ORCA-Quest qCMOS camera


Groundbreaking in concept and unprecedented in performance.

Since the 1980s, Hamamatsu Photonics has continued to develop high-sensitivity, low-noise cameras using its unique camera design technology and has always contributed to the development of cutting-edge scientific and technological research. Now, we are proud to release the ORCA-Quest with ultimate performance. The C15550-20UP is the world's first camera to incorporate the qCMOS image sensor and to be able to resolve the number of photoelectrons using a newly developed dedicated technology. The camera achieves the ultimate in quantitative imaging.


News about ORCA-Quest


ORCA-Quest qCMOS Camera Named SPIE Prism Awards 2022 Finalist 


ORCA-Quest Camera wins the Innovation Award 2022, Biophotonics & Medical Engineering Category 


We are at the dawn of a new era in CMOS and scientific imaging technology. To fully appreciate why the release of our new ORCA-Quest quantitative CMOS (qCMOS) camera with photon-number resolving technology is an engineering feat that can enable new paths of discovery in biology, physics, astronomy and quantum research, we invite you to watch our launch-day webinar by Dr. Peter Seitz. Dr. Seitz will briefly review the history of semiconductor image sensors and the principles of sensor design and show how applying the principles of photon and camera noise combined with advances in semi-conductor manufacturing culminated in the world’s first qCMOS technology.

Laurin Publishing Company, Inc. are producers and owners of the recording from May 19, 2021.

C15550-20UP webinar

White paper

The evolution of imaging technology is directly linked to new scientific achievements. Scientific imaging has moved many experiments from relying on subjective recording into objectively documentable, repeatable, and quantifiable methods. Demanding and extremely valuable techniques such as single-molecule-based methods would not be possible without appropriate image sensors. The novel quantitative CMOS (qCMOS) technology finally reaches the physical limit: reliable quantification of photon numbers within each pixel, eliminating the influence of technology on the “triangle of frustration” (resolution, sensitivity, speed). This white paper discusses the new image sensor technology that is at the heart of the qCMOS camera. Topics include the semiconductor image sensor, the state of the art approaches to quantitative semiconductor image sensors, The qCMOS image sensor, and the challenges for photon number resolving.

Find detailed information in our White Paper below.

c15550-20UP white paper

Four key features

1. Extreme low-noise performance

In order to detect weak light with high signal-to-noise, ORCA-Quest has been designed and optimized to every aspect of the sensor from its structure to its electronics. Not only the camera development but also the custom sensor development has been done with latest CMOS technology, an extremely low noise performance of 0.27 electrons has been achieved.


補償光学 比較

Comparison of average 1 photon per pixel image (pseudo-color)   

Exposure time: 200 ms   LUT: minimum to maximum value   Comparison area: 512 pixels × 512 pixels

2. Realization of photon number resolving (PNR) output

Light is a collection of many photons. Photons are converted into electrons on the sensor, and these electrons are called photoelectrons. “Photon number resolving*” is a method of accurately measuring light by counting photoelectrons. In order to count these photoelectrons, camera noise must be sufficiently smaller than the amount of photoelectron signal. Conventional sCMOS cameras achieve a small readout noise, but still larger than photoelectron signal, making it difficult to count photoelectrons. Using advanced camera technology, the ORCA-Quest counts photoelectrons and delivers an ultra-low readout noise of 0.27 electrons rms (@Ultra quiet scan), stability over temperature and time, individual calibration and real-time correction of each pixel value.

* Photon number resolving is unique and quite different from photon counting (More precisely the method resolves the number of photoelectrons. However, since single photon counting instead of single photoelectron counting has been used for a comparable method in this field, we will use the term “photon number resolving”).

Simulation data of photoelectron probability distribution(Average number of photoelectrons generated per pixel: 2 electrons)

3. Back-illuminated structure and high resolution

High QE is essential for high efficiency of detecting photons and achieved by back-illuminated structure. In conventional back-illuminated sensors, crosstalks occur between pixels due to no pixel separation, and resolutions are usually inferior to those of front-illuminated sensors. The ORCA-Quest qCMOS's sensor has back-illuminated structure for achieving high quantum efficiency, and trench structure in one-by-one pixel for reducing crosstalk.

What is a trench structure?


Measurement result of MTF

補償光学 比較

Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) is a type of resolution evaluation. It is the value of how accurately the contrast of an object can be reproduced.

4. Realization of a large number of pixels and high speed readout

ORCA-Quest realizes ultra-low noise with 9.4 megapixels (4096 (H) × 2304 (V)). ORCA-Quest is capable of capturing a larger number of objects, compared to conventional scientific cameras like Gen Ⅱ sCMOS and EM-CCD camera.

In addition, ORCA-Quest has outstanding performance in terms of its readout speed. Here, we refer to “data rate (number of pixels × frame rate)”, which represents how many pixels a camera read out in 1 second, for comparison among scientific cameras. ORCA-Quest with Standard scan realizes higher data rate even with lower readout noise than conventional sCMOS cameras. Also, ORCA-Quest with Ultraquiet scan realizes photon number resolving imaging with faster data rate than single photon counting imaging by EM-CCD cameras.

