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Multi-CAM 2000 AF Sensor Module

Does the Multi-CAM 2000 AF Sensor Module justify the spirit of the challenge it took to create it? A surprising story behind the development of this superior sensor unfolds.

The Multi-CAM 2000 AF Sensor Module is so precise at capturing moving subjects. How did this high-performance development start?

The D1H, the predecessor of the D2H, came with five-area AF system. So when we began to develop a new camera for professional use, we started thinking about it. To tell the truth, I proposed using seven-area or nine-area AF system at first. According to this idea, the same CCD as used in the D1H was to be used for the newer camera. That was a "safe" plan. But my boss was really angry about that, since it showed unwillingness to rise to the spirit of the challenge. Thus motivated, I made up my mind to realize the 11-area AF system. Rising to the spirit of a challenge sounded good, of course, but involved so much effort that I couldn't help feeling at times that I had been overambitious. Of course, I never regretted it after my commitment proved fruitful.

What required such special effort to develop?

As I said, not one, but three CCD sensors are needed to make as many as nine of 11 area sensors cross-type. Such details as angle of the light differ slightly from one CCD sensor to the next, so precise adjustment for respective CCD sensors is essential. If there is something wrong even on one sensor, all the effort comes to nothing, and we have to start from the beginning again. So this adjustment required special attention. The usual troubles of manufacturing tests are multiplied by a factor of three.

The newly-developed autofocus Multi-CAM 2000 AF Sensor Module ensures sharp, fast focus on all kinds of subjects, from still ones to those that move quickly and unpredictably.

It was also difficult to install three CCD sensor units in the body, wasn't it?

Sure, it was very hard. To make matters even more difficult, we had to lengthen the distance for the optical passage of light. As a machine, the camera is a compact precision instrument, demanding all the attention I could muster for a great deal of installation in a small body. Still, the AF Sensor module of the D2H is perhaps one of the world's largest AF sensors.

Is it considerably larger than others, in general?

I think it is three times as large as others, in general. Through trial and error, I had to install it in the camera body in consideration of the entire balance of other parts.

Now that an AF camera as advanced as the D2H has been launched, do not expect a new AF camera which is a mere "extension" of currently available cameras to be launched by Nikon.

Was the development of "Multi-CAM 2000 AF Sensor Module" a big project at Nikon?

It was quite big. No one in the 5th Design Section, where I work, was not involved in development of the D2H.

Please explain the main business of the 5th Design Section.

Our main work is to develop AF systems for SLR cameras. Specifically, that involves development of AF sensor modules for hardware, and, for software, development of AF detection operation and image processing algorithms, as well as development of lens driving algorithms based on the AF data.

Mr. Uchiyama is ready to renew his focus: "A great deal of our time and effort has borne fruit in the form of the D2H, and my next dream is to develop a totally new AF system."

You were the project leader for development of the Multi-CAM 2000 AF Sensor Module, weren't you?

For this project, yes. I was a supervisor for the overall process, as well as in charge of the development of systems and algorithms. The first product which I was involved in developing from the very beginning was the F90. In those days, I was able to concentrate on development. Sometimes I miss that.

You were involved in both process supervision and development of the Multi-CAM 2000 AF Sensor Module. How do you think it feels to use it?

I am not an excellent photographer, but even I can get good results with it. Of course, it's not very affordable, so I didn't buy it. The other day, I saw a photographer for a certain newspaper using the D2H. The next day, I saw a picture which seemed to be shot by him in that newspaper. That was a really nice experience.

In closing, please tell us what kind of camera you would like to develop in the future.

I think that for the D2H, we refined an AF system that our senior colleagues originally developed. But I still don't have a legacy of my own to leave for my younger colleagues. So now I want to develop a totally new AF system, not an extension of one from the D2H, and leave it for the next generation. Since I joined the company, I have spent all my days developing AF systems. I want to continue to focus on AF systems completely from now on.

We are certainly looking forward to seeing what new kind of system you come up with.