Andor Neo 5.5 | sCMOS Camera for Calcium Imaging | Andor

Neo 5.5 sCMOS

In a unique -40°C vacuum cooled platform, loaded with FPGA intelligence, Andor’s Neo sCMOS camera platform is designed exclusively to drive lowest possible dark noise from this exciting and innovative technology development. Zyla 5.5 is built around a superb, low noise, large field of view 5.5 megapixel sensor, capable of both Rolling and Global Shutter exposure modes

  • Vacuum cooled to -40 °C
  • 1 e- read noise and 0.007 e-/pix/s darkcurrent
  • Minimized hot pixels
  • Rolling and Global Shutter

Neo 5.5 sCMOS Camera

In a -40°C vacuum cooled platform, with 1 e- read noise, very low darkcurrent, Rolling and Global Shutter, and loaded with FPGA intelligence, Andor's Neo sCMOS camera is designed to drive optimal performance from this exciting and innovative new technology development.

The Neo 5.5 model is based around a large 5.5 megapixel sensor with 6.5 µm pixels and a 22mm diameter, ideal for applications such as cell microscopy, astronomy, digital pathology and high content screening. The Neo 5.5 can deliver 30 fps sustained or up to 100 fps burst to internal 4GB memory. Extremely low darkcurrent means Neo 5.5 is suited to a range of exposure conditions. The Rolling and Global shutter flexibility further enhances application flexibility, Global shutter in particular offering an ideal means to simply and efficiently synchronize the Neo with other ‘moving’ devices such as stages or light switching sources and eliminating the possibility of spatial distortion when imaging fast moving objects.

Key Specifications
Sensor Type Front Illuminated Scientific CMOS
Active Pixels 2560 x 2160 (5.5 Megapixel)
Sensor Size 16.6 x 14.0 mm (21.8 mm diagonal)
Pixel readout rate (MHz) 560 (280 MHz x 2 sensor halves)
200 (100 MHz x 2 sensor halves)
Read Noise (e-)
200 MHz
560 MHz
Rolling Shutter
Global Shutter
Minimum temperature air cooled
Minimum temperature coolant
-30 °C
-40 °C
Dark current, e-/pixel/sec
@ -30°C
@ -40°C
Data range 12 bit & 16 bit
Peak Quantum Efficiency 60%
Readout modes Rolling Shutter and Global (Snapshot) Shutter
Internal memory buffer size 4 GB
Maximum burst frame rates
2560 x 2160 (full frame)
128 x 128 ROI
100 fps Rolling Shutter, 49 fps Global (Snapshot) Shutter
1,639 fps Rolling Shutter, 716 fps Global (Snapshot) Shutter
Pixel well depth (e-) 30,000

Features Benefits
1 e- read noise Offers lower detection limit than any CCD.
TE cooling to -40° C Minimization of dark current to maintain low noise advantage under all exposure conditions. Minimization of hot pixel blemishes meaning more useful pixels. Fan-off mode for vibration sensitive set-ups.
5.5 megapixel sensor format and 6.5 μm pixels
Delivers extremely sharp resolution over a 22 mm diagonal field of view: Ideal for cell microscopy and astronomy.
Rolling and Global (Snapshot) shutter
Maximum exposure and readout flexibility across all applications. Snapshot for 'interline CCD mode' freeze frame capture of fast moving/changing events.
Sub-microsecond inter-frame gap
Global Shutter offers down to 100 ns inter-frame gap, ideal for PIV applications.
Rapid frame rates
30 fps over extended kinetic series; Burst to memory at 100 fps full frame;
Sustained vacuum integrity and unequalled cooling with 5 year warranty; complete sensor protection.
Dual-Gain Amplifiers
Maximum well depth and lowest noise simultaneously, affording extended dynamic range of 30,000:1
4 GB on-head image buffer
enables bursts of 100 fps @ full dynamic range. Capture extended kinetic series faster than PC write speed, avoiding prohibitively expensive PCs.
Extensive FPGA on-head data processing
Essential to ensure best image quality and quantitative fidelity from sCMOS technology.
Hardware Timestamp
FPGA generated timestamp with 25ns accuracy.
Dynamic Baseline Clamp
Essential to ensure quantitative accuracy across the image area and between successive images of a kinetic series.
Spurious Noise Filter
Real time FPGA filter that identifies and compensates for spurious high noise pixels.
Single window design
Single input window with double AR coating ensures maximum photon throughput.
Data flow monitor
Innovatively manage acquisition capture rates vs data bandwidth limitations.
Market leading exposure switching with minimal overheads.
Comprehensive trigger modes & I/O Communication and synchronization within intricate experimental set-ups.
Cameralink Cameralink interface permits high bandwidth data spooling to PC, allowing fast continuous kinetic series.
Graphs and Drawings
QE Curve

QE vs Fluorophore Emissions
 Dark Signal vs Exposure Time
 Hot Pixels v Cooling Temperature
 Connector Panel

 Dimensions - Front

 Dimensions - Side

 Dimensions - Top

Advanced Features

Deep Vacuum Cooling

Andor’s Neo 5.5 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 5.5 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.