Comparison of pixel


Comparison of data rate

補償光学 比較

Enhance speed of Ultra quiest scan mode (Frame rate option M17230)

ORCA-Quest has realized photon number resolving owing to ultra-low noise characteristic, but the availability is limited for users because only the ultra quiet scan, whose speed is 5 frames per second in full resolution (4096x2304), make the resolving possible.

M17230 option offers you a faster ultra quiet scan with 25.4 frames per second in full resolution with a similar ultra-low noise characteristic.

Software support

In today's scientific research, it is essential for obtaining optimal results not only to have an excellent digital camera, but also to make full use of an extensive range of camera features; several readout modes, correction functions, more and more pixels and higher and higher readout speeds.

Camera simulation lab

When using a camera for industrial or research applications, it is necessary to select a camera considering various conditions such as wavelength and light intensity of the object to be captured. We offer the "Camera simulation lab", a tool that allows users to intuitively compare the differences in imaging results due to camera performance while checking the simulated images.

c15550-20UP camera simulation engine


Quantum technology

Neutral atom, Trapped ion

Neutral atoms and ions are aligned one by one in an array to be utilized as Qubits for Quantum computing. The qubit states can be determined by observing the fluorescence from each of them. The measurement of the fluorescence needs to be done in short time and then photodetectors with very low noise and high speed are needed. ORCA-Quest can do both of diagnosis of the whole qubit array and state detection of each qubit with very low noise characteristics and high speed readout. Also, the QE covers wide range of wavelength for major ion and atom species.

Fluorescence imaging of Rb atom array with ORCA-Quest 

Provided by Prof. Takashi Yamamoto and Asst. Prof. Toshiki Kobayashi, Osaka University

Quantum optics

Quantum optics uses single photon sources to make use of the Quantum nature of the single photon.The quantum optics research also uses single photon counting detectors, and now there are emerging needs of photon number resolving detectors to distinguish photon numbers coming into the detectors.A photon counting camera, a new concept in camera technologies, is expected to make a new discovery in this field.


Experimental setup of Quantum imaging with ORCA-Quest

補償光学 比較

Images of Quantum imaging with ORCA-Quest

Provided by Prof. Miles Padgett, University of Glasgow

Life science

Super resolution microscopy

Super resolution microscopy refers to a collection of methods to get a microscope image with higher spatial resolution than diffraction limit.The super resolution microscopy needs scientific cameras with combination of very low noise and small pixel size, resulting in a higher resolution. 

Super resolution images from ORCA-Quest

qCMOS camera / 4.6 μm  pixel size

Super resolution images from ORCA-Fusion

Gen III sCMOS camera / 6.5 μm pixel size

Experimental setup with ORCA-Quest

Provided by Steven Coleman at Visitech international with their VT-iSIM, high speed super resolution live cell imaging system.


Bioluminescence microscopy has been gaining attentions because of the unique advantages against the conventional fluorescence microscopy, such as no need of excitation light.The major drawback of the bioluminescence is its very low light intensity, resulting in long exposure time and low image quality.The bioluminescence research needs highly sensitive cameras even in long exposure.

NanoLuc fusion protein ARRB2 and Venus fusion protein V2R are nearby and BRET is occurring.

Overall image in the field of view(Objective: 20× / Exposure Time: 30sec / Binning: 4×4)

Appearance of the microscope system

Collaborator: Dr.Masataka Yanagawa, Department of Molecular & Cellular Biochemistry Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Science , Tohoku University

Delayed fluorescence in plants

Plants release a very small portion of the light energy they absorb for photosynthesis as light over a period of time. This phenomenon is known as delayed fluorescence. By detecting this faint light, it is possible to observe the effects of chemicals, pathogens, the environment, and other stressors on plants.

c15550-20UP application4

Delayed fluorescence of ornamental plants (exposure for 10 seconds after 10 seconds of excitation light quenching)


Lucky imaging

When observing stars from the ground, the image of the star can be blurred due to atmospheric turbulence therefore substantially reducing the ability to capture clear images. However, with short exposures and the right atmospheric conditions, you can sometimes capture clear images. For this reason, lucky imaging is a method of acquiring a large number of images and integrating only the clearest ones while aligning them.

Orion Nebula (Color image with 3 wavelength filters)

Imaging setup

Adaptive optics

Adaptive optics is a method where systems immediately correct the wavefront of incoming light which is disturbed by atmospheric fluctuations. In order to perform real-time and highly accurate wavefront correction, a camera needs to get images with high speed and high spatial resolution. In addition, the camera also needs high sensitivity because the wavefront correction is performed in a very dark condition where a laser guide star is measured.

