Just in time for the mid-season restart of AMC’s The Walking Dead, on January 30th 2015 Sony let the cat out of the bag that they would stop production of its existing line of CCD sensors. There is a difference, however, in announcing the end of production, and actually ending production. Current reports suggest that the end will not actually happen for another 10 years.
When the end does finally arrive, unlike the zombies popularized in The Walking Dead, CCD cameras will not die and come back as half dead creatures. Cameras that employ CCD sensors will continue to function happily for years to come – with new cameras built on CCD technology ready to release now, and into the future.
While many might assume Sony’s announcement signals the end of life for CCD sensors, there will be plenty of time to prepare. Although the rumor mill is inaccurate with dates, there are reports that Sony targeted final ship dates for 2025. As of today, 2025 is a full 10 earth years away. Or in technology years, approximately 2,200 – that’s a joke people.
Unfortunately there is no public announcement from Sony regarding the end of CCD’s, however there are CCD distributors that made the announcement for them.
Thankfully there are other companies out there that produce CCD sensors who will be happy to pick up the slack provided by Sony – such as Texas Instruments. There are many other, smaller companies that may pick up the slack as well which can be found on an unconfirmed list of CCD manufacturers.
In the short term, there is little impact. With years to prepare, camera manufacturers can continue using the wildly popular Sony ICX-285 sensor cameras such as the Photometrics HQ2, Leica DFC365, and Qimaging QIClick.
In addition to the continuation of existing camera models, companies such as QImaging are actually preparing the launch of a new camera line which includes Sony sensors. The all new QImaging R1 camera uses the successor to the Sony ICX-285 chip, the new ICX-825 sensor. With and improved quantum efficiency of 75%, 16 bit digitization, higher frame rates, the QImaging R1 is betting on the availability of Sony CCD’s for years to come.
Interestingly, Hamamatsu may also be prepared to pick up the demand for scientific cameras based on CCD technology as it owns the technology in its ER-150 sensor. Since Hamamatsu does not make public the company they use for production, with the many manufacturers of CCD sensors, one must assume the Hamamatsu ER-150 is safe.
Hamamatsu has kept its technology secret for years and with the ER-150 sensor being used in the Hamamatsu Orca R2, Orca D2, and 8484 series of cameras, Hamamatsu is uniquely positioned to meet the demand for scientific cameras built on CCD technology.
If the CCD sensor built into your favorite camera is working well now, chances are it will work well for years to come. Particularly when purchased from an established manufacturer such as the brands represented by W. Nuhsbaum, Inc.
Many of the first generation monochrome CCD sensors are still being used today in many scientific labs and Research and Development facilities around the country. Although the Hamamatsu Orca 100 was discontinued many years ago, there are plenty of 15 year old Hamamatsu Orca 100 cameras that still function well for low light fluorescence imaging.
Although purchasing a camera with a component that is slated for cancellation may be intimidating, consider that hundreds of components go into scientific cameras – any of which could be changed with very little notice. Sony is doing everyone a favor by making the end of life clear to manufacturers so they can prepare.
The current time frame of 10 years is very, very long particularly in the technology sector that develops so quickly. There are numerous cases of technology becoming obsolete after 10 years not because of hardware or electronics inside of a device, but because of software support, driver support, data transfer interface, or a new innovation that supplants the existing technology. Although the device may still work, it is unusable because of something as silly as computer manufacturers making a switch from 5V PCI bus to 3.3V PCI bus.
Choosing a camera can be intimidating, but identifying the needs for the application is the first step in making a smart decision. The second step is to disregard rumors and big announcements, and instead focus on the image and application. If your application is best addressed with a CCD sensor, fear not, CCD’s will be around for a long time. Although they will go away some day, it will not resemble a CCD zombie apocalypse where all CCD’s die and come back as half dead creatures.
Trust the experience of W. Nuhsbuam, Inc to weather the technology winds of change and advise on the proper technology for your experiments.