The Quanta Image Sensor (QIS) was conceived when contemplating shrinking pixel sizes and storage capacities, and the steady increase in digital processing power. In the single-bit QIS, the output of each field is a binary bit plane, where each bit represents the presence or absence of at least one photoelectron in a photodetector. A series of bit planes is generated through high-speed readout, and a kernel or “cubicle” of bits (x, y, t) is used to create a single output image pixel. The size of the cubicle can be adjusted post-acquisition to optimize image quality. The specialized sub-diffraction-limit photodetectors in the QIS are referred to as “jots” and a QIS may have a gigajot or more, read out at 1000 fps, for a data rate exceeding 1 Tb/s. Basically, we are trying to count photons as they arrive at the sensor. This paper reviews the QIS concept and its imaging characteristics. Recent progress towards realizing the QIS for commercial and scientific purposes is discussed. This includes implementation of a pump-gate jot device in a 65 nm CIS BSI process yielding read noise as low as 0.22 e− r.m.s. and conversion gain as high as 420 µV/e−, power efficient readout electronics, currently as low as 0.4 pJ/b in the same process, creating high dynamic range images from jot data, and understanding the imaging characteristics of single-bit and multi-bit QIS devices. The QIS represents a possible major paradigm shift in image capture.
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