Kodak announced a new color filter technology for digital imaging sensors that promises to improve low-light shooting by 2x to 4x (one to two stops) when compared with current imaging sensors. Changes in the color filter (present as a layer on top of a sensor) allows the sensor to gather more light. This new technology will be available for sampling in the first quarter of 2008.
Current color filters are based on the "Bayer Pattern", developed back in 1976. The Bayer Pattern is a pattern of red, green, and blue pixels where half of the pixels collect green light and the other half made of pixels that collect equal amounts of red and blue pixels. Software is then used to reconstruct a full color signal for each pixel.
Sample pattern for new Kodak technology
|Images from http://1000nerds.kodak.com/|
Kodak's new color filter allows the capture of "clear" or panchromatic pixels. Since the colors are not filtered, these clear pixels can gather more light. The next step is then to change the software algorithms that reconstruct the image data.
By gathering more light, all kinds of good things can happen. First, low-light shooting isn't as noisy. Since the sensor is more sensitive to light, you can use faster shutter speeds to stop action better in your shots.
At the moment, Kodak is developing CMOS sensors for consumer markets (still cameras and camera phones) that use this new color filter technology. Since this technological breakthrough is simply a color filter, it can be applied to CCD sensors as well, opening up the range of possible applications for the technology, including industrial and scientific imaging.
For more about the technology and some illustrations on image improvements, read this Q&A with the inventors at Kodak's blog.