Sony unveils 48MP camera sensor for smartphones

Sony IMX586 will cram 48 megapixels into smartphone cameras

High resolutions on tiny sensors usually mean disappointingly noisy images, but Sony claims that the industry-first 0.8-µm bit buckets on the IMX586 were "designed and manufactured with techniques that improve light collection efficiency and photoelectric conversion efficiency over conventional products", possibly leading to crisp images despite the tiny individual pixel wells. Pixels in a smartphone camera sensor are generally larger than 1 μm; the Pixel 2's sensor, for example, features 1.4-μm pixels.

Sony said in a press release the increased pixel count will enable high-quality photos even when devices are using digital zoom.

In a blog post, the company went on: "These days, high-end smartphone models require even greater imaging quality from their cameras". When shooting in low light, the data from these 4-pixel grids are combined and interpreted as 1.6μm pixels with double the size, allowing bright, low-noise 12-megapixel photos to be captured. On the contrary, Huwaei P20 is only able to achieve 40MP sensor which also packs a Quad Bayer arrangement.

Sony has revealed a new image sensor that is made specifically for smartphones called the IMX586. In fact, more megapixels can actually work against photos taken in low light.




The IMX586 adopts a Quad Bayer color filter array which manages to combine adjacent 2×2 pixels.

While Sony's smartphones have not been performing well in sales, there's one market where the company has been on top - camera sensors.

Sony exposure control technology and signal processing functionality is built into the chip.

Sony's image sensor business so far has been quite profitable racking in $5.9 billion in revenues in 2017. Last but not least, IMX586 also boasts full-resolution burst shooting at up to 30 frames per second and true-4K (4096 x 2160) video recording at 90 fps.

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