Thermoelectric Cooling

Thermal noise can sacrifice the sCMOS low detection limit. Low light images recorded with a Neo 5.5 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

Thermoelectric Cooling

Thermal noise can sacrifice the sCMOS low detection limit. Low light images recorded with a Neo 5.5 sCMOS at -30 °C versus a competing sCMOS @ +5 0C, shown with same relative intensity scaling; 2 sec exposure time; 560MHz readout speed.

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:

  • Aesthetically cleaner images
  • More usable pixels

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 5.5 means that the internal fan can be turned off by instead opting to flow water through the conveniently located connections. Andor’s Neo 5.5 offers:

  • Two fan speeds
  • Ability to turn off fan completely.

‘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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Lowest Noise Floor

Andor’s ultrasensitive Neo 5.5 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 5.5 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 5.5 sCMOS suitable for a wide variety of challenging low light imaging applications when compared to CCD cameras.

Lowest Noise Floor

Comparative low light images taken with Neo 5.5 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 ’.

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Rolling & Global Shutter

Neo 5.5 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.

  • Rolling shutter essentially means that different lines of the array are exposed at different times as the read out ‘wave’ sweeps through the sensor, a row in the middle starting the exposure at least 10ms before rows at the edges. The lowest readout noise and fastest frame rates are available from this mode (see the video).
  • Global shutter which can also be thought of as a ‘snapshot’ exposure mode, means that all pixels of the array are exposed simultaneously, thus enabling ‘freeze frame’ capture of fast moving or fast changing events. This mode is closest to the exposure sequence of interline CCDs and is much more straightforward to synchronise to. For some particular applications, for example where it is required that different regions of the image maintain temporal correlation or where it is required to accurately synchronize to relatively short lived events, global shutter will be viewed as a necessity (see the video). Global shutter also offers down to 100 ns inter-frame gap, ideal for PIV applications.
Rolling and Global Shutter

Rolling Shutter exposure sequence (single frame)

Rolling and Global Shutter

Global Shutter sequence (single frame)

To learn more, download the Andor sCMOS Brochure to access the technical note entitled ‘Rolling and Global Shutter ’.

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Neo 5.5 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.

  • Sustained deep TE cooling
  • No maintenance/re-pumping
  • No condensation
  • 5 Year vacuum warranty

To learn more, download the Andor sCMOS Brochure to access the technical note entitled ‘UltraVac™ Permanent Vacuum Head and Performance Longevity ’.

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Extended Dynamic Range

The innovative Dual Amplifier architecture of the sCMOS sensor in Neo 5.5 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 5.5.

Extended Dyanmic Range

High contrast microscopy image of fluorescently labelled Convolaria cell, captured with Neo 5.5 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.

Rolling and Global Shutter

High contrast image of LED illuminated picture, captured with Neo 5.5 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 ’.

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Fast Frame Rates

The sCMOS sensor in Neo 5.5 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.

Array Size Sustained Cameralink - 3 Tap Burst to 4GB Internal Memory
Rolling Shutter Global (Snapshot) Shutter Rolling Shutter Global (Snapshot) Shutter
2560 x 2160 30 30 100 49
2048 x 2048 39 39 105 52
1920 x 1080 79 79 199 97
1392 x 1040 115 101 206 101
512 x 512 374 201 419 201
128 x 128 1,470 716 1639 716

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Superior Image Quality

A lot of intelligence has been directed towards delivering best image quality and uniformity in the Neo 5.5. 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%.

Superior Image Quality

Andor’s Dynamic Baseline Clamp affords superior background image quality (Dark image, Rolling Shutter, 10 ms exposure)

Column Structure

Column structure reduction algorithm, inherent to Zyla and Neo sCMOS cameras, minimizing fixed pattern column-level noise from the low gain (high capacity) channel

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Spurious Noise Filter

Andor’s Neo 5.5 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.

Spurious Noise Filter

Demonstration of effect of Spurious Noise Filter on a dark image, 20 ms exposure time, 400MHz readout speed(~ 1.2 electrons read noise).

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4GB on-head Image Buffer

Neo 5.5 is the only scientific CMOS camera on the market with on-head image buffer memory. This 4 GigaByte of in-built memory renders Neo 5.5 unique in its ability to acquire bursts of kinetic data at the full 100 frames/sec combined with choice of either 12 or 16-bit data range.

Neo 5.5 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 5.5’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 5.5’s Image Buffer offers:

  • Kinetic series bursts at maximum speed of 100 full frames/sec combined with maximum dynamic range • Accelerate frame rates - Ability to perform extended kinetic series faster than hard disk write speed permits.
  • Avoid prohibitively expensive and complex PC configurations
  • Advanced FPGA processing
  • Minimizes impact of (a) non real-time nature of Windows operating system and (b) variable hard disk write performance.

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Dynamic Baseline Clamp

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:

  • A flat baseline offset across the entire image
  • Baseline is rigidly clamped between all images of a kinetic series
  • Quantitative reproducibility of data taken in different sessions
  • Significantly improves image quality

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Hardware Timestamp

Andor’s Neo 5.5 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 5.5 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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