A Panasonic engineer released details of a new dual exposure camera sensor design which will make the sensor as sensitive as a Canon 5D Mark II sensor with similar high ISO performance in terms of dynamic range and noise, and it seems it may be the one used on the forthcoming Panasonic GH-2 and presumably will also have the global shutter for silent shutter, no jello rolling shutter effect, and perhaps faster burst rates.
see details here.
It achieves this 4x improvement in sensitivity by reading the green pixels separately to the red and blue ones, and exposing the green ones to 4x longer exposure and then using a smart signal processing algorithm to use data from the red and blue pixels to remove any motion artefact in the green pixel data – we will have to wait and see how effective this is, but they seem to have done a good job on in-camera correction of optical distortions so perhaps they can achieve this.
As an aside, the article also suggests than manufacture of the excellent Panasonic GH-1 sensor was moved to a new plant at Tonami which resulted in temporary shortage of sensors, but apparently the newer sensors have less codec break up (presumably in AVCHD video mode) and less banding issues.
Whether this eventuates in a GH-2 this year or not, it does suggest that the Micro Four Thirds format will be the perfect compromise on size and performance as the sensor technology will radically improve each year or so making image quality not an issue as the sensor is large enough – of course, it could be argued than an even smaller sensor system such as the rumoured Nikon system will produce adequate image quality from the sensor, but then depth of field would be even larger.
Very exciting times indeed – although I am not sure I will need ISO > 6400 on a camera if I have my nice wide aperture lenses and 2x crop factor for telephoto reach.