Aptina PDAF on 1 series … That technology was later part of Sony ON semi/ Aptina cross licensing agreement…

      • Shutterbug

        They did use Aptina for the 1-series except the J5, which got a Sony sensor. Exactly why I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on a new Sony sensor for Nikon, since they already own the tech 🙂

        • MB

          Nikon 1 J5 was first camera with Sony 1″ sensor using PDAF as far as I know, before RX100 … so everything is possible 😉

      • blackTIE

        I think Nikon chose Aptina for its high readout speed sensor tech and Nikon brought in the PDAF tech as I recall…

        • ITN

          Yes, this seems very likely.

  • br0xibear

    For those who like “geeking out” on all things sensors, this blog makes for interesting reading. Not for me, but each to their own and all that…

    • tomskyphoto

      Thanks, added to my reading list and favorites.

    • MB

      We serious geeks already follow it with great pleasure but thanks anyway…
      Interesting post for total geeks Microsoft entered image sensor business…

  • lorenzo

    Out of topics.
    Admin, how did the story end up with the TC-17E III?
    Is there any chance that Nikon will upgrade the current one as they did for the other two or they abandoned the idea?
    The TC-17E II is in back-order at B&H, can that be a sign that a new one is coming out?

  • Gilboa

    It would be nice if something like this was incorporated into the D850 sensor. it might finally make LV-AF on Nikon DSLRs competitive with the rest of the industry. Even though it’s more likely to appear in some form or another on their upcoming range of MILCs I suppose.

    • TheInfinityPoint

      Yes that’s my hope too. My only bit of hope is this technology is included in the D850 to justify the large leap from D810. But I wouldn’t hold my breath for it.

    • Jeffry De Meyer

      If they only had it granted now you will not be seeing it in any product the first 2 years since Nikon depends on other sources to make their sensors and giving away ip before you were granted a patent is stupid.

  • I think you just summed it up there: newer than the D810, ever so slightly bigger pixels, and still lags it in DR and ISO performance.

    • Yes but lags less than previous canon sensors without dual pixel AF.

      I think we just can’t tell from those data points.

  • Claude Mayonnaise

    Brilliant tactic. Bring out the D850 at a higher price, wait a year or so and come out with a Brilliant mirrorless with better everything. Market it as the new cat’s meow. Then, for the next ten years you repeat the whole cycle of small incremental upgrades just like the past decade with DSLR’s. Consumers gotta consume.

    • Exactly, I have been saying this for a while now – we will not see a new mirrorless before the D850 is available in stores.

  • TinusVerdino

    From the patent story: It seems possible to combine pixels of horizontal division and vertical division on the same sensor.
    Cross ranging may be possible over the entire sensor without increasing it from 2 pixels per microlens.

  • Someone

    if you are unable to shoot within the existing DR of current cameras, then I think there is no hope for you.

    5 stops would be enough for me.

  • Senor Magnifico

    Canon sells cameras with PDAF but Nikon is still sends promises… “Happy” anniversary, Nikon…

    • Antonio

      When you say that “Nikon still sends promises” how do you explain Nikon 1 (a system thats is in the market some years now) has a hybrid AF system with 171 contrast-detect and 105 phase-detect points?
      It seems you feel the most appropriate way to blow the candles of Nikon’s birthday cake is using a flamethrower… 🙂

      • El Aura

        Senor forget a couple of words:
        “Nikon still sends promises [in regard to PDAF] for cameras with the sensor size Senor prefers”.

        • Antonio

          That’s a different point as according to his words we may be driven to deduct that Nikon wasn’t selling any camera with PDAF yet and that’s not the case.

          We may agree or not with their implementation strategies but even if maybe there were some reasons why they use a technology that could have made LV more competitive that doesn’t mean they will not do that in future DSLR models (with no “promises” so far) and that they aren’t prepared for the introduction with the mirrorless cameras they may be developing.

          • El Aura

            My post was meant to be sarcastic. I fully agree with you on this.

            • Antonio

              Yes, I got it but just wanted to stress the post-promises status Señor refuses to admit or just doesn’t feet in his track record of comments extremely “sympathetic” to Nikon… 🙂 🙂

  • Visions

    Finally! Now give me some hint #Nikon on your mirrorless system, please. 😀

  • animalsbybarry

    This patent was filed in 2012
    And the related ((#4) patent in 2015
    So Nikon could possibly have been working on this for five years or more and (wishful thinking) this could possibly be intended for the new Nikon mirrorless FF camera

    If so we are looking at 2 layer all dual pixel/ PD/ crosspoints for amazing autofocus
    6 colors RGB/CMY and full color data at every pixel location

    • They could be working on it, but keep in mind that not all patents will see the light of day. If Nikon has a hybrid viewfinder patent it doesn’t mean the next camera will have it.

      • animalsbybarry

        But in the Nikon interview where they confirmed the are working on mirrorless they indicated theirs would be superior to anything else on the market
        Uniquely Nixon-ish
        And they would not do it until they could do it right

        They may not be producing this sensor… but I have to wonder how Nikon could make these claims if they were going to use the same sensor as everyone else

        Nikon does not build thier own sensors but they could get any number of sensor fab companies to build a custom sensor for them….I soppose even Sony would be willing to build a custom sensor if the deal was right

        I have been excited about this sensor for a long time and as I have said it is wishful thinking on my part that we might actually see it

        • Yes, this is what they have been doing I think with the D5, D500 and D7500 sensors – I have not seen any other cameras using the same sensors.

  • Edward Lorenzo

    Now they have the patent they need a sensor maker to make them one. : (

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