Necessary conditions for photon counting by “normal” image sensors, which do not use avalanche multiplication, are discussed. The most important condition is that QE and temporal aperture ratio (TAR) should be ~1. If QE × TAR is 0.95, it is possible to estimate the photon number from the photoelectron number detected once, which is smaller than 3. To realize electron counting, noise electron should be less than 0.3e. The calculated total noise for virtual but realistic CMOS image sensor is 0.28e. Therefore, to the limited extent, photon counting without statistics process can be achieved for both stationary and moving objects.

© 2011 Optical Society of America

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