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Sony announces next generation CMOS camera sensor for smartphones

24 January 2012 by
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Sony today announced the next generation CMOS sensor with 8 and 16 megapixel resolution. Both sensors will have RGBWhite coding and HDR Move function

Sony announces next generation CMOS sensor for smartphones

The last time we heard from Sony about new camera sensors was when the Japanese company back in 2010 introduced two CMOS sensors with 8 and 16 megapixels resolution. Those were all back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensors and we are guessing the 8 megapixel sensor was used in the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and probably the iPhone 4S. So far, we have not seen a smartphone from Sony with a 16 megapixel sensor. The only smartphone we know of with this high resolution is the HTC Titan II announced at CES earlier this month. But that model has an aperture of f/2.6 which is a little larger than those Sony can offer.

Sony's announcement today was about the development of a new type of sensor. The company revealed that samples of the first 8 megapixel sensor will be available in March this year.

We are not fond of adding more pixels and decreasing the image sensor size without improving the other features that makes a camera good. And thankfull, Sony has not increased the megapixels to 16, but instead stopped at 13 MP (this time). The lens quality and camera handling are things we would like to see improved before more megapixels are added to a phone.

The breaking news of today is that Sony now has been able to move the previously surrounding circuit section below the actual pixel section and therefore made it possible to have the photosites where the photons (light) are collected stacked closer together.

Sony back-light CMOS image sensor for smartphones  

Today's announcement is not only about pixel density. Sony also introduced something they call RGBW Coding function and HDR Move function.

The RGB Coding feature adds white pixels to the traditional Red-Green-Blue method. The new function allows images to be captured with low noise in low-light conditions. The illustration image of the cake below shows a conventional RGB method and the new RGBW method. The addition of white pixels used to be a problem because it degrades image quality but Sony claims they have solved this now. The advantage with the extra white pixel is that the sensitivity improves.

Sony introduces RGBW white sensor method 

HDR Movie function is the other new feature Sony has added to their new sensors. HDR = High Dynamic Range. If you do not know what HDR is, you should take a look at the user contributed images over in the Esato forum. As you can see from those images, it is easy to overdo the HDR effect. It will be less contrast and HDR photos will loose image info in the darkest and lightest areas of the image. Very dark parts of an image will be lightened and the lightest parts of the image will be darkened. A common way to produce HDR still images is by taking several images where half of them are very dark and the other half is very light and later merge them together with image editing software. Making HDR images using still images is one thing. Doing it in real time when shooting a video is something completely different. One way is to use two parallel cameras like in this Youtube video or now using the new Sony sensor. 

 

Sony will have a 8 megapixel 1/4 stacked CMOS sensor without RGBW and HDR available in March and a 13 megapixel 1/3.06 stacked CMOS sensor with RGBW and HDR Movie ready in June 2012. The 1/4 stacked CMOS sensor with RGBW and HDR will be available in August 2012. We do not expect any of these sensors to be shipped in smartphones before next year.

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Bonovox10 years, 10 months ago
I hope 16 megs is where mega pixel race stops.
hibiskus10 years, 10 months ago
gief ultra high quality lens and we will be satisfied
chunkybeats10 years, 10 months ago
They really need to bring back lens covers to phones as they really did protect the lens. I dont care if doesnt look cool Sony dont need to look like every other brand out there and be different!
razec10 years, 10 months ago

On 2012-01-24 21:11:14, chunkybeats wrote:
They really need to bring back lens covers to phones as they really did protect the lens. I dont care if doesnt look cool Sony dont need to look like every other brand out there and be different!

I haven't seen an SE cameraphone with an ugly lens cover but then again dual front design is dead until Sony realizes that this is one of SE's main points for differentiation


I hope 16 megs is where mega pixel race stops.

I don't mind if we see 24.6MP camera in a phone, for as long as the technology for light sensitivity and signal processing constantly improves, besides we have ultra fast processors and ultra high density storages now so restricting ourselves to what we deem as "enough" will be counterproductive to the constantly evolving technology world. for example we may live in 80s and say we don't need digital images since film cameras were enough for everything a photographer needs.
laffen10 years, 10 months ago
There is no real use for a 16 megapixel sensor with the exact same quality as one with 12 megapixels. The only thing you will achieve is a larger file size which requires more storage capacity. Pixel peepers that like to stare at images at 100% magnification will of course see differences. Most people will use the file as it is, without cropping the image to take advantage of the extra pixels. In the near future, I think we will see more specialized phones with better photo quality than the rest, but I do think most phones will have a image resolution of 8-12 megapixels. I also think ISO sensitivity will become more important sales argument for future camera phones.
shaoran10 years, 10 months ago

On 2012-01-26 05:15:48, razec wrote:

On 2012-01-24 21:11:14, chunkybeats wrote:
They really need to bring back lens covers to phones as they really did protect the lens. I dont care if doesnt look cool Sony dont need to look like every other brand out there and be different!

I haven't seen an SE cameraphone with an ugly lens cover but then again dual front design is dead until Sony realizes that this is one of SE's main points for differentiation

So...u mean they will make that design again right???
Bonovox10 years, 10 months ago
You only really need larger mega pixels for printing big. A good example of excellent image quality at just 5 mega pixels is the Samsung Wave II. So you don't always need more mega pixels.
razec10 years, 10 months ago

On 2012-01-26 10:21:35, shaoran wrote:

On 2012-01-26 05:15:48, razec wrote:

On 2012-01-24 21:11:14, chunkybeats wrote:
They really need to bring back lens covers to phones as they really did protect the lens. I dont care if doesnt look cool Sony dont need to look like every other brand out there and be different!

I haven't seen an SE cameraphone with an ugly lens cover but then again dual front design is dead until Sony realizes that this is one of SE's main points for differentiation

So...u mean they will make that design again right???

Nope I don't mean it that way, just like you I wanted Sony to revive dualfront design and bring back lens covers on cameraphones
adsada10 years, 10 months ago
On the other hand, if they develop a camera with like 50+ megapixels, they could just advertise it as 10MP instead and say it has 10x optical zoom (however the maths works out) so you'd use the rest of the resolution to allow zooming in without enlarging the pixels...
shaoran10 years, 10 months ago
for me 12 mpix is just more than enough...if they make it with good lens n censor n processing software...3x optical zoom is a only bonus...

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