Logarithmic Image Sensor For Wide Dynamic Range Stereo Vision

Logarithmic Image Sensor For Wide Dynamic Range Stereo Vision
Logarithmic Image Sensor For Wide Dynamic
Range Stereo Vision System
Christian Bouvier, Yang Ni
New Imaging Technologies SA, 1 Impasse de la Noisette, BP 426, 91370 Verrieres le Buisson France
Tel: +33 (0)1 64 47 88 58 christian.bouvier@new-imaging-technologies.com,
Index Terms—HDR, WDR, CMOS sensor, Stereo Imaging.
We are all familiar with our ability, as human, to extract 3D
information from our environment thanks to our stereoscopic
vision. This level of perception is achieved through the sensing
capability of the human eye and the processing capability of
the human brain. In principle, extracting 3D information from
an artificial stereoscopic vision system is simple. In the ideal
case, if we are able to identify identical scene primitives with
both sensor units, we can extract directly the depth information
by triangulation. Stereo vision systems find application in a
wide variety of fields such as robotics. For example Nasa
Curiosity rover has several stereo camera systems to scan
Mars surface for navigation, hazard avoidance or for terrain
measurements. Stereo vision systems can also be found in
automotive application. Car manufacturer Subaru proposes
a stereo vision system that is used for collision avoidance,
pedestrian detection and driving assistance. Stereo camera
can also find application in security for people counting or
industrial safety applications.
Today, in computer vision, the geometric problems, such as
correcting the projection distortions and calibrating a stereo
pair are well known and can be dealt with through image
processing and calibration steps [1], [2], [3], [4]. But even
if we consider an ideal stereoscopic camera, the stereo correspondence process remains one of the most challenging task in
order to extract depth information. When the stereo vision system is used to extract depth information, the sensor dynamic
range and reactivity become critical because in saturated areas
Fig. 1.
Pixel Array
Exposure Control
V - Scan
Abstract—Stereo vision is the most universal way to get
3D information passively. The fast progress of digital image
processing hardware makes this computation approach realizable
now. It is well known that stereo vision matches 2 or more
images of a scene, taken by image sensors from different points
of view. Any information loss, even partially in those images, will
drastically reduce the precision and reliability of this approach.
In this paper, we introduce a stereo vision system designed for
depth sensing that relies on logarithmic image sensor technology.
The hardware is based on dual logarithmic sensors controlled
and synchronized at pixel level. This dual sensor module provides
high quality contrast indexed images of a scene. This contrast
indexed sensing capability can be conserved over more than
140dB without any explicit sensor control and without delay.
It can accommodate not only highly non-uniform illumination,
specular reflections but also fast temporal illumination changes.
FPN Compensation
H - Scan
Sensor general structure.
the details are lost and consequently depth extraction becomes
impossible. The sensor reactivity will also be important to
prevent saturation in changing environments.
In this communication we present a stereo vision system
that relies on two 1280x720 WDR (Wide Dynamic Range)
logarithmic image sensors. In section II we will detail the
characteristics of the sensors embedded in the stereo vision
system. In section III the stereo vision system architecture
will be described. Finally, in section IV we will give some
indication of the stereo vision system performance.
Similarly to biological photoreceptors, the sensors embedded in the stereo vision system presented in this paper
follow a logarithmic law. This kind of sensor response is
very interesting in imaging applications because it can deliver
contrast indexed images over a very wide dynamic range with
a single frame. Previous work on logarithmic sensors were
based on current to voltage converting using MOS transistor in
sub-threshold mode [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10]. The NSC1005
sensor presented in this paper features the pixel design that
was described in a previous communication [11], [12]. In this
pixel design the photodiode is used in solar cell mode in
order to get a natural logarithmic law. The logarithmic pixel
design proposed in [12] resolves the problems of the previous
logarithmic image sensors. Internal FPN compensation is
included, the sensitivity has been drastically improved and the
lag problem have also been addressed.
The general structure of the sensor is given by figure 1.
Pixel lines are selected sequentially. The FPN correction starts
before each line readout. The selected line of the pixel array
NSC1005 Response for t = 40ms Gain = 0dB
1/2 inch
5.6um x 5.6um
> 140dB
Differential Analog Output
Standard 0.18 1P3M
1V/lux*s @ texpo =40ms
0.5mV over all DR
Rolling Shutter
VD (mV)
Optical format
Pixel Size
Pixel Array Size
Fill Factor
Dynamic range
Output Format
Maximum Frame rate
Maximum H scanning rate
CMOS process
High light Log sensitivity
Low light linear sensitivity
Random Noise
Shutter Mode
Power consumption
Optical Flux Faceplate (Lux @ 525nm)
will be loaded to the first column memory buffers by RD1.
