What is CMOS Sensor? Working & its Applications | CMOS Image Sensor

Hi Learner! Today, we will explain in detail about what is CMOS sensor with its working diagram; involving with their use cases and applications of CMOS sensor with ease. This is unique article on the Internet; so we hope that after reading this blog post; you will definitely fully educate about CMOS Sensor without getting any hindrance.

What is CMOS Sensor?

The CMOS sensor stands for ‘Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Sensor‘ that is a key component in digital imaging devices. It performs the all functions as electronic eye and transforming the light into electrical signals for digital image capture. CMOS sensors also help to integrate the sensor and then processing functions on a single chip; enhancing energy efficiency and data processing speed.

CMOS Sensor

This technology is enabled with compact and power-efficient devices that are getting to make it pervasive in consumer able electronics such as digital cameras and smartphones. Cause of its cost-effectiveness and versatility; CMOS sensor has become a dominant force. This is supplanting alternatives like as CCD, and driving enhancements in the development of higher-performance imaging solutions across several industries.

CMOS Sensor Tutorial Headlines:

In this section, we will show you all headlines about this entire article; you can check them as your choice; below shown all:

  1. What is CMOS Sensor?
  2. CMOS Sensor Design
  3. How Does CMOS Sensor Work?
  4. Types of CMOS Sensor
  5. Difference in Between CMOS and CCD Sensors
  6. Applications of CMOS Sensor
  7. Advantages of CMOS Sensor
  8. Disadvantages of CMOS Sensor
  9. FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
  • What is size of CMOS sensor?
  • What is the role of CMOS sensor in digital camera?
  • What is the “rolling shutter” effect in CMOS sensors?

Let’s Get Started!!

CMOS Sensor Design

CMOS sensors are designed to convert light into electrical charges through an array of tiny light-sensitive cells called pixels. Each pixel is connected to a transistor that acts as a switch. When light strikes the pixels, it is converted into an electrical charge, which is then amplified and read out by the sensor’s on-chip circuits. This electrical output is then converted into a digital signal for further image processing or storage.

design of CMOS Sensor

CMOS sensors capture image data by reading out each pixel individually, a process known as “parallel readout,” resulting in a faster readout time. Additionally, the readout circuit for each pixel is integrated on the same chip as the pixel, allowing for speedier and easier reading of electrical charges. CMOS sensors operate on less electrical power and enable faster readout times compared to CCDs (Charge-Coupled Devices).

The design of a CMOS sensor requires it to be produced on 0.25-micron or narrower fabrication lines. By employing narrower line widths, more transistors can be packed into each pixel element while maintaining acceptable fill factors, provided that scaling ratio factors approach unity.

The versatile sensors will also probably begin to appear in cell phones, bar code readers, optical mice, automobiles, and perhaps even domestic appliances in the coming years. Due to their ability to capture sequential images at high frame rates, CMOS sensors are being increasingly utilized for industrial inspection, weapons systems, fluid dynamics, and medical diagnostics.

How Does CMOS Sensor Work?

The working of CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) sensor involves several steps to convert light into a digital image. Here, we will show you detailed explanation about how a CMOS sensor works:

Also Read: CMOS Inverter Circuit Diagram with Working & Applications

working of CMOS Sensor

Photodetectors: The sensor consists of an array of tiny light-sensitive elements called photodetectors or pixels. Each pixel is capable of capturing light.

Photodiodes: Within each pixel, there is a photodiode, a semiconductor device that generates an electrical current when exposed to light. Photodiodes are responsible for converting photons (particles of light) into electrons.

Charge Accumulation: When light strikes a pixel, it releases electrons within the photodiode. The number of electrons generated is proportional to the intensity of the light.

Charge-to-Voltage Conversion: The accumulated charge in each pixel is then converted into a voltage. This is typically done using a transistor. The voltage represents the intensity of the light that hit the pixel.

Readout Circuitry: Each pixel has its own readout circuitry, including transistors and amplifiers. This circuitry reads the voltage generated by the photodiode and amplifies it.

