Bayer filter/mask array

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A Bayer filter is a matrix of red, green and blue non co-sited filters placed onto an imaging chip (CCD, CMOS) so that it can capture the separate red, blue and green primary colors of the image to record a color digital image. This greatly simplified the construction of color cameras, and somewhat mimics how our (single-retina) eyes see color. As our eyes have more resolution for green light than red or blue, the Bayer filter on the imaging chip has twice as many green cells as red and blue. Some redundancy of the green pixels produces an image which is less noisy and has finer detail than would be achieved if there were an equal number of red, green and blue cells.

For further use, the R, G and B pixels generated by the Bayer-filter-and-imaging-chip combination need to be ‘unmasked’ using a complex algorithm. This process, sometimes called Debayering, produces the separate red, green and blue images that together make up the color image.

Traditionally professional TV cameras have used three image sensors, one to pick up each primary color. This arrangement requires that behind the lens there is a three-way light-splitting glass block delivering the separate R, G and B images to three light sensors that must be accurately registered together. This has involved a considerably more bulky construction and greater cost than is needed by those based on a single image-sensor chip complete with a Bayer filter.

The Bayer filter was patented in 1976 and early use was with consumer stills and video cameras. A number of other variants of RGB filter array are now in use. It was 30 years later that single-chip cameras started to be accepted for the professional video and movie markets, some years after they had been widely used in high-end stills cameras, for example. ARRI Alexa, Canon, Sony F65/55 and RED.