In a unique -40°C vacuum cooled platform, loaded with FPGA intelligence, Andor’s Neo sCMOS camera is designed exclusively to drive highest possible sensitivity from this exciting and innovative new technology development.
In a -40°C vacuum cooled platform, with 1 e- read noise, Rolling and Snapshot exposure, and loaded with FPGA intelligence, Andor's Neo sCMOS camera is designed exclusively to drive optimal performance from this exciting and innovative new technology development.
Unlike any CCD or CMOS camera to come before, Andor's 5.5 megapixel sCMOS cameras are unique in their ability to combine ultra-low noise, extremely rapid frame rates, wide dynamic range, large field of view and high-resolution. The Andor sCMOS portfolio ensures a viable technical and commercial solution to all research and OEM application and design requirements.
Andor’s Neo offers the deepest sensor cooling available from any CMOS imaging camera on the market. This can be viewed as essential for a number of important reasons:
1. Minimization of Dark Current
sCMOS cannot be considered a truly flexible, workhorse camera technology unless dark noise contribution has also been minimized, such that the low noise advantage will not be sacrificed under even modest exposure conditions. Cooling Neo to -30 °C (fan cooled) reduces the darkcurrent to 0.07 e-/pixel/sec, extending to 0.03 e-/pixel/sec at -40 °C (liquid cooled). Without deep cooling, the darkcurrent would extend up to 6 e-/pixel/sec @ +5 °C. Deep cooling capability means that a low noise floor can be maintained under all exposures.
Thermal noise can sacrifice the sCMOS low detection limit. Low light images recorded with a Neo sCMOS at -30 °C versus a competing sCMOS @ +5 0C, shown with same relative intensity scaling; 2 sec exposure time; 560MHz readout speed.
2. Minimization of Hot Pixel Blemishes
Hot pixels are spurious ‘blemish’ pixels with significantly higher darkcurrent than the average and can be problematic even under relatively short exposure times. Cooling has a major influence in minimizing the occurrence of such events with the following benefits:
3. Minimization of Vibration
Many optical configurations are sensitive to vibrations from the camera fan, such as patch clamp or combined optical/AFM set-ups. The deep cooling advantage of Neo means that the internal fan can be turned off by instead opting to flow water through the conveniently located connections. Andor’s Neo offers:
‘Liquid cooling’ through the camera allows minimization of vibration while still stabalizing at -40 °C.
To learn more, download the Andor sCMOS Brochure to access the technical note entitled ‘The importance of Deep TE Cooling to sCMOS Technology ’.
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Andor’s ultrasensitive Neo sCMOS camera has broken new ground in offering an unparalleled 1 electron rms typical read noise floor, without amplification technology. What is truly extraordinary, is that this level of raw sensitivity is achievable at 30 full frames/s, representing 200MHz pixel readout speed.
Furthermore, advancing readout to full speed has minimal impact on read noise, the Neo offering a typical noise value of 1.4 electron rms at 100 full fps (burst to memory). For the best CCD cameras to even approach 2 electrons noise, a readout speed of 1MHz or slower is required. This minimal detection limit renders the Neo sCMOS suitable for a wide variety of challenging low light imaging applications when compared to CCD cameras.
Comparative low light images taken with Neo sCMOS (1.2 electrons read noise @ 400 MHz) vs interline CCD (5 electrons read noise @ 20MHz) of: (A) LED signal in a light-tight imaging enclosure, intensity ~ 30 photons/pixel; (B) Fluorescently labelled fixed cell using a CSU-X spinning disk confocal microscope (x60 oil objective), each 100ms exposure, same laser power, displayed with same relative intensity scaling.
To learn more, download the Andor sCMOS Brochure to access the technical note entitled ‘Understanding Read Noise in sCMOS ’.
Neo offers the distinct capability to offer both Rolling shutter and Global (Snapshot) shutter readout modes within the same camera, such that the most appropriate mode can be selected dependent on application requirements. Note, a variant of the Neo camera is available that offers only Rolling Shutter readout mode.
Rolling Shutter exposure sequence (single frame)
Global Shutter sequence (single frame)
To learn more, download the Andor sCMOS Brochure to access the technical note entitled ‘Rolling and Global Shutter ’.
Neo is the only vacuum cooled CMOS camera available on the market. In terms of quality, performance and longevity, the importance of vacuum technology is significant. A sensor housed in a hermetically sealed permanent vacuum head with minimized out-gassing, means that cooling performance will absolutely not degrade over extended time and usage.