Analog-to-Digital Conversion (ADC): The amplified analog signal is then converted into a digital signal through an Analog-to-Digital Converter. This process assigns a numerical value to the voltage, creating a digital representation of the light intensity.

Pixel Array: The entire array of pixels collectively captures the entire image. Each pixel’s digital representation is combined to form a complete digital image.

Data Output: The digital image data is then sent to the camera’s image processor for further processing, compression, and storage.

Types of CMOS Sensor

There are various types of CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) sensors, each designed for specific applications. Here are some common types:

Also Read: What is CMOS? Working, Applications, and its Types

Active Pixel Sensor (APS): APS is the most common type of CMOS sensor used in digital cameras, smartphones, and other imaging devices. Each pixel in an APS sensor contains a photosensitive element and an amplifier for readout.

Passive Pixel Sensor (PPS): PPS is another type of CMOS sensor that relies on external amplifiers for pixel readout. While less common than APS sensors, PPS sensors have been used in some imaging applications.

Back-Illuminated CMOS Sensor (BSI): BSI sensors are designed to improve light sensitivity by placing the photosensitive elements on the backside of the sensor, reducing the distance light have to travel through the sensor layers. This design enhances low-light performance.

Front-Illuminated CMOS Sensor: This is the traditional CMOS sensor design where the photosensitive elements are located on the front side of the sensor. While still widely used, front-illuminated sensors may have lower sensitivity compared to BSI sensors.

Global Shutter CMOS Sensor: Global shutter sensors capture the entire image at once, as opposed to the rolling shutter effect seen in some CMOS sensors. This feature is beneficial for applications where capturing fast-moving objects without distortion is essential.

Hybrid CMOS Sensor: Hybrid CMOS sensors combine elements of both CMOS and CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) sensor technologies. They are designed to offer advantages such as low noise levels and high sensitivity.

3D CMOS Sensor: 3D CMOS sensors capture depth information along with the regular 2D image. These sensors find applications in robotics, augmented reality, and other areas where depth perception is crucial.

RGBW CMOS Sensor: RGBW sensors add a white (W) pixel to the traditional red, green, and blue pixels, improving sensitivity and reducing noise in low-light conditions.

ToF (Time-of-Flight) CMOS Sensor: ToF sensors use the time it takes for light to travel to an object and back to measure distances. These sensors are often used in applications like gesture recognition, 3D scanning, and augmented reality.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) CMOS Sensor: HDR sensors capture a broader range of light intensities in a single exposure, allowing them to produce images with more detail in both dark and bright areas.

Difference in Between CMOS Sensors and CCD Sensors

Here are 5 key differences between CMOS sensors and CCD sensors:


CMOS Sensors

CCD Sensors


Inexpensive to produce due to standard silicon production linesExpensive to produce due to a special manufacturing process

Power Consumption

Consumes less power, making them more energy-efficientConsumes more power, making them less energy-efficient

Noise Sensitivity

More susceptible to noise due to the presence of transistorsCreate high-quality, low-noise images

Light Sensitivity

Light sensitivity is lower as photons hit the transistorsHigher light sensitivity due to individual light-capturing wells


More flexible for different applications due to individual readoutCharges transported across the chip for high sensitivity

 Applications of CMOS Sensor

CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) sensors are used in various fields due to their low power consumption, compact size, and good performance. Here are some common applications of CMOS sensors, including:

Digital Cameras: CMOS sensors are widely used in digital cameras to capture still images and record videos. So, they serve the better image quality, lesser power consumption, and capable to integrate with additional features at the same chip.

Smartphones: CMOS sensors are a crucial component in smartphone cameras, enabling high-resolution photography and video recording. Due to compact size and less power consumption of CMOS sensors; it makes them ideal for smartphones.

Security Cameras: CMOS sensors are commonly employed in security and surveillance cameras due to their low-light performance, high sensitivity, and ability to capture clear images in various lighting conditions.

Medical Imaging: CMOS sensors are utilized in medical imaging devices such as endoscopes, X-ray detectors, and other diagnostic equipment. They are most suitable for integration into portable medical instruments.

