Sony announces 48MP smartphone image sensor, the industry's highest

Posted July 25, 2018

Sony says the 48MP sensor will rival that of high-performance SLR cameras, making it possible to capture handsome high resolution images with a smartphone.

One of the "world's first" claims on the new sensor is that it has the smallest pixels - at 0.8µm. The increased pixel count will enable great imaging experience even on smartphones which use digital zoom. This smaller pixel size allows the new product to deliver 48 effective megapixels on a compact unit with 8.0 mm diagonal, which can be fitted on many smartphones.

The IMX586 adopts a Quad Bayer color filter array which manages to combine adjacent 2×2 pixels.

Once upon a time, smartphone cameras were judged by their megapixel counts. The IMX586 performs some DSP magic on the raw bits from its unusual Bayer color array to arrive at an impressive-sounding 48-effective-megapixel resolution.

So the IMX586 can take huge photos in well-lit situations, but cuts resolution to get extra detail out of more challenging conditions.

Sony IMX586 will cram 48 megapixels into smartphone cameras
Sony Has Released the Smartphone Industry’s First 48MP Sensor That Goes Beyond Recording 4K Footage at 60FPS

What this means is that even highly contrasted scenes featuring both bright and dark sections can be captured in detail with little highlight blowout.

'Generally, miniaturization of pixels results in poor light collecting efficiency per pixel, accompanied by a drop in sensitivity and volume of saturation signal, ' Sony says. Like all image sensors out there for smartphones, the IMX586 will also be able to record video at multiple resolutions including 4K at 90fps, 1080p at 240fps, and 720p at 480fps with crop.

To demonstrate the capabilities of the new sensor, the company posted an image of a cruise ship and compared the levels of detail between a 12 effective megapixel image and Sony's latest technology.

Naturally, this is a stacked sensor, meaning that the DRAM is combined with the sensor to give it processing power, like Sony's other recent sensors, so HDR video and super-slow motion are all likely to be possible.

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