What is the difference between an Area Scan and a Line Scan Camera?

Examples of area scan and line scan applications

While the differences between the applications for an area scan machine vision camera vs. a line scan camera may often appear to be subtle, the differences in their technologies and the ways to optimize them in specific use cases is clear. By optimizing we include relative costs as well as imaging outcomes.  This brief overview provides a foundational overview. For additional application engineering assistance please contact one of our industrial imaging technical consultants and get the support you need.

Definition of an Area Scan Camera:

Area scan cameras are generally considered to be the all-purpose imaging solution as they use a straight-forward matrix of pixels to capture an image of an object, event, or scene. In comparison to line scan cameras, they offer easier setup and alignment. For stationary or slow moving objects, suitable lighting together with a moderate shutter speed can produce excellent images.

Even moving objects can become “stationary” from the perspective of an area scan camera through appropriate strobe lighting and/or a fast shutter speed, so just because something is motion does not necessarily disqualify an area scan solution.

Among the key features of an area scan camera include that the camera, when matched with a suitable lens, provide a fixed resolution. This allows for easy set up in imaging system applications where the cameras will not move after installation. Area scan cameras are also extremely flexible, as a single frame can be segmented into multiple regions-of-interest (ROI) to look for specific objects rather than having to process the entire image.

Additionally, some models of area scan cameras are optimized to be sensitive to infrared light, in portions of the spectrum not visible to the human eye. This allow for thermal imaging as well as feature identification applications that can be innovative and cost-effective, opening new opportunities for machine vision.

NIR imaging detects flaws in photovoltaic modules

Definition of a Line Scan Camera:

In contrast to an area scan camera, in a line scan camera a single row of pixels is used to capture data very quickly. As the object moves past the camera, the complete image is pieced together in the software line-by-line and pixel-by-pixel.

Line scan camera systems are the recognized standard for high-speed processing of fast-moving “continuous”objects such as in web inspection of paper, plastic film, and related applications.. Among the key factors impacting their adoption in these systems is that the single row of pixels produced by line scanning allows the imaging processing system to build continuous images unlimited by a specific vertical resolution. This results in superior, high resolution images. Unlike area scan cameras, a line scan camera can also expose a new image while the previous image is still transferring its data. (Because the pixel readout is faster than the camera exposure.) When building a composite image, the line scan camera can either move over an object or have moving objects presented to it. Coordination of production/camera motion and image acquisition timing are critical for line scan cameras but, unlike area scan cameras, lighting is relatively simple.

What if you need to image a medical tube, or round object, such as a steel ball bearing?

In certain applications, line scan cameras have other specific advantages over area scan cameras. Consider this application scenario: You need to inspect several round or cylindrical parts and your typical system experience is with area scan cameras, so you set about to use multiple cameras to cover the entire part surface. It’s doable, but a better solution would be to rotate the part in front of a single line scan camera to capture the entire surface and allow the processor to “unwrap” the image pixel-by-pixel. Line scan cameras are also typically smaller than area scan. As a result, they sneak into tight spaces such as in a spot where they might have to peek through rollers on a conveyor to view a key angle of a part for quality assurance.

Not sure which area scan or line scan camera is right for you?

There are a host of options and tradeoffs to consider even after you’ve made your decision on the technology that’s likely best for you. 1st Vision is the US distributor you need. Our industrial imaging consultants are available to help you navigate the various camera models and brands from industry-leading manufacturers Teledyne DALSA, IDS, and Allied Vision.

Contact us to learn more.

Dalsa line scan polarization camera makes invisible visible!

Teledyne Dalsa has released the first line scan polarization camera for machine vision.  The Piranha4 polarization camera provides the capability of detecting , stress, surface roughness,  birefringence and physical properties undetectable with conventional imaging making the invisible visible!

This unique technique uses four polarization channels with a color line scan camera solving various applications, but not limited to the following:

Glass Inspection:  Glass bottles, architectural glass sheets, and automobile windshields, etc. – Enables inspection of internal stress and defects non-visible with conventional imaging

Dalsa Polorized ruler

Film inspection: transparent films, packaging films, and patterned films etc. – Detect scratches, digs, and other surface defects that are difficult to detect with conventional imaging   Dalsa Polarized scratch

Precision optics: optical lens, prisms, fibers, and micro-optical – Detect residual internal stress and thermal annealing effects
polarized - stress in sun glasses

Flat Panel Display and PCB inspection: Thin film transistors, organic LEDs, printed circuit boards etc.- inspect ITO, dust particles, films thickness, and surface defects with enhanced contrast

Carbon fibers: effectively inspect the quality of composite materials that are widely used in aircraft, aerospace, wind energy, and automotive industry

Food and material sorting: Increase sorting accuracy and detecting capability of foreign materials such as plastics, glasses, metals etc. with polarization imaging

Bio-medicine: digital pathology, in vitro cells culture, optical coherence tomography etc.- Provides additional information in birefringence tissues
Remote sensing: helps identifying special objects from natural background
And many more…

Contact 1st vision

Line scan polarization camera Features

  • CMOS Quadlinear sensor  – 2048 pixels
  • High speed line rate of 70k hz with 14.08 um pixels
  • Camera Link interface
  • Three polarization states plus and unfiltered channel (Output format with 0 deg (S component), 90 deg (P component), 135 deg and unfiltered polarization states.)

