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How the Image Sensor Affects the Camera

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An outdoor security camera, like all cameras, uses an image sensor made up of many pixels which registers the amount of light and converts it to the corresponding number of electrons. The brighter the light, the more electrons are generated. There are two main technologies used for the camera's image sensor.

The CCD, or charge-coupled device, and the CMOS, or complementary metal-oxide semiconductor are often viewed as rival technologies. However, each actually has its own strengths and weaknesses so that one is more appropriate than the other depending on the application.

The CCD image sensors were developed in cameras specifically for the purpose that they serve today. Meanwhile, CMOS sensors were originally adaptations of standard technology already in use for other applications such as the memory chip of computers. However, as technology advances CMOS sensors becoming more suited for cameras and the image quality is improving at a very impressive rate.

CCD sensors are still slightly better in light sensitivity and produce cleaner images than CMOS sensors. Because of higher light sensitivity, the CCD produces sharper images in low light conditions than CMOS sensors.

The downside is that CCD sensors are more expensive and harder to build into a camera. Also, a CCD sensor uses much more power, almost 100 times more, than the equivalent CMOS sensor.

In contrast, the CMOS sensors are quickly over taking the areas that CCD sensors once ruled in terms of image quality. CMOS based cameras always had the edge when it came to cost. It is much easier to build a camera around a CMOS sensor.

Relative to the CCDs, CMOS sensors are more flexible to integration possibilities and functions and have a faster readout. They also require less energy and require a smaller system size. Megapixel CMOS sensors are much more common commercially than megapixel CCD sensors and much less expensive.

Megapixel sensors are sensors that contain pixels that number in the millions. Since megapixel sensors are commonly made to be the same size as traditional VGA sensors, each pixel is smaller. This allows the camera to capture more detail and higher resolution but also becomes less light sensitive since pixels are smaller in size making it a suboptimal choice for low light conditions.
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