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Picture This: Micron's Digital Camera Breakthrough

A breakthrough development for digital cameras is coming from a name unfamiliar to most camera buffs.

Boise, ID-based chipmaker Micron Technology today announced it's developed the world's smallest 8-megapixel image sensor.

New digital cameras based on this technology will be able to capture action shots much quicker then current cameras. Another plus: these cameras will also be able to capture and playback high definition (HD) video in the standard 30 frames-per-second rate used in film recording. Many digital cameras offer a more limited movie mode of 15 frames-per-second.

Micron  said it's produced a prototype of the 8-megapixel sensor. The company plans to start shipping sample units to digital camera manufacturers this fall with full mass production to hit in the first half of 2007.

Better known for its computer memory chips, Micron already ships a 5-megapixel image sensor in volume which supports HD video. Cameras incorporating Micron's 5-megapixel technology are slated to appear later this summer and fall.

"Micron has not been a leader in the megapixel area so this is a breakout part for them," Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research, told internetnews.com. "Mainstream digital cameras based on the 8-megapixel sensor will only be limited by memory, and guess who sells memory?"

There are some high-end cameras based on CCD  technology on the market today, but Micron said its CMOS-based  offering will be for mainstream cameras $300 and higher.

"We've caught up with CCDs and I think we've leap-frogged that technology with our new product," Suresh Venkatraman, director of digital camera segment at Micron, told internetnews.com.

With the new Micron image sensor's continuous-shot mode, photographers will be able to get precise action shots as fast as ten pictures a second in full 8-megapixel resolution. At a lower 2-megapixel resolution, the sensor is capable of capturing more than 30 pictures a second.

Venkatraman said Micron has an even smaller, 1.4 micron pixel prototype capable of 12-megapixel resolution. That technology should start appearing in cameras by 2008.