The birth of LBCAST was borne of a long process of trial and error.
"Along the way, we almost got lost."
I guess that the birth of LBCAST was not like traveling a smooth road, was it?
I,T: Right. As I mentioned, from the moment we set out to develop the device, people around us always wondered what our group would do and when the study would come into actual use. Nobody seemed to have any expectations of us.
After that, we still needed many years until we finally found out how our study could bear fruit. We bided our time for quite a long time.
Did you experience any failures during the study?
I,T: Well, there actually was a serious turning point. In the beginning, we just worked on trial productions at random with little knowledge. Our first trial product was a sensor with a small number of effective pixels. We evaluated its overwhelmingly poor performance. It made us realize that we could hardly compete with CCD if we continued the study in such a way. So we decided to go back to the starting point and try a new approach. In a sense, the poor trial results were the origin of LBCAST. From then on, we repeatedly improved, through trial and error, to get where we are now.
It's exactly a continuation of trial and error.
I,T: Yes, we thought hard about achieving the ideal image sensor. For example, we challenged all kinds of ideas to improve speed. But, recalling those days, I think the most difficult thing was to make the new device "reasonable yet simple."
Reasonable yet simple?
I,T: Yes. It's important for an image sensor to be designed small and compact. So it is crucial to minimize useless functions and simplify construction. At the same time, priority is given to picture quality and performance. However small we could make it, it would be out of the question to allow for bad performance. So the most important thing was to make the pixel structure as simple as possible, while retaining the necessary performance level, but it was really hard to achieve both simultaneously.
"Reasonable" means to meet the necessary performance requirements. On the other hand, construction should be simple. The balance between these two things was difficult. We should continue to think about how to achieve it, too.
S,S: I think the first-stage trial and error showed us many things. It was also good that, when we were set back, we returned to the starting point before starting new trial productions and evaluations. Our concept was to create something totally unprecedented, which allowed us to take radical approaches.
The entire development team was especially pleased with the actual product. "Planning and production teams grappled with LBCAST development as a group."
Did you have any other difficulties before it was decided that LBCAST would be manufactured as an actual product?
I,T: Before the manufacturing stage, we had to solve the big problem of securing the place of production. Although the production for the research level was successful, LBCAST ultimately couldnIt work as an actual product if mass production proved too difficult. So securing the place of production was crucial. For mass production, we had to create the production process anew, which took a great deal of time.
Was it hard preparing for mass production?
S,S: Yes. Mass production differed from research and development in that it required collaboration among many people having various functions, which made it a good experience for me. Especially since I have never been involved with work other than device development since joining the Company, this experience was really new to me.
I guess you were really impressed when mass production started, weren't you?
I,T: Absolutely. I was really happy with it.
But I felt happier at a slightly earlier stage. From 1980s, we have worked to study and develop LBCAST. In the beginning, we had no idea how our study would bear fruit. But gradually its form became clear, then it was decided that the actual product would be produced. So when management announced the final decision to start manufacturing, I was extremely impressed. It is so nice that a study started by a few has grown into a big project supported by a group uniting many members.
S,S: The planning group of this project was small. But the advantage of this was that it was easy to share a common motivation to make a dream come true. Since we aimed to develop an innovative image sensor, we were always aware of the existence of CCDs. I think what kept us pursuing our ideal was to innovate to create an impact, like the pioneers of the CCD. Every project member was always thinking about the good points of CCDs, and the potential of our LBCAST to overtake the CCD.
LBCAST finally makes its debut with D2H.
"Now, you can expect further development of LBCAST."
LBCAST, the fruit of your long study, will be installed in D2H for distribution to customers soon. In closing, do you have any comments to users of Nikon cameras?
I,T: The first image sensor developed exclusively by Nikon will be installed in the Nikon flagship camera. Actually this is a kind of challenge, but at the same time the fact that the first model to feature LBCAST is our flagship model reflects our confidence in the technology. Be sure to look for the launch of D2H.
S,S: In developing LBCAST, we put highest priority on matching it with Nikkor lenses. The matchup offers optical performance that is so excellent that we can say that LBCAST is the image device most suitable for Nikkor lenses. We assure that it will meet customers' expectations as an image device developed by a camera manufacturer. Be sure to keep an eye on its future development, as well.