updated 07:55 am EST, Mon January 23, 2012
Sony vows thinner, wide-range RGBW camera sensor
Sony started off the week by unveiling a new camera sensor that may be a clue as to both Sony and Apple plans. The backside-illuminated CMOS sensor stacks the pixel layer over the signal chip, shrinking the overall size. Image quality also benefits: with the two layers formed independently, and the pixel layer not having to compete for space with an analog logic chip, both the pixels and the signal chip layer can each be focused more on their respective tasks.
The sensor uses Sony's newest RGBW processing, which improves dynamic range and can be used for an HDR (high dynamic range) movie mode that Sony claims will preserve color accuracy even in bright light. New processing techniques help curb the extra noise that's introduced by the white pixel.
Both 13- and eight-megapixel versions of the sensor will be in test sampling as of March. Shipments are expected in June for the 13-megapixel version and August for the eight-megapixel edition. June may be close but could hint at possible Apple plans given the company's habitual mid-year iPhone updates. The iPhone 4S uses a Sony sensor, and none of the Xperia smartphones Sony has unveiled so far or is expected to show next month will necessarily use the new sensors.