Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Surprise! Nikon D5200 Sensor is Made by Toshiba

Chipworks just published their teardown of the Nikon D5200 today. Turns out that the sensor inside the Nikon, despite having dimensions and published specs similar to the Sony NEX-7 24mp chip, is in fact, made by Toshiba. This is a surprise, as Toshiba hasn't been a Nikon manufacturing partner in the past. Traditionally, Nikon has used Sony (D800, D7000) sensors, or outsourced to Renesas (D3) or Aptina (V1). Another surprise is that the Toshiba chip is built on a cutting edge copper fab. Nikon, Sony and Canon have only produced sensors from Aluminum fabs in the past, with the only current Copper based image sensor coming from Samsung. There is more to image quality than fabrication of course, but it remains interesting considering that copper has a high electrical conductivity than aluminum. To me, this hints at lower read noise and higher data transfer speeds off of the sensor, but that remains to be seen.

Nikon has been willing to play around with sensor sourcing with the consumer level cameras. If you look at the V1, D3200 and D5200, they all use different sensors than the traditional mainline Sony or Nikon-specified parts. Business-wise, it's a good sign for the company, as it shows a willingness to break out of the "not-invented here" syndrome that often often plagues companies. By appearances, this also makes Nikon one of the most connected camera companies with regards to supplier relationships, and gives them an added measure of product flexibility. Canon does their manufacturing under their own umbrella; with three sensor suppliers and additional fabrication partners, Nikon has the added flexibility of choosing from multiple competing technologies when laying out the groundwork for new cameras.  This is also a reflection of the global reality of electronics manufacturing, with allegiances shifting year to year... watch what happens in 2013 with Apple and Samsung over iPhone and iPad components and patents. 

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