Sony unveils a 21-megapixel image sensor that cuts down on size but improves image quality

image Sony Exmor RS

One of Apple’s suppliers, Sony, a household name all on its own, has recently unveiled a brand new image sensor that packs in the megapixels, cuts down on size and also manages to improve overall image quality.

This new image sensor is the Exmor RS IMX230, and it’s designed to work in smartphones. It is designed following a “stacked” design, which is meant to cut down on the overall size of the sensor setup, while at the same time boosting speeds a bit, and improving the image quality captured by the sensor. Sony is a common name within the image sensors equipped within Apple-branded iPhones and iPads, so this new sensor could very well find its way into new mobile devices from the company at some point down the road.

image Sony Exmor RS3

With the new sensor, Sony has stacked the pixel section over the circuit section, which Sony says allows for the company to build improvements within each section of the sensor individually. The goal is to boost improvements across the board, and this specific construction for the sensor is one way to accomplish that. While Sony has been using stacked sensor technology for at least a couple of years, this is the first time that the sensors have seen a substantial increase in HDR technology, along with improvements to autofocus.

This new sensor is said to track moving objects faster than ever before, thanks to the 192 autofocus points and plane phase detection autofocus signal processing. The new sensor is built to snap full 21-megapixel photos, while it is also able to capture full 4K HDR video.

The new IMX230 is a type 1/2.4 stacked CMOS image sensor with a significantly improved 21 effective megapixels, and it is also equipped with a newly developed signal processing function. These features fulfill the growing needs in smartphone photography for high-speed autofocus (image plane phase detection AF) and clear, high-quality capture of bright and dark areas even in backlit scenes (HDR imaging). Image plane phase detection AF is a technology used in mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, and HDR imaging now supports not only 4K (4096 x 2160) high-resolution videos but also still images.

image Sony Exmor RS2

As far as when, or if, this particular sensor will get used within an Apple iPhone or iPad, the consensus seems to be that Apple could use a sibling sensor, the 16MP IMX240, sooner, perhaps as early as the iPhone 6s and the next-generation iPhone 6 Plus. This particular sensor, if used at all, could see the light of day within the iPhone lineup that launches in 2016.

[via Sony]