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Chipworks tears down Nikon 1 V1, finds Aptina sensor  
Saturday, November 5, 2011 | by Eamon Hickey
Chipworks has published a teardown of the new Nikon 1 V1 compact system camera and reports that the camera's sensor is an Aptina device. Aptina is a sensor company headquartered in San Jose, California, USA. It's apparently majority-owned by Micron Technology of Idaho, USA, from which it was spun off in 2009. 

There is some definitional ambiguity around the question of who gets to claim ownership credit of a sensor design (and Nikon has described the V1/J1 sensor as "Nikon developed"), but a Chipworks micro-photograph, shown below, clearly depicts the Aptina Imaging name stamped in a position where the "mask work" rights holder's name might typically be found.

aptina_in_v1.jpg
Credit: Aptina Imaging stamp on the Nikon 1 V1's sensor package (Photo courtesy Chipworks and republished here with their permission)

Slightly over a year ago, Aptina announced a 16-megapixel APS-C format image sensor for DSLR cameras (note that this is not the sensor used in the V1/J1) and stated its intention to compete aggressively in the market for large imaging sensors for DSLR and CSC cameras. As part of Micron and now as a separate company, Aptina is a long-time market leader in small CMOS imaging sensors for cell phone cameras and industrial devices.

The company traces its roots more or less directly back to Dr. Eric Fossum, the man who invented the active-pixel CMOS sensor while a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the mid-1990s. Active-pixel CMOS went on to become the type of sensor used in nearly all CMOS-based cameras, including DSLRs, from all manufacturers. (Fossum recently gave a one-hour lecture at Yale, available on YouTube, that gives an overview of CMOS sensor technology.) Interestingly, in a post that Fossum made on a DPReview forum last year, he said that Aptina would not design a large DSLR sensor "without doing it hand in hand with an alpha customer no doubt some big name camera maker in Japan."
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