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Sony creates record-smashing 16.4MP phone camera sensor

updated 03:10 am EDT, Thu October 7, 2010

Sony 16MP cameraphone sensor due in months

Sony tonight unveiled camera sensors that it says could overcome many of the traditional barriers for phone cameras. The 16.41-megapixel IMX081PQ is Sony's first Exmor R-based CMOS sensor for a phone and uses the back-illuminated sensor to cut back significantly on noise. A unique photo diode positioning has let Sony achieve high image quality even with photo cells as small as 1.13 micrometers.

Even with the density, the sensor can still shoot 1080p video at 30 frames per second. A new, very thin lens system keeps the thickness to 7.9mm (0.31in), which while not thin doesn't protrude as much as previous phones.

Another, noticeably smaller 8.13-megapixel design, the IMX105PQ, is tailored for smartphones where space is at a high premium. Combined with its own thin lens, it could fit into a 5.67mm space while still offering most of the benefits of the 16.4-megapixel option, including the Exmor R design and high light sensitivity.

Sample production of the 16.41-megapixel and 8.13-megapixel sensors won't ship until January and April respectively, when individual sensors will cost $30 and $18 without a lens. Adding the optics will boost the prices to $145 and $97. These prices should fall significantly once the devices are made in large volumes and discounted for the economy of scale.

No customers are known, other than likely Sony Ericsson, but the sensors could be serious contenders versus the OmniVision sensors that have been staples of the iPhone since launch. Apple isn't so far expected to adopt Sony's sensors, but it has been a fan of image quality over sheer resolution and may be eager to offer both in a phone. OmniVision hasn't yet directly responded with an alternative.

By Electronista Staff


  1. JeffHarris

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 1999



    Such miniscule, high megapixel sensors will produce lousy images.

    Why don't they focus on making a larger, lower megapixel sensors that will produce better images?

  1. darkelf

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2003


    "No customers are known..."

    But M.I.6 ordered a thousand. "007 goes through these gadgets like popcorn," commented Q.

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001



    Unlike most other electronics, the limiting factor for camera sensors is the lens and the actual properties of light, which you can't very much Moore's Law around.

    Given the lenses on even the best phones, I'm HIGHLY skeptical that a microscopic sensor like this could possibly get any usable detail out of a 16MP sensor. There's a reason that even APS-C sensors--which are probably several dozen times larger than this--usually come in at or below 16MP. h***, Panasonic came right out and said that 12MP was good for their m4/3 sensor, but for marketing reasons only they bumped the new GH2 up to 16.

    All this is going to do is have people taking blurry pictures that take up three times as much space. Stupid.

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    Forgot to add...

    I forgot to add: Even if you could get that much detail out of a camera phone, what the heck are you going to do with a 16MP image? I've actually sold 8.5x11 inch prints from a 4MP camera in art galleries, and even the 27" iMac screen is only about 4MP if you're not printing.

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