Digital-camera makers to replace faulty image sensors

Sony Corp. and four other digital camera makers have announced plans to replace faulty image-sensor devices found in more than a hundred different models of digital camcorders and digital cameras.

The affected image sensors, called CCDs (charge coupled devices), are used to capture an image for a digital camera or camcorder. Light passes through the lens of a camera and strikes the CCD, which converts the light into electrons. In the case of the faulty CCDs, the sensor does not capture images normally.

“When the product is used in camera mode, the LCD (liquid crystal display) panel and/or electronic viewfinder exhibits either a distorted image or no image,” wrote Yoshikazu Ochiai, a spokesman for Sony, in an e-mail. “If adhesion on the bonding face which connects semiconductor chip and [the] package’s terminal comes off, the above-mentioned symptom occurs.”

More than 100 models of cameras and camcorders, as well as one PDA (personal digital assistant) manufactured by Sony, are potentially affected by the fault, Ochiai said. Model numbers of the affected cameras vary by region, he said.

The affected CCDs were manufactured by Sony between October 2002 and March 2004, Ochiai said, adding that not all of the CCDs produced during this period are defective. Sony will offer free repairs for cameras that display the symptoms of the faulty CCDs, he said.

Customers who are concerned whether their camera may be affected should consult the Sony Web page for their region to determine whether their specific model may contain a faulty CCD, Sony said.

Sony is not the only digital-camera maker to face the problem of faulty CCDs. Canon Inc., Konica Minolta Holdings Inc., Nikon Corp., and Fuji Photo Film Co. Ltd. (Fujifilm) have also announced plans to replace faulty CCDs in their cameras. In statements posted online, all four companies described symptoms like those caused by the faulty CCDs used in Sony’s cameras and have offered to replace faulty CCDs for their customers.

The root cause of the problem is not immediately clear. Not all of the affected CCDs were manufactured by Sony. In the case of Fujifilm, some of the faulty CCDs were manufactured by Fujifilm while others were not, said Mizuki Itou, a spokeswoman for the company in Tokyo. She declined to comment on the reason that the CCDs did not operate properly or who the company’s CCD suppliers were.

Canon spokeswoman Suzanne Ueda said her company had found the faulty CCDs were mostly limited to models sold in Southeast Asia and the problem had been exacerbated by high temperatures and high humidity. She declined to comment when asked which company had manufactured the faulty devices.

Information about affected camera models is available on the Web sites of Canon, Fujifilm and Minolta.

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