Canon Patents 5-Layer Camera Sensor for Better Skin Tones

Canon is working on a camera that could make your skin look perfect in every shot. The new type of sensor showed up in a patent and depicts five layers -- one each to capture ultraviolet, red, green, blue and infrared light.

According to Japanese blog Egami, which spotted the patent, the new technology is meant to capture better skin tones by determining what parts of the image are emitting the highest infrared light levels. Then, comparing the same sections of the image seen through the ultraviolet light layer, the sensor will remove blemishes such as uneven skin tones and wrinkles. Photos shot under ultraviolet light make blemishes such as freckles and discoloration more prominent.

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Currently, most sensors collect image data using light-capturing wells or cavities called photosites. Each photosite is covered by a filter that allows only one primary color — red, green or blue — to enter. The camera combines the three color readings to record each pixel that appears in the photo. A multilayer approach would let each photosite collect a full pixel's worth of color information.

Canon isn't the first company to work on a multilayer sensor. Foveon (owned by Sigma Corporation) makes a range of sensors with a technology called X3 that uses separate layers to harvest red, green and blue light. Sigma's SD9, SD10, SD14 DSLRs use the sensor technology, as do two Sigma compact cameras, the DP1 and DP2, and Polaroid's X530 compact.

Photography blog Northlight Images noted that Canon's addition of the infrared and ultraviolet layers could be an attempt to correct some color fidelity issues associated with Foveon's original design. 

Canon's patent (No. 2014-103644) was reportedly filed in 2012 and published earlier this month (June). Word on the industry grapevine is that this multilayer technology will show up in the successor to Canon's EOS 7D, expected to debut later this year.

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Cherlynn Low

Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.