Apple Supplier Sony Debuts 21-Megapixel Image Sensor With Ultra Fast Autofocus, 4K HDR Video

Sony today announced a new advanced image sensor designed for use in smartphones, which uses a new "stacked" design to cut down on size while introducing improved image quality and faster speeds. Apple uses Sony sensors in its iPhones and iPads, so it is likely that Sony's stacked sensor technology will make it into future iOS devices at some point.

The new 21-megapixel Exmor RS IMX230 sensor is built with a chip that stacks a pixel section and a circuit section on top of one another, which allows Sony to build improvements into each aspect of the sensor individually, leading to dramatic improvements. Sony's been using stacked sensor technology since 2012, but its newest sensor introduces new autofocus and HDR technology.

According to Sony, the IMX230 sensor is the first CMOS sensor for smartphones that includes plane phase detection autofocus signal processing with 192 autofocus points, resulting in much faster tracking of moving subjects that happens almost instantaneously.

192pointautofocus

Image plane phase detection AF function using 192 AF points

The sensor also includes support for full 21-megapixel HDR pictures and 4K HDR video, resulting in better lighting in high-contrast scenes. HDR or High Dynamic Range imaging captures separate images with different exposures, combining them into one image that improves detail and color.

The new IMX230 is a type 1/2.4 stacked CMOS image sensor with a significantly improved 21 effective megapixels, and it is also equipped with a newly developed signal processing function. These features fulfill the growing needs in smartphone photography for high-speed autofocus (image plane phase detection AF) and clear, high-quality capture of bright and dark areas even in backlit scenes (HDR imaging). Image plane phase detection AF is a technology used in mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, and HDR imaging now supports not only 4K (4096 x 2160) high-resolution videos but also still images.

hdrimprovements

HDR video from existing IMX135 sensor with 3.2 effective megapixels on left, IMX230 21-megapixel HDR image using IMX230

Sony is known for making some of the best image sensors available, and Apple has long used Sony sensors in its iOS devices. Sony's new image sensor will begin shipping in April of 2015, and while it is likely the new sensor technology will make its way into Apple's iPhones and iPads, it is unknown when that might occur.

Apple does not typically use high-megapixel sensors in its iPhone or iPad, but Sony is planning on producing a 16-megapixel version of the IMX230 in 2015, which would be appropriate for iOS devices. It's possible Apple could use the 16-megapixel version of the IMX230 in the 2015 iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, but it's also possible that the sensor won't be utilized until 2016 or later as Apple often uses slightly older sensors in its devices.

Tom's Hardware believes that the next-generation iPhone 6 and 6 Plus may incorporate either the upcoming 16-megapixel IMX240 sensor from Sony or the 13-megapixel IMX135, which Sony first introduced in January of 2013.

It's not known exactly which sensor is used in the current iPhone and iPad, but camera experts have speculated that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus use the Sony ISX014 sensor, an 8-megapixel sensor that Sony first introduced in October of 2012.

Top Rated Comments

Jack Delgado Avatar
89 months ago
This means we can go EVEN THINNER
and still have a protruding lens
but THINNER
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gavroche Avatar
89 months ago
Megapixels matter far less to me than sensor size, and light sensitivity.
Say hello to 10-20mb image file sizes! :D
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
X5-452 Avatar
89 months ago
At 16 or 21 MP images, Apple better have some sort of 256GB iPhone / iPad model somewhere in R&D to ensure there is enough space on the devices for those file sizes!
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AppleWarMachine Avatar
89 months ago
Yes, I want 4k video on a 16GB iPhone...not :eek:
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Sonmi451 Avatar
89 months ago
This means we can go EVEN THINNER
and still have a protruding lens
but THINNER

It just means people can troll harder.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Wuiffi Avatar
89 months ago
There are a few things everyone should know before talking about image sensors (especially in smartphones)
1. More Megapixels in smartphones (due to a very small pixel pitch) actually means a worse SNR (signal to noise ratio) than less megapixels, resulting in an overall worse image. This is due to wiring and other stuff "getting in the way" of the photons (And this can NOT be corrected by Downscaling)

2. The sensor it not the only important thing when it comes to image quality, you have to consider the whole image pipeline, optics, ISP etc

