Sony develops new camera tech for smartphones

Looks like Sony’s trying to claw its way up back to the top and smartphones may be a big part of their road map. Monday, Sony announced two new camera technologies that they would be leveraging in their new smartphones. Supposedly, the new cameras would utilize RGBW coding to make low-light pictures more vibrant.

Now, the second bit of tech is also pretty exciting. Sony calls it the HDR Movie function and as the name suggests, it allows the sensor in the camera to capture a HDR, or High Dynamic Range, video to make videos clearer in bright environments.

This is all pretty exciting news for all the users out there that always felt the camera on their phones could be a bit better. The truth is, these days, they really can. Especially with the advent of smartphones, all the gadgets we used to carry around are all being rolled up into one neat package. With that being the trend, it seems only logical that the camera, often just an afterthought to manufacturers, would see some marked improvement over time. Hats off to Sony for making it happen. Now Sony’s press release says they’ll be shipping out sample sensors in March, June, and August. Hopefully, we’ll see this new sensor action in their upcoming lineup of phones.

Sony Develops New “RGBW Coding” and “HDR Movie” Functions

- To be Equipped in First Release of New Stacked CMOS Image Sensors, To Begin Sample Shipment -

  Tokyo, Japan – January 23, 2012 – Sony Corporation (“Sony”) today announced the development of two CMOS image sensor models designed for use in smartphones and other devices. They are equipped with Sony’s unique “RGBW Coding” function which allows images to be captured with low noise and high picture quality even in low-light conditions. They also contain Sony’s “HDR (High Dynamic Range) Movie” function which allows brilliant color to be captured even in bright settings. Sony has also developed a model with built-in signal processing functionality, an element that usually requires external embedment. Sony has successfully developed new stacked CMOS image sensor technology that realizes higher image quality and superior functionality in a more compact size. The three newly developed next-generation back-illuminated CMOS image sensor models will be the first to utilize this technology. Samples will begin to successively ship starting March 2012.

Background of development (new functions)

  The recent proliferation of smartphones and other devices has increased casual shooting opportunities and there is demand for the evolution of cameras to be able to shoot in a diverse range of settings. In particular, consumers want to easily take pictures in low light conditions or those with both low and bright lights. Sony has incorporated its two newly developed models with its unique “RGBW Coding” function which enables high-sensitivity shooting even in low-light conditions and its “HDR Movie” function which can capture images or video across a broad dynamic range of low-light to bright-light conditions.

About the key functions incorporated in the new CMOS image sensors

1. Sony’s unique “RGBW Coding” function enabling clear shooting in dark rooms or at night The built-in “RGBW Coding” function which adds W (White) pixels to the conventional range of RGB (Red-Green-Blue) pixels has realized higher sensitivity, enabling high-quality shooting with low noise even in dark indoor or night settings.
While the addition of W (White) pixels improves sensitivity, it has the problem of degrading image quality. However, Sony’s own device technology and signal processing realizes superior sensitivity without hurting image quality. Furthermore, while the individual pixels of the newly developed models are extremely minute at 1.12μm, the incorporation of the “RBGW Coding” function has realized a SN ratio (signal-to-noise ratio) equivalent to that of a unit pixel size of 1.4μm under conventional methods, which in turn has enables the image sensors to achieve a higher resolution at a more compact size.
The new models are also able to output signals through the conventional RGB method, thus there is no need to change the signal processing adopted in existing devices.
2. “HDR (High Dynamic Range) Movie” function which enables brilliant colors to be captured even in bright settings The built-in “HDR Movie” function enables brilliant colors to be captured even in settings with a wide range of light including bright light.
Typically, when shooting with differing light levels, such as an indoor setting against a bright outdoor background, there can easily be blocked up shadows for dark areas or blown out highlights for bright areas. Such phenomena are a result of the combination of low-light and bright-light which have different optimal exposure conditions in the same shot. This function reduces this by setting two different exposure conditions within a singlescreen shooting and conducts the appropriate signal processing for the captured image information under each optimal exposure condition. This process generates an image with a broad dynamic range and enables shooting of both the background and subject matter with brilliant colors even in a bright environment.

Upcoming product launches (plan)

・ Type 1/4 Stacked CMOS Image Sensor with approx. 8.0 effective megapixels(equipped with camera signal processing function*1)
Sample shipments planned for March, 2012

・ Type 1/3.06 Stacked CMOS Image Sensor with approx. 13.0 effective megapixels(equipped with “RGBW Coding” and “HDR Movie” functions)
Sample shipments planned for June, 2012

・ Type 1/4 Stacked CMOS Image Sensor with approx. 8.0 effective megapixels(equipped with “RGBW Coding” and “HDR Movie” functions)
Sample shipments planned for August, 2012

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