By Dr. Colin Coates, Andor Technology PLC
Since the launch in late 2010 of imaging cameras that are based on a new 5.5 megapixel scientific CMOS (sCMOS) sensor, there has been much speculation about whether or not sCMOS will be seen as a technology replacement for interline CCD and electron multiplying CCD (EMCCD) cameras – which, in many ways, can be considered the current gold standards for low light fluorescence microscopy and bio-imaging in general. Coming from the unique market position of manufacturing all of the aforementioned camera types, we provide here an analysis of how these sensitive imaging technologies compare.
Scientific CMOS (sCMOS) technology is based on a new generation of CMOS design and process technology. This device type carries an advanced set of performance features that renders it entirely suited to high fidelity, quantitative scientific measurement. sCMOS can be considered unique in its ability to simultaneously deliver on many key performance parameters, whilst also overcoming the performance drawbacks that have traditionally been associated with conventional CMOS imagers.
The 5.5 megapixel sensor offers a very large field of view and high resolution, without compromising read noise or frame rate and a 6.5 µm pixel size is again ideally suited to cell microscopy. The read noise is exceptionally low, even when compared to the highest performance slow CCDs, but not as low as the effective read noise of EMCCDs. The sCMOS device can achieve down to 1 electrons RMS read noise, without mplification, while reading out 5.5 megapixels at 30 frames/ sec. Furthermore, the sensor is capable of achieving 100 full frames/ sec with a read noise of 1.4 electrons RMS.