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What's the difference between a CMOS and a CCD?

Robert Nancarrow , Nov 01, 2005; 08:21 p.m.

I thought this must have been asked/answered before but a search didn't explain it to me. What's the difference, in image quality, contrast, etc. between these chips that Nikon and Canon use? Are the shapes of the pixels different? One look smoother than the other? Any information would be of help with me understanding. Thanks, Bob.


Bob Atkins , Nov 01, 2005; 08:29 p.m.

As far as the user is concerned, there's essentially no difference in performance today. In the past (10 years ago) it was different and CCD had better performance, but Canon have done a lot of work on CMOS sensors.

Frank Skomial , Nov 01, 2005; 08:54 p.m.

As far as implementations of CMOS and CCD sensors, the CCD sensors in Nikon D70 and D50 cameras (perhaps also in D200 ?) have associated electronic shutter, in addition to mechanical shutter.

The electronic shutter allows flash syncronization down to 1/8000 sec on Nikon D70, and down to 1/4000 sec on D50, with non-Nikon brand flash units. This feature was not advertised by Nikon, since ( my guess ?) Nikon wants to sell Nikon brand flashes. Nikon brand flashes are recognized by those 2 cameras, and max sync speed is barred at 1/500 sec.

Cameras implemented with CMOS sensor have mechanical shutter only, and max flash sync speed is at 1/250 or less. ( that is if you do not count the FP mode - that is pretty much useless, except for close range like portrait or macro )

Steve Dunn , Nov 01, 2005; 08:55 p.m.

At the level of chip engineering, the difference is huge. But in line with what Bob suggested, I think at a user level, the technology chosen by the manufacturer isn't particularly relevant to the user. Let's say I'm using camera X, and the vendor releases its successor, camera Y. Y improves on X in one or more of resolution, colour fidelity, noise, operating speed, dynamic range, or whatever else is important to me. Do I need to care what technologies the vendor's engineers used to do this? No.

Having said that, if you're curious about the technology just for the sake of curiosity, I certainly understand. Here are some links which might be interesting.

Gustavo Orensztajn , Nov 02, 2005; 02:24 a.m.

CCD is a well developed technology, the first actually regarding image capture. With a CCD device you need to have more external components, external clocks, etc. The CMOS is cheaper to implement and you can integrate more components in the sane piece of silicium. Now, this reduces costs at factory level, not strange that Canon is making a lot of money and developing their own sensor.

But the CMOS vs CCD is the battle of the late 90's (regarding image capture).

Gustavo Orensztajn , Nov 02, 2005; 02:26 a.m.

I forgot, it seems anyway that you can get (for the moment) a better pic with a CCD because they have less noise than CMOS. But we will see what happen in a couple of years.

Jesper de Jong , Nov 02, 2005; 02:41 a.m.

Gustavo, the idea that CCD sensors have less noise than CMOS sensors has not been an issue anymore since the last few years. Canon's CMOS sensors have super low noise, as you can see in their DSLRs. Cameras with CCD sensors aren't necessarily better than cameras with CMOS sensors.

CCD vs. CMOS is not an issue when choosing a digital camera. You will not see any practical difference in image quality.

Jim Strutz - Anchorage, AK , Nov 02, 2005; 03:12 a.m.

Isn't it true that CMOS still uses less power than CCD? Anybody know if this is significant enough to affect battery life?

craig h , Nov 02, 2005; 06:22 a.m.


Theoretically yes CMOS is less power hungry. In real life practice with real dslrs it is a little more complicated.

Gustavo Orensztajn , Nov 07, 2005; 07:39 a.m.

But we can take for example the dynax5D, a CCD sensor and more that 500 photos battery life. So you can have goos battery life and a CCD.

I think CMOS is just a save money issue, in years to come they will replace CCD for the moments we can see the old technology (CCD) shifting to the new one CMOS. CMOS is cheaper to produce and implement in camera (less components).

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