The 24MP MAX sensor inside the new Leica M is made by CMOSIS

Included is the CMOSIS press release about the 24MP MAX sensor inside the new Leica M. The sensor, based on a 6 x 6 µm² pixel size with dynamic range of 76dB, is designed and made in Europe.

Here are Leica's technical details on the new sensor:

Antwerp, Belgium, 17 September 2012 – CMOSIS, the renowned European specialist for advanced CMOS image sensors, has developed a high-resolution, high-dynamic-range CMOS image sensor exclusively for Leica Camera AG geared to an important volume market. The new “Leica M” digital camera launched at Photokina 2012 incorporates the full-custom CMOSIS “Leica MAX 24MP CMOS Sensor” featuring 24 Megapixels across an active sensor area of 36 x 24 mm², corresponding to the full-frame 35mm format. The sensor is the first milestone in a long term, strategic cooperation between Leica Camera AG and CMOSIS.

"This is the first time that a CMOS image sensor for a 35mm high-end camera was designed, and is manufactured, in Europe for a European customer," said Guy Meynants, CTO at CMOSIS, Antwerp, Belgium. "Apart form the ceramic IC package the Leica MAX 24MP CMOS Sensor is a 100-percent European product."

The new custom-designed sensor chip, counting 6,000 x 4,000 pixels on a 6 x 6 µm² grid across the active area of 36 x 24 mm², is made by STMicroelectronics (STM) in Grenoble, France, using 300mm wafers in their IMG175 CIS technology. STM's 110nm frontend and 90nm backend CIS technology with copper metallization was originally developed for CMOS image sensors with 1,75µm² pixels for mobile phones and other consumer applications. The large die size, larger than the reticle size, requires the use of one-dimensional stitching.

The imager for the “Leica M” is based on a 6 x 6 µm² pixel size, yielding a linear full well capacity of ≥40,000 electrons and a linear dynamic range close to 76dB. Pixel data are digitized by patented low-power, high-speed 14-bit column AD converters. The sensor features an electronic rolling shutter with global reset and noise cancellation through both analog as well as digital correlated double sampling (CDS) resulting in low temporal and spatial noise and non-uniformities.

Special care was taken in the sensor development to reduce crosstalk between neighboring pixels for a wide range of incident light angles. The sensor reduces spatial crosstalk by its very small distance between color filters and photodiodes. This thin optical stack is optimized for an efficient light coupling into the silicon. Microlenses with a strong curvature and high top height focus the incoming light rays in the center of each pixel's photodiode. The resulting low angular sensitivity of the quantum efficiency (QE) at high ray angles was achieved by the particular features of STM's 110/90nm CMOS process. This allows the “Leica M” to accept the full range of high-quality lenses in the camera system, which includes wide-angle, large aperture lenses, at their full optical performance.

Pixel size of 6x6µm² and full frame rate of 5fps are state of the art and comparable to other high-end CMOS image sensors used in 35mm cameras. The 24MP CMOS Sensor also allows Leica to offer, for the first time, full HDTV video recording and a live preview on an M-model camera. Power consumption of the sensor chip at full speed and resolution is specified at 700 mW. It is housed in a 78-pin ceramic package covered by a customized glass with anti-reflective coating and near-infrared cut-off filter.

“With CMOSIS, we are very pleased to have found a partner who made it possible for us to design and construct a sensor especially for Leica. Thanks to the special sensor technology and wide pixel aperture from CMOSIS, we can now, and for the first time, offer a digital system camera that is perfectly optimised for use with both M- and R-Lenses”, said Alfred Schopf, Chairman of the Executive Board of Leica Camera AG. Leica is particularly proud of the fact that the “Leica M” employs a sensor “Made in Europe”, as a large proportion of the sensor is manufactured in France and Germany. “At the same time, the extremely low power consumption of the sensor brings added benefits for both image quality and battery life”, said Alfred Schopf.


CMOSIS is a pure-play supplier of standard off-the-shelf and application-specific CMOS image sensors for the industrial and professional market covering applications such as machine vision, high-end DSC markets, scientific, medical, automatic data capture and space. CMOSIS was founded in November 2007 as a fabless CMOS image sensor vendor providing in-house design, characterization, testing and qualification facilities for research, development and volume production. CMOSIS has developed unique IP related to CMOS image sensors such as global shutter pixels, fast and low-noise AD converters, backside illumination and increased dynamic range, resulting in six patents and several more pending. The company has grown continuously and consistently, currently employing more than 40 at its headquarters in Antwerp, Belgium.

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  • spam

    No reason why CMOSIS sensor couldn’t be competitive, but we’ll see when teh reviews get out.

    • Is there any other camera out there using a CMOSIS sensor?

  • Sounds good on paper, let’s see some actual images.

  • Bryan Campbell

    I know that CCD sensors usually max out at 60 db for dynamic range maybe a little higher, so 75 db or 76 db is highly impressive. I wish I knew how to convert that to bits, so we could compare it to other cameras measured by dxomark.

