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Sony Likely to Provide Front-Facing Camera Sensors for Future iPhone

facetimeSony may provide Apple with image sensors for both the front and rear cameras in a future iPhone, according to a new report from Japanese business site Nikkei, which suggests that Apple and Sony are in negotiations that would double Sony's shipments to the Cupertino company in 2015.
The Japanese firm already supplies nearly all of the CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) sensors for the current iPhone models' rear-mounted main cameras. Apple is likely looking to switch to Sony sensors for the secondary camera on the screen side, used for taking self-portraits.
Sony recently purchased a new manufacturing plant, reportedly aimed at stepping up production in order to comply with Apple's request for more sensors. Sony will invest 35 billion yen in the facility, which will boost its monthly production capacity by 25 percent.

Since the iPhone 4s, Sony has supplied Apple with sensors for the iPhone's rear camera, while OmniVision has supplied the sensors for the front camera.

Historically, the iPhone's front camera has been of a significantly lower quality than its rear camera. For example, the rear camera in the iPhone 5s, which utilizes a sensor from Sony, is eight megapixels while the front camera is just 1.2 megapixels. While Apple has worked hard to improve the rear camera with each iteration of the iPhone, the front-facing camera has received little attention.

Sony, a camera manufacturer itself, is well-known for its impressive sensors and its work getting large, light-absorbing sensors into small cameras. Apple too has focused its efforts on improved sensors and low-light picture taking capabilities even as its competitors, like Nokia, aim to focus only on higher megapixels.

Apple has greatly improved its iPhone camera with each iteration, and the iPhone 5s, its best camera yet, utilizes a larger sensor with a lower aperture for higher quality low-light photos. It is likely that with Sony supplying sensors, the front-facing camera in a future iPhone could see some significant improvements as well.

It does not appear that the Sony-sourced front-facing camera sensors will make it into the iPhone 6 given the timeline specified in the article, and will instead be included in a future iPhone.

As for the iPhone 6, it remains unclear what camera improvements Apple may implement. While an initial rumor suggested the company would continue utilizing the 8-megapixel rear sensor in the iPhone 5s, a subsequent report pointed to a 10-megapixel or higher sensor for the rear-camera with an f/1.8 aperture and an improved lens filter.

Related roundup: iPhone 6

Top Rated Comments

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8 months ago
Yay!!! Now I can take crystal clear selfies
Rating: 11 Votes
8 months ago
I'm happy to see my 2nd favorite company supply cameras to my 1st favorite company. :)
Rating: 8 Votes
8 months ago

Apple should buy Sony. I heard they are in financial trouble. The possibility isn't impossible.


Sony are doing fine, they have some amazing cameras out and their upcoming OLED and 4k tv's are arguably the best coming to market highly impressing at CES.

Not to mention the amazing success they have had with the PS4 which has blown Microsofts offering away on a hardware front.

Also as one of Japan's most famous and largest companies which has branches in to a variety of technologies the government would never allow them to go down it would be just to damaging to an already perilous economy.

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If Sony start using more of their latest camera sensors then we are in for a pretty special camera on the next few iphones.

The thing about Nokia cameras is they over saturate and that is what people are used to seeing on screens being sold to them. The Nokia phones ramp up the vibrancy so greens look like what we all imagine they do and skys are a deep blue, you lose natural gradations.
Rating: 6 Votes
8 months ago
Quote:

"Apple too has focused its efforts on improved sensors and low-light picture taking capabilities even as its competitors, like Nokia, aim to focus only on higher megapixels. "

(Emphasis by me.)

Well, to put it mildly, this is far from the truth...

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Kind of a strange article. First, this:



According to the DXOmark website, the top Nokia (808) has the top camera (barely) overall, while the Nokia 1020 is barely behind the iPhone 5S. Overall, the Nokias are slightly better at still photos, the 5S better at video. So, a strange thing to say.

That said, if people actually use the face-facing camera for Facetime videoconferencing, it makes sense for it to be at least ~3.6 MP and do a quality 720p. Do people actually use that feature much? I would rather they spent the time, effort, and money, on improving the low-light and high-contrast capabilities of the regular camera.


Agreed. The writer of this article may not really be into photography.
Rating: 4 Votes
8 months ago
Since selfies have become such a big deal this makes sense. A 5mp camera on the front would be great...but would space be an issue?
Rating: 2 Votes
8 months ago
Apple should buy Sony. I heard they are in financial trouble. The possibility isn't impossible.
Rating: 2 Votes
8 months ago
the front facing camera should have almost as good quality as the rear. a lot of people take more photos facing their way anyways. just my opinion.
Rating: 2 Votes
8 months ago

I don't care about the front facing camera. But an even bigger sensor in the "normal" one would be awesome (while staying at 8-10MP!)
Something like 1/2.3" should theoretically be possible (the nokia N8 had a 1/1.8", the Lumia 1020 has a 2/3" and the 808 Pureview even has a 1/1.2" sensor - the iphone 5s in comparison has a 1/3" sensor)


I truly care about both cameras. The rear for obvious reasons and the front for chatting with family and friends across the world. I can't wait to see the improvements in low-light and a general step up from what we currently have. The speed of 4G/LTE is not a bottleneck anymore in Europe, especially in Scandinavia, so I truly hope Apple will improve the front to really utilize the speed of our network.

However, what we still have a great issue with all around the world is latency.
Rating: 2 Votes
8 months ago

I'd rather have a higher bitrate camera on the main camera. That would be best.


This sentence is painful
Rating: 2 Votes
8 months ago

Shutter speed control is not an option since shutter speed is the only way to control the exposure so it needs to be automatic. There is no aperture on the lens. Everything is shot wide-open. Exposure lock would be nice.


I think you can also change the ISO which goes into the equation.

Also, while I dont know whether there are any aperture blades in the phone, isnt that part of the point of having M controls - to control exposure? Exposure doesnt need to be automatic - even if aperture and ISO are fixed, then changing the shutter speed will change your exposure, which may be precicely what the person wants.

But I do agree that having manual controls on a cellphone is total overkill, and just some kind of exposure compensation would be sufficient.

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Uh...source? Their CMOS sensors aren't exactly world-class performance.
They make a mediocre line up of digicams. The Alpha DSLRs are only catching up to par with Nikon and Canon offerings.


Those Nikons, the best ones, have Sony sensors. As do many other camera brands. And their A series SLRs are world class.
Rating: 1 Votes

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