New Digital Camera Sees Same Colors as Human Eye

Dec 24, 2009
Takuya Otani, Nikkei Electronics
The "YC-3300" is called "full-visible-color-gamut camera"
The "YC-3300" is called "full-visible-color-gamut camera"
[Click to enlarge image]
An image taken by the YC-3300 was displayed on an LED-backlit LCD monitor (right).
An image taken by the YC-3300 was displayed on an LED-backlit LCD monitor (right).
[Click to enlarge image]

PaPaLaB Co Ltd, a Japan-based venture firm specializing in image processing technologies and optical measurement technologies, developed the "YC-3300," an industrial digital camera dubbed "full-visible-color-gamut camera."

The company said that the camera can take pictures with the same colors as seen by human eyes and expects that it will be used to take pictures for digital archives and medical purposes.

We interviewed Makoto Kato, president of PaPaLaB, about the YC-3300.

What kinds of features does the full-visible-color-gamut camera have?

Kato: It can take pictures with colors in the same color gamut as our eyes can see, and the colors of objects in those pictures are the same as those of the objects seen directly by human eyes. There is a huge camera system that has a similar function realized by using a multiband method. But there has been no full-visible-color-gamut camera that is simple enough to be practical.

We confirmed that the camera can take pictures with colors in the full visible color gamut with a color difference of less than 1.

What kinds of technologies did you use to realize the YC-3300?

Kato: We used a three-band color-matching function (S1, S2, S3) made by Shimodaira Laboratory at Shizuoka University. This function was calculated by linearly transforming a typical color-matching function that is the sensitivity of human eye. Each of the three bands has a positive value and an independent peak. And each overlapping peak is minimum.

We developed a color filter that is compatible with those three bands and used it to realize the full-visible-color-gamut camera.

So, compared with existing cameras, only the color filter is different?

Kato: The color filter is the only major difference. However, we added signal processing technologies to compensate errors in the performance of color filter. The color filter itself was developed by Shizuoka University, but those compensation techniques are ours.

The YC-3300 was made by making improvements to the color filter and signal processing unit of a commercially-available industrial digital camera. Its pixel count and pixel size are 4,000 x 2,672 and 9μm, respectively. It is capable of 12-bit recording and priced at ¥12,900,000 (approx US$140,477).

We are considering offering a camera with less than half the price by, for example, reducing the number of pixels.

What kinds of applications do you have in mind?

Kato: For example, our camera can be used to take pictures for digital archives of artworks, medical purposes including telemedical services, and color difference evaluation of printed materials.

We are expecting that displays with a wider color gamut will be released in the future, like a laser display that Mitsubishi Electric Corp is selling in the US (See related article). With such displays, images taken by our camera can be shown without profiles.