Evolution in Action

The evolution of camera image sensors has been profound, and enlightening


Second generation: Orca/Beluga

The second generation of Pixim chips was the first mainstream implementation of Digital Pixel System technology. Orca (and a later modification known as Beluga) performed better at high temperatures plus captured higher quality video in low light. These chips enabled Pixim to surpass its first one million units sold and have been used in many famous sites including the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Legoland in the U.K., Yankee Stadium in New York and the Vatican in Rome. The Orca image processor increased the speed of the embedded microprocessor to a 225 MHz ARM 9 and increased the embedded memory on the chip to allow more advanced functions, such as privacy masking, focus detection, and activity zones.

The new Beluga sensor took advantage of CMOS fabrication improvements which included enhanced photodiode formation, thinner metal routing and more optically efficient micro lenses and color filters. This new sensor, together with the Orca image processor, targeted 30p progressive scan capture mode using new camera firmware. Beluga improved dim light color performance by two f/stops over the Orca generation and served as the basis for the first IP cameras powered by DPS technology.


Third generation: Seawolf

Seawolf is a giant step forward in the evolution of Pixim-powered camera technology. For the first time in the history of the security industry, the image sensor and image processor are integrated into a single chip. Single board camera modules based on the Seawolf chip make it easier for manufacturers to develop compact camera formats, a rapidly growing market segment.

The integrated chip reduces manufacturing cost of the camera electronics by as much as 50 percent at the wholesale level. Radically simplified camera design has allowed dozens of additional camera brands to add new Pixim-powered products at distribution price points.

Low-light performance has improved by 10 times versus previous Pixim chips and resolution has increased to 690 HTVL effective. The new low light performance allows the cameras to excel in very dim light environments where color accuracy is critical, such as casinos and restaurants. Seawolf’s focus detection feature lets an integrator know when the camera is properly focused, making life easier for technicians. Seawolf’s unique combination of excellent low-light and high-light (wide dynamic range) performance allow it to be used as a universal camera solution for nearly all security and surveillance applications -from banking, to retail, convenience stores, casinos and transit systems.


Fourth generation: Nightwolf

Nightwolf eliminates hot spots common to infrared (IR) cameras with near-field reflective objects in the scene (such as faces, license plates, road signs, windows) and correctly exposes highlights as well as darker background details simultaneously—an unprecedented capability in the large market for IR-assisted security cameras.

A typical IR-assisted CCD camera attempts to solve the hot spot problem by either closing down a mechanical iris or dimming the infrared LED lights. While either of these compromises can help avoid hot-spot saturation, the resulting side effect is that the camera loses critical shadow detail. This compromise to prevent one problem drastically reduces the image quality of the IR camera by causing another, equally troublesome problem—loss of information. With new imaging algorithms applied to near infrared light spectrum, Pixim Nightwolf is able to capture both foreground and background details even in cases where very strong IR lighting is used.


The future of imaging

Like similar advancements from older, analog systems (TV tubes) to new, fully digital systems (LCD flat panels), Pixim has proven that its DPS technology is here to stay. The technology remains unique in the video security industry and Pixim is developing new products for high-definition cameras. Improvements to the core technology will continue to evolve and improve over the next decade.