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Area X-ray detectors based on charge-coupled device imagers can provide excellent performance in terms of spatial resolution, sensitivity and dynamic range. Improvements in the fabrication of the primary converter, either scintillator or phosphor, mean that it is becoming possible to dispense with prestorage intensifiers and still provide outstanding low-level signal performance. Structured CsI scintillators are presented as one method of providing high efficiency and excellent spatial resolving power for this primary converter. Characterization of detector performance, in terms of such parameters as the detective quantum efficiency, point-spread function and dynamic range, needs to be directly related to the specific application of the detector. This contribution emphasizes the interplay of these parameters in the optimum design of detector systems. Performance prediction, based on measurements taken from prototype development systems, illustrates how such detectors will meet the exacting requirements of macromolecular crystallography.
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