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A high-sensitivity CMOS image sensor keeping a high full-well capacity has been developed by introducing a new pixel having a small floating diffusion (FD) capacitance connected to a lateral overflow integration capacitor (LOFIC) through a MOS switch. The conceptual advantage of the small FD approach over conventional column amplifier approaches is compared and demonstrated. To ensure both the high sensitivity and the high full-well capacity, the low-light and the bright-light signals (S1 and S2) are output and reproduced without a visible SNR degradation at the S1/S2 switching point. As the most critical problem, the increase of the conversion gain variation in this approach is suppressed by applying a self-aligned offset structure to the small FD. A 1/4-in VGA format CMOS image sensor fabricated through 0.18-mum 2P3M process achieves 2.2-e- rms noise floor with 200-muV/e- conversion gain and 100-ke- full-well capacity.