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What does one-bit QIS offer?

The one-bit quanta image sensor (QIS) is a photon-counting device that captures image intensities using binary bits. Assuming that the analog voltage generated at the floating diffusion of the photodiode follows a Poisson-Gaussian distribution, the sensor produces either a 1 if the voltage is above a certain threshold or 0 if it is below the threshold. The concept of this binary sensor has been proposed for more than a decade, and physical devices have been built to realize the concept. However, what benefits does a one-bit QIS offer compared to a conventional multi-bit CMOS image sensor? Besides the known empirical results, are there theoretical proofs to support these findings?

The goal of this paper is to provide new theoretical support from a signal processing perspective. In particular, it is theoretically found that the sensor can offer three benefits: (1) Low-light: One-bit QIS performs better at low-light because it has a low read noise, and its one-bit quantization can produce an error-free measurement. However, this requires the exposure time to be appropriately configured. (2) Frame rate: One-bit sensors can operate at a much higher speed because a response is generated as soon as a photon is detected. However, in the presence of read noise, there exists an optimal frame rate beyond which the performance will degrade. A Closed-form expression of the optimal frame rate is derived. (3) Dynamic range: One-bit QIS offers a higher dynamic range. The benefit is brought by two complementary characteristics of the sensor: nonlinearity and exposure bracketing. The decoupling of the two factors is theoretically proved, and closed-form expressions are derived.

author = {Stanley H. Chan},
title = {What does one-bit quanta image sensor offer?},
journal = {IEEE Transactions on Computational Imaging},
volume  = {8},
pages   = {770-783},
month = {Aug.},
year = {2022}


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