Fujitsu entrusted with Sony CMOS fabrication

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Sony is to delegate production of CMOS sensors used in digital cameras to chip-maker Fujitsu Semiconductor Ltd. According to The Japan Times, Fujitsu doesn't compete directly with Sony in sensor manufacturing, but didn't want to divest its proprietary technology with rivals (Sanyo, Sharp and Toshiba amongst others). Final assembly will remain firmly behind closed doors at Sony's own fabrication facilities.

The debate about who makes Nikon's sensors continues to be a point of discussion on various forums around the web. Although Nikon designs sensors for use in their DSLRs, such as the hybrid LBCAST sensor used in the D2H of 2003 (which was made by Sony), production is outsourced. However, while the D3x sensor is also made by Sony, a fact confirmed to me and other journalists by a senior Nikon executive at the time of the launch, there remains some controversy over who makes the 12-megapixel sensor in the D3, D700, and D3s. It's still most likely to be Sony, in my opinion, but built to Nikon's own designs.

With Fujitsu producing certain components of of Sony's CMOS sensors, purportedly for reduced production costs, I wonder if it might also have a second purpose, to allow customization of the final finishing for ad-hoc designs from Sony's clients; rival camera makers, not only Nikon, but Pentax too. You have to remember that the Sony camera manufacturing business is separate from its semiconductor business (there are no duplicated manufacturing operations), and that Sony will be buying sensors from its own semiconductor business, much in the same way that Nikon and Pentax do.

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