The Sony A7R IV and what it means to Canon
Sony just released their latest camera and it's an impressive camera. It's based upon a sensor that we knew was released early on this year, so the camera itself isn't much of surprise. The fact that Sony turned around the camera so quickly (the sensor was just released this February or March time frame) is certainly a testament to how quickly they can make camera bodies. Granted they would have had pre-release copies of the sensor to work with, but it's still very impressive turnaround.
I think when talking about this Sony camera, "impressive" would get often used as an expression. Sony has with each camera body improved on what they had before, making compelling reasons to upgrade to the next latest and greatest camera.
So what does this mean for Canon? Well, Canon it's about time to put on the big boy pants and make something competitive. That means a much better sensor than what we are seeing from Canon. Canon had barely caught up to the A7R II level of noise and dynamic range, and Sony just raised the bar with the A7R IV sensor. Does Canon just fold, and relent and give in to the demands to use a Sony sensor? We know they have used Sony's advanced sensors in other cameras. The G7X Mark III and the G5X Mark II both use Sony's stacked 1" sensor to deliver impressive results.
We've seen a ton of patents through the 2.5 years that we've been actively reading through patent literature here, most of them we don't post because of how esoteric the patent description is, but Canon is doing a lot of work. Sony, of course, has the advantage of taking all the R&D that they use on smartphone sensors and applying it to larger APS-C and full-frame sensors. Canon has no such business to leverage off of. This puts Canon at a severe disadvantage business-wise to using their own sensors, without having significant B2B (business to business) revenue coming in for their sensors, stimulating further research and development.
Canon can possibly catch up quickly if they perfect stacked sensors, but that's no trivial feat. For stacked sensors to work, under most cases, you are doing backside illumination on your first layer, with your electronics and wiring layer attached underneath to that. Canon has never created a backside illuminated sensor, and nor do they have the fabrication to do a dense electronics layer, with their full-frame capability sitting at 300nm, and their APS-C capability sitting at 180nm. Stacked sensors would allow Canon to breath new life into their rather old equipment because the upper photosensitive area doesn't really need to be small geometries. Canon has to make a few generational leaps, and possibly even use an outside foundry to produce the electronic and wiring layer, adding to the complexity of both development and cost of the sensor itself. It's hard to say that they are there yet.
Personally, I feel excited for people that use Sony equipment, I think the A7R IV is a remarkable camera if it works as it describes on paper. I'm hoping this pushes Canon hard. Either to improve their sensors dramatically or to simply give in to temptation and use Sony sensors in their upcoming products.
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