Then the RST signal resets the current line. On RD2 we
load the dark signals to the second column memory buffers.
A differential amplifier is used to subtract the contents of
these two memory buffers for the FPN compensation. The
gain of the amplifier can be set to 4 different values (0dB,
4dB, 8dB and 12dB) using two digital control bits G0 and
G1. An offset can be applied by adding an OFFSET voltage
to match the sensor output with the input voltage range of
an external differential ADC. Table I summarized the sensor
It was demonstrated in [12] that the solar cell mode pixel
photoelectric response VD is easily derived from the opencircuit voltage of the illuminated photodiode after reset operation:
VD = VT ln
Iph + IS
Iph exp −
(Iph +IS )t
+ IS
where VT = kT
q and k, T , q, IS , Iph , t and CD are
respectively the Boltzmann constant, the absolute temperature,
the elementary charge, the junction current, the photocurrent,
the exposure time and the junction capacitance. A quick
analysis of eq. 1 denominator shows that for low illumination
or short exposure time, the sensor response will be linear
whereas the sensor response will follow a logarithmic law for
high illumination [12]. Figure 2 shows the measured sensor
photoelectric response for an exposure time t = 40ms. We
can see on figure 2 that the proposed photoresponse model
is valid. For low illuminations, the sensor is clearly operating
in linear mode. From 0.8Lux, figure 2 shows that the sensor
enters the logarithmic zone of the photoresponse. For those
measures, the sensor has been illuminated using a green LED
at 525nm. The dynamic range was measured to be over 140dB
using laser illumination. Figure 3 shows a crop image sample
taken from the sensor looking directly at an intense halogen
When a stereo vision system is used to compute depth
information, the sensor dynamic range and reactivity become
Fig. 2.
Sensor Photoelectric Response.
Fig. 3.
Sample image (frame rate 25Hz, exposure time 40ms)
critical because in saturated areas the contrast is lost and depth
extraction is not possible. A stereo vision system has been
developed to address those issues. Table II summarized the
stereo camera main characteristics.
At the core of this camera we find 2 B&W WDR NSC1005
sensors that are slaves to the same controller. Both sensors
differential analog outputs are connected to 12 bits differential
ADCs. In this design a FPGA generates all the sensors control
signals (Vsync, Vck, Hsync, Hck, RST, RD1 and RD2) for
both sensors resulting in a pixel level synchronization. The
digitized left and right pixels levels are then sent to the FPGA.
The FPGA will pack the 12 bits left and right channels to
create a single 24 bits channel that is sent to a host PC (see
fig. 4).
Thanks to the dynamic range provided by both logarithmic
sensors, it is possible to set the exposure time and the frame
rate at fixed values without risk of saturation even if the
sensors are directly illuminated with strong light (Fig. 3).
Data Output
A/D converter
2 x NSC1005
24 bits CameraLink channel
12-bits ( x 2)
Left Sensor
12bits ADC
Raw data
Raw data
Right Sensor
12bits ADC
Camera Link
Host PC
Fig. 4.
Stereo vision system architecture.
This means that gain and exposure time control becomes very
simple for stereo vision systems. The wide dynamic range
provided within a single frame for the 2 sensors makes the
stereo vision system very robust to non-uniform illumination,
specular reflections and fast temporal illumination changes.
For example, in this stereo system design, the frame rate can
be set to 25 or 30 Hz, the exposure time is set to the maximum
possible value (the frame rate period) and the sensors gain are
set from the host PC to the same value for both sensors.
The logarithmic conversion function also offers interesting
properties regarding both left and right images processing. If
we consider the optical intensity OS(λ, x, y) incident on a
pixel at coordinates (x, y), OS(λ, x, y) can be written as the
product of :
OS(λ, x, y) = L(λ, x, y) × R(λ, x, y) × T (λ, x, y)
where L(λ, x, y), R(λ, x, y) and T (λ, x, y) are respectively
the illuminance illuminating the scene, the reflectance of the
elements in the scene and the overall transmittance [13]. This
optical signal falling on a pixel will generate a corresponding
photocurrent :
Iph (x, y) = α(λ, x, y) × OS(λ, x, y)
where α(λ, x, y) is the spectral sensitivity of the photodiode.