Full specifications on the Teledyne Dalsa polarization camera ( P4-CP-02K07Q-00-R ) can be found HERE

line scan camera Polarization angles

White Paper  – Learn about this unique polarization technique with line scan cameras!   This white paper covers the following topics

  • How polarization techniques work in transmission and reflectance configuration
  • Comparison of three polarization filter technologies
  • How the sensor architecture is configured for polarization effects and visualization of defects.

line scan polarization camera white paper

1stVision has a strong working knowledge of polarization techniques, line scan cameras and lighting and can discuss your application in detail.

Contact us to talk to an expert!

Related Blog posts:
Teledyne Dalsa release of low cost GigE and camera link color line scan cameras

Video Tutorial:  How to setup HDR Imaging in Teledyne Dalsa Linea Line scan cameras

Teledyne Dalsa is pleased to announce the release of low cost GigE & Cam Link color Line scan cameras

Teledyne Dalsa is pleased to announce the release of the Linea Color line scan cameras.

Starting at $1480, the Linea line scan Color cameras are the newest additions to the series built around advanced CMOS technology.  It delivers the best performance to cost ratio in the machine vision industry for color imaging with high speed, high responsivity, low noise and an extensive feature set.  

Feature Highlights: 

  • 2K, 4K and 8K Resolutions available with line rates of up to 48 kHz for 8k Camera link models.  
  • Built in color interpolation in Sapera LT host driver delivers 50% faster speed in RGB full color mode over Spyder 3 color cameras
  • Turbo Drive boosts speeds to achieve line rates that are 2-3X faster than standard GigE vision line rates.
  • AOI and ROI capability outputs and calibrates only regions you are interested in
  • Burst Mode captures the images at faster speeds when sample is passing the FOV and while transmits data during idle time.
  • Smart FFC provides a low pass filter that makes FFC easier without de-focusing the lens
  • White Balance ROI providing only white balance on a small ROI target
  • Noise Filter enables further noise reduction.  
  • LUT for High Dynamic Range Imaging allowing more details to be seen in both bright and dark scenes.  
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR) capable using the cycling mode feature  (See the short video on how to setup this feature )
Overview Product Specifications


Applications include: 

  • Food Sorting
  • Recycling sorting
  • PCB inspection
  • Printing inspection
  • Web inspection
  • General machine vision and many more!
Detail product specifications can be found for each camera below:

Model #                          Resolution     Max Line Rate
LA-CC-08K05B-00-R     8192 x 2         26 kHz
LA-GC-04K05B-00-R     4096 x 2         13 kHz
LA-GC-02K05B-00-R     2048 x 2         26 kHz

Note:  Higher line rates will be achieved using Turbodrive

Don’t need color? – See the monocrome versions HERE.

1st Vision has extensive knowledge in industrial imaging and can help answer any questions.  We have over 100 years of combined knowledge and look forward to discussing your application.  

Please do not hesitate to Contact us!  1st Vision can provide a complete solution including cameras, lenses, lighting and cables.  

Ph:  978-474-0044

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Dalsa Linea – GigE 80kHz LineScan @ $1100

Dalsa’s newest innovation is cost!

Introducing Linea, a CMOS line scan camera that can help you improve your imaging and lower your costs. Linea starts with an advanced CMOS sensor with high quantum efficiency and low noise for better images. Linea is also packed with advanced features to make your machine vision job almost effortless.

Linea uses Teledyne DALSA’s own advanced CMOS line scan sensors which are available in resolutions from 2k to 16k.

Extensive Feature Set

TurboDrive™ technology allows Linea GigE to deliver its full image quality at line rates up to 80 kHz—several times faster than competitors—with no changes to your GigE network.

    Multiple Regions of Interest to let you reduce your data transfer and processing load — all of which not only help boost performance but also reduce your system cost.

      Burst Modes can take advantage of its high speed sensor by capturing and buffering high speed bursts faster than GigE allows.

      HDR (High Dynamic Range) lets you combine short and long exposures to see details in bright and dark areas at the same time.

      Cycling Mode lets you change your settings every line and cycle through up to five different user-controlled configurations.  This allows use of different light sources, lighting angles, exposure time and gain from a single pass.

      Trigger to Image Reliability framework gives you data reliability peace and of mind by controlling and monitoring the entire image capture process from trigger through image capture and transfer to host memory, protecting you from data loss and improving the reliability of your inspection system.

        Suited for applications in postal, pharmaceutical, print, material and food inspection, Linea is a smart choice with low cost and excellent performance. 

        Full data sheets for linear are available HERE

        For all your imaging needs, you can visit www.1stvision or contact us! to discuss your application in further detail.