Schematic of Permanent Vacuum Head
Andor’s proprietary UltraVac™ process has a proven track record of field reliability, accumulated over more than 15 years of shipping high-end vacuum cameras. Using a proprietary technique, Andor have adapted our process for use with the additional connections associated with the highly parallel readout of the sCMOS sensor.
To learn more, download the Andor sCMOS Brochure to access the technical note entitled ‘UltraVac™ Permanent Vacuum Head and Performance Longevity ’.
The innovative Dual Amplifier architecture of the sCMOS sensor in Neo uniquely circumvents the need to choose between high or low gain amplifiers, in that signal can be sampled simultaneously by both high gain (low noise) and low gain (high capacity) amplifiers. As such, the lowest noise of the sensor can be harnessed alongside the maximum well depth, affording widest possible dynamic range.
Uniquely for such a relatively small pixel design, this allows for dynamic range performance exceeding 30,000:1 in Neo.
High contrast microscopy image of fluorescently labelled Convolaria cell, captured with Neo camera. An intensity line profile shows regions of the signal amplified by the high gain (low noise) amplifier and the low gain (high capacity) amplifier.
High contrast image of LED illuminated picture, captured with Neo camera. The zoomed region shows pixel regions that are sampled by both high gain (low noise) and low gain (high capacity) amplifiers respectively.
To learn more, download the Andor sCMOS Brochure to access the technical note entitled ‘Dual Amplifier Dynamic Range ’.
The sCMOS sensor in Neo has a highly parallel readout architecture. All 2560 columns possess their own Amplifier and Analogue to Digital Converter (ADC), at both the top and bottom of the column. This means that not only are all columns read out in parallel, but the readout direction of each column is split in the center, the signal from top and bottom halves.
A lot of intelligence has been directed towards delivering best image quality and uniformity in the Neo. The FPGA stores offset compensation maps at the pixel level (as opposed to column level) for a variety of different combinations of gains, speeds and temperatures, thus overcoming fixed pattern noise. Then, a further set of real time algorithms provide compensation for any further dynamic fluctuations. Gain compensation maps adjust for any minor differences in pixel responsivity, resulting in a Photon Response Non-Uniformity (PRNU) specification of < 0.5%.
Andor’s Dynamic Baseline Clamp affords superior background image quality (Dark image, Rolling Shutter, 10 ms exposure)
Andor’s Neo sCMOS camera comes equipped with an in-built FPGA filter that operates in real time to reduce the frequency of occurrence of high noise pixels. This real time filter corrects for pixels that are above 5 electrons RMS and would otherwise appear as spurious ‘salt and pepper’ noise spikes in the image.
The appearance of such noisy pixels is analogous to the situation of Clock Induced Charge (CIC) noise spikes in EMCCD cameras, in that it is due to the fact that we have significantly reduced the noise in the bulk of the sensor that the remaining small percentage of spuriously high noise pixels can become an aesthetic issue. The filter employed dynamically identifies such high noise pixels and replaces them with the mean value of the neighbouring pixels.
Demonstration of effect of Spurious Noise Filter on a dark image, 20 ms exposure time, 400MHz readout speed(~ 1.2 electrons read noise).
Neo is the only scientific CMOS camera on the market with on-head image buffer memory. This 4 GigaByte of in-built memory renders Neo unique in its ability to acquire bursts of kinetic data at the full 100 frames/sec combined with choice of either 11 or 16-bit data range.
Neo 4GB on-head memory can also be used to perform extended kinetic series that are faster than the write rate of hard drive (or other 3rd party software induced bottleneck). For example, data can be captured at 40 fps but the hard drive could be restricted to writing at 20 fps. Thus the on-head memory buffer will fill at a rate of 20 fps. Such flexibility can be crucial as PC performance is notoriously variable.
Neo’s Data Flow Monitor will indicate during acquisition set-up when a kinetic series is likely to exceed the capacity of the image buffer.
Neo’s Image Buffer offers:
The Dynamic Baseline Clamp was developed by Andor specifically for their sCMOS cameras. This real time algorithm uses available dark reference pixels on either side of each row of the sensor to compensate for any real time variation of the baseline (bias) offset. This feature is necessary to ensure:
Andor’s Neo sCMOS offers an FPGA generated hardware timestamp, coincident to the end of exposure with 25 nanosecond accuracy. This is an important feature, especially when utilizing the Neo 4GB on-head memory to perform extended kinetic series that are faster than the write rate of hard drive (or other 3rd party software induced bottleneck). For example, data can be captured at 40 fps but the hard drive could be restricted to writing at 20 fps. Thus the on-head memory buffer will fill at a rate of 20 fps, inducing a delay between image capture and frame acceptance by the software. The hardware timestamp is essential to maintain accurate kinetic information relating to image capture.
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