When the shutter opens on a digital camera, an image is projected onto the sensor, which converts light into an electric charge. Most sensors use the Bayer mask: Half of the millions of cells on a checkerboard grid are filtered to collect green light and a quarter each are filtered to let through red and blue light. A computer chip then reconstructs a full color signal for each pixel in the final image.
The new method, which has been under development for more than five years, adds "panchromatic" cells that are sensitive to all wavelengths of visible light and collect a larger amount of light striking the sensor. Tailoring software algorithms to this unique new pattern enables faster shutter speeds, which reduces blurring when capturing a moving subject, McNiffe said.