Wavefront correction by adaptive optics


Comparison of adaptive optics

補償光学 比較

Courtesy of Kodai Yamamoto, Ph.D., Department of Astronomy, Kyoto University

HEP / Synchrotron

For imaging of X-ray or other kinds of high energy particles, a scientific camera coupled with a scintillator is often used. Low noise and high speed are required in the imaging system to detect momentary phenomena.

X-ray phase contrast CT image of mouse embryo

X-ray phase contrast CT image of mouse embryo from ORCA-Quest combined with High resolution X-ray imaging system (Hamamstsu M11427)

Exposure time: 15 msec, Total measurement time: 6.5 min

Experimental setup

Camera setup

Taken in SPring-8 BL20B2 beamline by Dr. Masato Hoshino, Senior researcher in Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute (JASRI)

Raman spectroscopy

Raman effect is the scattering of light at a wavelength different from that of the incident light, and Raman spectroscopy is a technique for determining the material properties by measuring this wavelength. Raman spectroscopy enables structural analysis at the molecular level, which provides information on chemical bonding, crystallinity, etc.

Raman spectrum (single frame) comparison under condition of equal photon number per pixel in line scan type Raman imaging system

Raman Image



PC recommendation

With the introduction of the ORCA-Quest, users are now able to stream 9.4 megapixel images to their computers 120 frames per second. The computer recommendations for this high data rate can be met by using the guidelines listed this PC Recommendations for ORCA-Quest.

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Type number C15550-20UP
Imaging device qCMOS image sensor
Effective no. of pixels 4096 (H) × 2304 (V)
Cell size 4.6 μm (H) × 4.6 μm (V)
Effective area 18.841 mm (H) × 10.598 mm (V)
Full well capacity 7000 electrons (typ.)
Readout speed Standard scan*1: 120 frames/s (At full resolution, CoaXPress), 17.6 frames/s (At full resolution, USB)
Ultra quiet scan: 5 frames/s (At full resolution, CoaXPress, USB)
Ultra quiet scan (M17230 option): 25.4 frames/s (At full resolution, CoaXPress), 17.6 frames/s (At full resolution, USB)
Readout noise Standard scan: 0.43 electrons rms (typ.)
Ultra quiet scan: 0.27 electrons rms (typ.)
Ultra quiet scan (M17230 option): 0.30 electrons rms (typ.)
Exposure time Standard scan*1: 7.2 μs to 1800 s
Ultra quiet scan:199.9 ms *2 to 1800 s (internal, edge, level, start)
Ultra quiet scan:200.2 ms *2 to 1800 s (sync readout)
Ultra quiet scan:172.8 μs to 1800 s (global reset edge, global reset level)
Ultra quiet scan (M17230 option): 33.9 μs to 1800 s (33.9 μs steps)
Cooling temperature Forced-air cooled (Ambient temperature: +25 °C) : -20 ℃
Water cooled (Water temperature: +25 °C)*3 : -20 ℃
Water cooled (Max cooling; The water temperature is +20 ℃ and the ambient temperature is +20 ℃) *3: -35 ℃ (typ.)
Dark current Forced-air cooled (Ambient temperature: +25 °C) : 0.016 electrons/pixels/s (typ.)
Water cooled (Water temperature: +25 °C) : 0.016 electrons/pixels/s (typ.)
Water cooled (Max cooling; The water temperature is +20 ℃ and the ambient temperature is +20 ℃) : 0.006 electrons/pixels/s (typ.)
Dynamic range 26 000:1 (rms) (typ.)*4
External trigger mode Edge / Global reset edge / Level / Global reset level / Sync readout / Start
External trigger signal routing SMA
Trigger delay function 0 s to 10 s in 1 μs steps
Trigger output Global exposure timing output / Any-row exposure timing output / Trigger ready output / 3 programmable timing outputs / High output / Low output
External signal output routing SMA
Image processing functions Defect pixel correction (ON or OFF, hot pixel correction 3 steps)
Emulation mode Available (ORCA-Fusion)
Interface USB 3.1 Gen 1, CoaXPress (Quad CXP-6)
A/D converter 16 bit, 12 bit, 8 bit
Lens mount C-mount*5
Power supply AC100 V to AC240 V, 50 Hz/60 Hz
Power consumption Approx. 155 VA
Ambient operating temperature 0 °C to +40 °C
Ambient storage temperature -10 °C to +50 °C
Ambient operating humidity 30 % to 80 % (With no condensation)
Ambient storage humidity 90 % Max. (With no condensation)

*1: Normal area readout mode only
*2: If you need shorter exposure time, please contact your local Hamamatsu representative or distributor. The frame rate does not change even when setting the exposure time shorter.
*3: Water volume is 0.46 L/m.
*4: Calculated from the ratio of the full well capacity and the readout noise in ultra quiet scan
*5: A product for F-mount (C15550-20UP01) is also available. If you wish, please contact your local Hamamatsu representative or distributor. F-mount has a light leakage due to its structure and it might affect your measurements especially with longer exposure time.


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