Canon has developed a new sensor that employs a clever trick for increasing dynamic range.
The new CMOS sensor has a dynamic range of 148 dB, which the company calls the largest such range in surveillance cameras. However, it is the sensor's "Exposure by Area" function which makes it particularly intriguing.
The sensor is a stacked type with a pixel layer and a CPU layer. Combined with the "Exposure by Area" design, it can capture different exposures in different areas at the same time by dividing itself into multiple zones, each with its own specific parameters. This means that instead of having to bracket exposure times to deal with a high dynamic range, the sensor can tackle a large dynamic range all at once, reducing blurring of moving subjects.
While this is currently being developed for surveillance cameras, it is a rather intriguing technology that could be a real boon if it makes its way to consumer models. For example, landscape photographers could employ it to expose separately for the sky and land, obviating the need for a graduated ND filter or for multiple bracketed exposures. This could increase the effective dynamic range of a sensor by a significant amount. Hopefully, we'll see it make its way to more cameras soon.