3. The size of a camera module depends on the sensor size and the focal length.
Wait, actually this is no longer important, now that we have a protruding camera. So Apple, give me a 1/2.4" or better 1.1.7" sensor :D

What I personally would like to see (maybe not 2015 but soon)
* bigger (1/2.4") sensor
* curved sensor with an alternative color layout (similar to Foveon or Sonys new patented color shift layer)
* 9-10MP (4k need about 8.4 MP and then people finally shut up about it ^^)
* other improvements in sensor technology
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

mac scanner permission error

Apple Says Fix Planned for 'You Do Not Have Permission to Open the Application' Error When Using a Scanner on Mac

Saturday August 14, 2021 6:15 am PDT by
In a newly published support document on its website, Apple has acknowledged an error that some users may receive when they try to use a scanner with a Mac in the Image Capture app, Preview app, or the Printers & Scanners section of System Preferences. A screenshot of the error message from the HP Support Community When attempting to use a scanner with a Mac, Apple said users might get an...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
Apple Prefer Lightning Over USB C Feature

iPhone Sticking With Lightning Port Over USB-C for 'Foreseeable Future'

Tuesday March 2, 2021 9:32 am PST by
Apple will retain the Lightning connector on the iPhone for the "foreseeable future," with no intention of switching to USB-C, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In spite of much of the industry moving toward USB-C, Apple will not be using it to replace the Lightning connector on the iPhone 13, or indeed on any iPhone model for the time being. In a note seen by MacRumors yesterday,...
apple california streaming event

Apple Event Announced: 'California Streaming' on September 14 With iPhone 13, Apple Watch Series 7 Expected

Tuesday September 7, 2021 9:03 am PDT by
Apple today announced that it will be holding a special event on Tuesday, September 14 at 10:00 a.m. The event will take place at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with WWDC and last year's fall events, this new event will be held digitally with no members of the media invited to attend in person. Apple will likely provide pre-taped segments for...
iOS 15 icon on phone

Apple Seeds Sixth Betas of iOS and iPadOS 15 to Developers

Tuesday August 17, 2021 10:05 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the sixth betas of iOS and iPadOS 15 to developers for testing purposes, with the updates coming one week after Apple released the fifth betas. Registered developers can download the profile for the iOS and iPadOS betas from the Apple Developer Center, and once the profile is installed, beta updates will be available over the air. iOS 15 is a major update that...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
omg lightning cable comparison

Security Researcher Develops Lightning Cable With Hidden Chip to Steal Passwords

Thursday September 2, 2021 6:59 am PDT by
A normal-looking Lightning cable that can used to steal data like passwords and send it to a hacker has been developed, Vice reports. The "OMG Cable" compared to Apple's Lightning to USB cable. The "OMG Cable" works exactly like a normal Lightning to USB cable and can log keystrokes from connected Mac keyboards, iPads, and iPhones, and then send this data to a bad actor who could be over a...
maroon5memories

Apple Collaborates With Maroon 5 to Add 'Memories' Song to Photos App

Wednesday September 25, 2019 12:02 pm PDT by
Apple has teamed up with Maroon 5 to add the group's new song "Memories" to the Memories feature in the Photos app, allowing it to be used for photo slide show creations, reports Billboard. "Memories" will be available as a soundtrack option for a limited time and it is available to iPhone and iPad users running the latest iOS 13 and iPadOS software. Memories in the Photos app are created ...
it home ecommerce app iphone 13

iPhone 13 to Launch on September 17, AirPods 3 on September 30, Claims Report

Wednesday August 25, 2021 2:42 am PDT by
Apple may be planning to launch the iPhone 13 on Friday, September 17 and third-generation AirPods on Thursday, September 30, according to an image of an e-commerce app discovered by Chinese language site IT Home. The screenshot, originally posted by Weibo account @PandaIsBald, suggests all four iPhone 13 models will go on sale on September 17, followed by the AirPods 3 on September 30....
Top Stories 75 Thumbnail

Top Stories: Last-Minute iPhone 13 Rumors, Apple Announces App Store Changes, and More

Saturday September 4, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
The finish line is in sight! Apple's annual iPhone event is likely just a week or so away and all eyes will be on the company as it unveils the next version of its most popular product line. With any luck, we'll also see the next-generation Apple Watch and perhaps even some new AirPods. Other news this week saw Apple making some more changes to its App Store policies in response to a...