At the silicon level, sensor pixels count the intensity of light reaching them for a certain period of time. They see life in shades of gray.
Sensors see color through a mosaic of filters selecting different light frequencies. Software recombines pixels, in a process called demosaicing, to form a color image. Without it, we would see a B&W checkered frame.
Since the influence of the Bayer filter is well defined, we can infer the quantity of light that hit a defined pixel. This allows us to recreate the response of the underlying monochrome sensor.
The result is a true monochrome image with a single plane of raw values and up to 16 bits of resolution.
Once the preserve of specialized cameras, Pixii gives you access to a new creative space.
Shooting monochrome is a real choice: the DNG does not contain any color information.
It is both a challenge and an opportunity to see the world with a new eye.
Digital Negative format.
Single monochrome pixel plane.
12, 14 or 16 bits per pixel.
Tonercurve-guided pixel response.
Flat storage, packed or lossless compression.
Our unique - patent-pending - algorithm computes the raw monochrome sensor values. We measure the influence of the Bayer filter to find the actual quantity of light received by each pixel. This restitutes the whole gamut of intensities recorded into a single monochromatic plane.
Conventional B&W modes found in other cameras apply a film effect to an 8-bits JPEG file. The loss of dynamic range and details is important. Pixii preserves the whole post-processing latitude, with up to 16-bits of precision, inside a standard, open format, DNG file.
To facilitate post-processing, we add a natural film-like tone curve embedded in the DNG container. This doesn't alter the RAW values in any way and can be fully adjusted during the editing phase.
Adobe Camera Raw
Our image sensor delivers a remarkable image quality. Its pixel technology makes it a particularly good fit for our native monochrome mode. It delivers a smooth gradation of tones, preserves highlights and can resolve fine details in deep shadows.
With a high-end BSI CMOS architecture, high dynamic range and ultra-low noise, it is one of the best on the market. DXOMARK confirmed its excellent performance, ranking it #1, way beyond legacy rangefinder cameras with a full-frame sensor. Learn more about our DXOMARK score.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: ”What is the difference with cameras like the M10 Monochrom?”
A: Technically the monochrome cameras are only capable of taking B&W images. They don’t have a Bayer color filter installed and so lack the ability to resolve color details. In exchange, they have a higher base sensitivity and can potentially discern more details between 2 pixels.
Q: ”What is the performance difference then?”
A: This is a much debated topic. Generally speaking the average resolution gain is small and mostly visible at the pixel level. The absence of a Bayer filter can give an extra stop of sensitivity to monochrome-only cameras. Now to obtain the same performance with a Bayer sensor, you can just switch up to the next ISO step. With modern sensors, like the one used in Pixii, this has almost no impact on the resulting noise level. In summary: plain monochrome sensors used to have a quality advantage but the quality improvements of modern sensors makes that not very significant anymore. For astrophotography this may still be a consideration.
Q: ”But I shall only be able to attain the ultimate performance with a monochrome-only sensor, right?!”
A: Sure. All other things being equal, a non-Bayer sensor gives you that extra stop of sensitivity at the same gain level and a tad more resolution as well. Please consider also that the camera itself is only part of the equation and that, without equally performant lenses, this little bit of extra performance can easily be lost. You just need to decide whether the marginal performance increase justifies buying another dedicated B&W-only camera.
Q: ”Will you make a Pixii Monochrome without Bayer filter?”
A: Based on the above, the advantage is quite limited and we don’t feel the need to. It would be cool, but we feel it is even cooler to put computational photography to use and obtain the same DNG files with a unique camera!
Photo credits: all images (c) Laurent Bouchard, courtesy of the artist; Bayer pattern example, (c) ESA.