Automotive Cameras: CMOS sensors are used in cameras for automotive applications, including backup cameras, lane departure warning systems, and autonomous driving technology. They play the major role in increasing the vehicle safety and offering the visual assistance to drivers.

Drones: CMOS sensors are commonly found in the cameras of drones, providing high-quality aerial photography and video recording capabilities. So, due to lightweight and power-efficient nature, CMOS sensors is most beneficial for drone applications.

Webcams: Many webcams utilize CMOS sensors for video conferencing, online streaming, and other computer applications. The cost-effectiveness and versatility of CMOS sensors make them suitable for such consumer-oriented devices.

Industrial Imaging: CMOS sensors are used in industrial cameras for tasks such as quality control, inspection, and machine vision. They are capable to capture the detailed images and process information instantly is valuable in manufacturing environments.

Consumer Electronics: CMOS sensors are integrated into various consumer electronics, including camcorders, action cameras, and point-and-shoot cameras. Cause of their versatility and cost-effectiveness, they make them popular in the large range of consumer products.

Astronomy: In astronomical imaging, CMOS sensors are employed in telescopes and observatories to capture images of celestial objects.

Motion Detection Systems: CMOS sensors are used in motion detection systems, such as those found in automatic doors, lighting control, and security systems. They can detect changes in the environment and trigger appropriate responses.

Biometric Devices: CMOS sensors are widely used into the biometric devices, including fingerprint scanners and facial recognition systems. They help to capture and processing biometric data for getting to authentication and security.

Advantages of CMOS Sensor

Here, we will introduce various remarkable benefits of CMOS sensors, including:

  • Longer range view for monitoring large areas like office and factory backyards and parking lots.
  • Easy to conceal and install, making them ideal for indoor and outdoor surveillance
  • Weather-proof and often embedded with night vision capabilities, suitable for 24/7 surveillance
  • Can be installed with IP-based security systems for advanced monitoring
  • The unique cylindrical shape allows for accommodating larger lenses, making them suitable for long-range recording.
  • Visible deterrent, making them frequently used to deter crime.
  • Highly functional and versatile, available in different types such as analog and IP cameras
  • Durable and easily adjustable, allowing for flexible positioning and repositioning when needed.

Disadvantages of CMOS Sensor

There are some disadvantages of CMOS sensors as following them:

  • Potential for vandalism due to the noticeable and elongated design, making them more vulnerable to tampering and unwanted attention
  • May lack advanced features found in other camera types, such as pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) capabilities or highly customizable settings.
  • Less discreet compared to other camera types, which may not be ideal for situations requiring a more covert approach.
  • CMOS sensors may produce more noise in low-light conditions, impacting image quality, and some CMOS sensors utilize a rolling shutter, leading to distorted images when capturing fast-moving objects.
  • The obvious nature of bullet cameras can be visually jarring and may be susceptible to vandalism, as well as compromise by birds and other animals building nests.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is size of CMOS sensor?

The size of CMOS sensor is typically expressed in inches that can be a bit confusing as it does not directly correspond to the actual dimensions of the sensor. For example, a 1″ sensor has a diagonal measurement of 16 mm. Common sensor sizes include 1″, 4/3″, APS-C, and full frame, each with its own characteristics and applications. The choice of sensor size affects factors such as image size, depth of field, resolution, and low-light performance

What is the role of CMOS sensor in digital camera?

In digital camera, the CMOS sensor helping out to captures the light and converts it into electrical signals; then processed by the camera’s image processor to produce digital image. The sensor plays the major role in identifying image quality and entire performance.

What is the “rolling shutter” effect in CMOS sensors?

The rolling shutter effect is a phenomenon in CMOS sensors where different parts of the image are exposed at slightly different times, leading to distortions in fast-moving scenes.

Summing Up

We can hope that through this article; you have been fully learnt about what is CMOS sensor with its working diagram; involving with their use cases and applications of CMOS sensor with ease. If this article is useful for you, then please share it along with your friends, family members or relatives over social media platforms like as Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, Twitter, and more.

Also Read: What is BIOS? Types, Uses, and their Functions

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