Sony’s New 13-MP CMOS Image Sensors With HDR Video Hints at The Possibility of Thinner iPhones

Sony’s backside-illuminated CMOS image sensors, newly out of the development stage, may further improve the quality of images and videos captured through smartphone cameras, and also help shrink the size of the camera module as a whole, leading to thinner devices.

Sony describes the new sensor technology as:

This image sensor layers the pixel section containing formations of back-illuminated structure pixels onto chips containing the circuit section for signal processing, which is in place of supporting substrates for conventional back-illuminated CMOS image sensors. This structure achieves further enhancement in image quality, superior functionalities and a more compact size that will lead to enhanced camera evolution.

Basically, placing the pixel layer on top of the sensor circuits reduces the size of the sensor. Camera modules have proved to be a major bottleneck in the process of thinning down a device, and the introduction of this sensor may lead to thinner iPhones eventually, provided battery technology keeps advancing.

Sony's new image sensors

The layered structure of the sensor, as 9 to 5 Mac points out, allows the pixel layer to be completely independent of the underlying circuitry, meaning that Apple could utilize its custom silicon (on which more than a thousand engineers are working) to achieve better performance and efficiency.

The sensor can record High Dynamic Range video, which allows the capture of varied colors even in bright environments.

And then there’s “RGBW Coding,” which doesn’t let badly lit surroundings come in the way of a good image. RGBW adds an extra white component to the standard RGB representation of images, which reduces noise and shoots better images. A comparison can be seen below:

rgb versus rgbw

Samples of the 8 MP sensor would start shipping in March this year, while the 13 MP sensors are scheduled to ship from June 2012.

Do you think these sensors would be used by Apple in the next iPhone?

[Sony via 9to5Mac]

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