    • Adam

      Since dB = 20*log(x), we can shuffle terms around and get x = 10^(dB/20), but this is a number, to convert to bits we simply take the log base 2:

      log2(10^(76/20)) = 12.6 bits

    • Trond

      Hi Brian!

      That is quite easy, the full equation is:

      SNR= 6.02Xbits + 1.78

      The easy way is just to divide by 6, so 60dB is the same as 10 bits, and 76dB equals roughly 14.5 bits.

      One bit is also the same as 1EV, so 14.5 bits is a DR of 14.5 f-stops.

      In the case of the M that means 14 f-stops due to the 14 bit format.

      In the real case we probably need to add 1-2 bits noise.

      I think we can expect something in the order of 12-13 f-stop DR from the new M.

      This puts the M up right where it belongs, in the state-of-the-art segment.

      Best regards


      • J Shin

        The quantization error term should be subtracted from the SNR value before it is divided by the conversion constant.

        So, DRbits = (SNR – 1.76) / 6.02 = 12.33

        You seem to have added it after the division.

  • Joe

    If i see the drawing – in the second picture,Point N° 2,
    is it not the “small distance between color filter and photodiode” ?

  • Bryan Campbell

    Before someone corrects me, I realize the Leica M is a CMOS sensor. I’m just making the comparison that a CCD in something like the Leica M9 to a more modern sensor in the Leica M we should expect impressive dynamic range.

    I want to see more photos though in various lighting conditions and ISOs 🙂

  • Arne Hvaring

    In spite of all the published technical information, the presentation is strangely silent on the topic of AA filter on the new sensor. Does anyone know?

    • John Donnergan

      There isn’t one.

      And that’s according to Stefan Daniel.

      • Arne Hvaring

        Excellent, what I hoped. Thanks for the clarification!

  • AB


    Sorry to be a pain in the neck but could you please correct the word “mabe” to “made” please?

    It must be the sleepless nights since the start of photokina. Thank you so much for your excellent coverage of the event and the new Leica products.

    Many thanks

    • Mistral75

      ..and replace “mabe/made” by “designed”.

      The sensor has been designed by CMOSIS and is actually made/manufactured by STMicroelectronics.

    • fixed, thanks, sorry 🙂

  • joseph

    So 76db converts to something like 16-17 bits…right??
    If so, that’s extraordinary and leapfrogs the D800.

    • J Shin

      My calculation is that it is 12.6 bits.

  • JC

    You see now that electronic sensor has got everyone on the hook…every two years or so, a new generation of sensors poping up again…

    Now, we are all on board of train wrack, this will change the Leica’s resale value as well as everyone’s resale value.

  • Andrew R

    To convert from dB to bits:

    bits = dB / (20 * log(2))

    So 76 dB is 12.6 bits. However bear in mind that (a) we don’t know how the CMOSIS measurement of DR corresponds to the DXOmark measurement; and (b) this is the sensor DR not the imaging system DR.

    • Regular

      Note that the dynamic range is stated close to the number of electrons which can be captured in a pixel pit.

      if you can measure up to 40000 electrons with a precision of, let us assume, 10 electrons, you can measure 4000 different level of light. In such case, it would be about 12bits of dynamic range (as 2 power 12 = 4096 ).

      I presume it is this way they calculated the linear dynamic range of a pixel pit.

    • jon

      worse dr than a $800 pentax k5??

    • El Aura

      That 12.6 bits should be per sensor pixel, if we convert it to ‘8 MP print’ of DxOmark, we get about 13.4 bit. Not quite D7000/K5 range of 13.8 bit or even the 14.4 bit of the D800 but compared to the M9 with 11.7 bit we get almost two more bits.

  • bidou

    The sensor is designed in Belgium and manufactured in Grenoble by STM Microelectronics, a swiss based company formerly French&italian, under dutch law . So yes, totaly european 🙂

  • Scorpius

    If this is successful in the M then we may see it in the next version of the S..

  • John Maverick

    The spects look really good so far. Is it possible that the new sensor eliminates the need for software correction of vinegetting/ color shift as well as lens coding?

  • george

    What about the 35mm full frame sensor shown on the CMOSIS site

    — 70 mega pixel — as a standard product

    • J Shin

      I’d go for that if the dynamic range isn’t too compromised, maybe 60dB or 10 bit.

      Published dynamic range of 63 dB works for me, but the SNR of 41.1 dB is a bit low, not even 8-bit. That is the same DR and SNR as their 20MP standard sensor, so they must have a way of tweaking that up, or maybe that’s adequately compensated somehow. (This would be a good place to mention that, technically, Signal-to-Noise ratio and Dynamic Range are not the same thing. I mixed them up above. There is also linearity error, which is rarely discussed and actually more important.)

      Pixel density is more important to me than dynamic range, and both more important than high ISO.

  • Adrien

    Is it possible that this new sensor will work better with the wonderful Voigtländer wide-angle lenses? On the M9, those lenses add a strong color cast on the left and right 1/4 of the image because their rear nodal point is very close to the sensor.

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