Sony announces industry-first 48MP smartphone camera sensor

Sony IMX586 Image Sensor

The IMX586 sensor features the highest-ever pixel count for any smartphone image sensor, coming in at an effective 48 megapixels. The result should be bright, low noise images, Sony says.

The new sensor should also improve images on smartphones that use digital zoom rather than optical zoom.

Sony is labelling the new unit "compact" - it measures up at 8millimetres diagonally, meaning phones that adopt it should not have to carry a huge camera bump.

Recycling what works, Sony has also built its original exposure control technology and signal processing functionality into its latest image sensor.

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In many cases, higher resolution sensors are created to enable digital zoom and that's one of the functions that Sony is pushing with its new IMX586 sensor. This comes at the expense of resolution, though, resulting in - in the case of Sony's new sensor - 12-megapixel photos. Speaking of DSLR, this could effectively kill off the market as the new sensor features a Quad Bayer colour filter array.

While record-breakingly small pixels allow for higher-resolution images from a smaller sensor, larger pixels have more surface area and take in more light; the bigger the pixels, the better the low-light performance. Of course, this isn't ideal for daytime shots, so the image signal processor will perform array conversion in brighter environments for more detailed images with the 48MP resolution.

Finally, Sony says that this sensor is better placed for HDR capture because it has a four times great dynamic range than other sensors.

The company has confirmed that the sample shipments will begin from September, and the price of IMX586 CMOS image sensor will be JPY 3,000 (roughly Rs. 1,800) excluding additional taxes that vary with each country. It's possible that Apple could use this sensor in its future iPhones models.

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