updated 08:00 pm EST, Thu February 2, 2012
STMicro STCF04 pumps phone camera flash power
STMicro this week unveiled a chip that could have a major impact on the quality of low-light photography in cameras and smartphones. The STCF04 elevates the peak power of an LED-based flash from a few Watts at most to over 40. To STMicro, the power is likened to that of a floodlight and could either compensate for a very dense and therefore dimmer camera sensor resolution or else reach much further than a typical phone flash.
The power comes mostly through a MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field effect transistor) switch with a high current. Combined with a supercapacitor, it can tolerate much more power. Choosing it also lets phone designers alternately go to smaller designs: instead of having to use a large Xenon flash, a phone could output the same amount of power with a considerably smaller LED flash.
Users or companies can tweak the power of the flash to eight different levels, or 12 if it's being used as a continuous flashlight.
Test samples are already going to companies now, with full-scale production expected before the end of March. Customers haven't been named, although STMicro has noted that a flash module supplier for "leading smartphone platforms" has been eager to use it.