In section II, we saw that with enough light (Iph >> IS )
the sensor enters the logarithmic portion of its photoelectric
response(0.8Lux for an exposure time of t = 40ms) and VD
can then be approximated by VD ≈ VT ln (Iph /IS ) and:
α(λ, x, y) × OS(λ, x, y)
≈ VT (ln L + ln R + ln T + ln α − ln IS )
VD (x, y) ≈ VT ln
≈ VT (ln L + ln R + ln T + ln α + F P N )
We see that, when the sensor operates in logarithmic mode,
the conversion function will lead to a pixel output that is the
sum of the log-luminance, log-reflectance, log-transmittance
and log-spectral sensitivity. In most of cases, the illumination
on a scene is quite smooth and uniform. As a result, the
illumination level, seen as an information vehicle, is transformed into an offset by the logarithmic response and so is the
spectral sensitivity of the photo-detector. The suppression of
this offset will normalize the reference between both left and
right sensors. The resulting signals will then index contrast
instead of intensity. In our FPGA implementation we use
the minimum level of each image to normalize the left and
right images. Once this illumination information is removed,
we see that the sensors signals now index contrast instead
of light intensity. Furthermore, once the sensor is working
in logarithmic mode, the contrast sensitivity will be constant
providing that both sensor amplifier are set with the same gain.
The direct consequence of this property is that contrast will be
identical in areas seen by both left and right sensors regardless
of the illumination intensity on both sensors. This property is
interesting if we consider the stereo matching process that
relies on contrast information.
In order to operate the stereo vision system, a companion
software was developed to perform the stereo calibration
and the rectification processes. The stereo calibration module
implements a camera calibration algorithm based on corner
extraction from chessboard chart images ([3], [4]) to correct
both sensor modules distortions. Using the same sets of points
the calibration module also computes the essential matrix, the
fundamental matrix, the rotation matrix between the left and
the right camera coordinate systems and the translation vector
between the coordinate systems of the cameras. Finally the left
and right images are rectified using Bouguet algorithm ([4]).
With this implementation of the calibration and rectification
steps, we typically get a RMS re-projection error of the input
calibration points of ERM S = 0.2 pixel. After rectification of
the left and right images, the relationship between the depth
Z and the binocular disparity d is given by:
f T
Spix d
where Z is given in meter, d is given in pixel, f is the lenses
focal length, Spix is the pixel size and T is the system baseline.
The stereo vision system default configuration features low
distortion lenses with a focal length of 5.5mm. Considering
that the pixel size is 5.6um the maximum working Zmax range
of the stereo system will be Zmax ≈ 50m. The minimum
working range will be limited by the disparity range allowed
for the stereo matching. The closer the object will be to
the camera, the higher the binocular disparity. Depending on
the complexity of the stereo matching algorithm, a tradeoff
should be made between the matching process complexity,
the disparity range, the field of view and the processing
speed. In our software implementation we typically set the
maximum binocular disparity possible to 128 pixels. This
gives a minimum working range Zmin ≈ 0.38m. We can
also compute the accuracy Zacc of our calibrated and rectified
system as a function of the RMS re-projection error and
binocular disparity:
Zacc = ERM S
f T
Spix d2
By combining eq. 5 and eq. eq. 6 we can compute the depth
accuracy as a function of depth:
Accuracy (m)
Stereo Vision System Accuracy Short Range
Depth (m)
Fig. 5.
Stereo camera short range accuracy.
Fig. 7. Left sensor image and depth map sample image (frame rate 25Hz,
exposure time 40ms)
Stereo Vision System Accuracy Long Range
approaches with active illumination approaches without fear
of losing information because of saturation.
Accuracy (m)
Fig. 6.
Depth (m)
Stereo camera long range accuracy.
Zacc = ERM S
Spix 2
Figures 5 and 6 gives the short range and long range
accuracy curves for ERM S = 0.2. Those curves should be
seen as the best accuracy that the stereo camera can achieved.
Obviously, the absolute depth precision will dependent on the
performance of the stereo matching algorithm. In the case of
an active system, the presence of an illuminator generating a
pattern will also help to achieve the accuracy given by fig.
5 and fig. 6. Figure 7 gives some depth map sample images
computed from the rectified left and right images using the
stereo matching algorithm described in [14] without any kind
of illuminator or pattern generator.
In this paper, we have presented a stereo vision system that
relies on 2 logarithmic WDR 1280x720 sensors. This stereo
vision system is able to provide high quality contrast indexed
images of highly contrasted scene. This contrast indexed
sensing capability can be conserved over more than 140dB
without any explicit sensor control and without delay. The
logarithmic photoresponse is also interesting if we consider the
image robustness to illumination variabilities. This dynamic
range and contrast conservation makes this stereo camera very
effective for outdoor 3D stereo vision applications. Besides
it also gives the unique possibility to combine passive 3D
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