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
107 months ago
This means we can go EVEN THINNER
and still have a protruding lens
but THINNER
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gavroche Avatar
107 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
107 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
107 months ago
Yes, I want 4k video on a 16GB iPhone...not :eek:
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Sonmi451 Avatar
107 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
107 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)

Popular Stories

Multi Display CarPlay 1

Apple Launching All-New CarPlay Experience Later This Year With These 5 Features

Sunday January 29, 2023 10:15 am PST by
In June 2022, Apple previewed the next generation of CarPlay, promising deeper integration with vehicle functions like A/C and FM radio, support for multiple displays across the dashboard, personalization options, and more. Apple says the first vehicles with support for the next-generation CarPlay experience will be announced in late 2023, with committed automakers including Acura, Audi,...
dewey airtag

Report Highlights Danger of Using AirTags for Tracking Dogs

Monday January 30, 2023 1:45 pm PST by
AirTags may be a convenient way for tracking dogs that might get off leash or otherwise lost, but there are dangers associated with the practice, as outlined by a report from The Wall Street Journal. At 1.26 inches in diameter, AirTags are able to fit easily on a dog's collar, but that size also makes the tracking devices small enough to swallow, at least for a medium to large-sized dog, and ...
maxresdefault

Kuo: Apple to Release Foldable iPad With Carbon Fiber Kickstand in 2024

Monday January 30, 2023 12:55 am PST by
Apple will launch a foldable iPad with a carbon fiber kickstand sometime next year, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. In a series of tweets, Kuo said he expects an "all-new design foldable iPad" to be the next big product launch in the iPad lineup, with no other major iPad releases in the next nine to 12 months. The analyst said he...
tim cook data privacy day

Apple Violated U.S. Labor Laws With Anti-Leak Email

Monday January 30, 2023 3:43 pm PST by
Apple violated United States labor laws when it sent out an email warning employees about leaking confidential information about the company, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said today in a ruling shared by Bloomberg. Rules that Apple has established around leaks "tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees" from the exercise of their rights under the National Labor...
top stories 28jan2023

Top Stories: iOS 16.3 Released, iPhone 15 Pro Rumors, macOS Tips and Tricks, and More

Saturday January 28, 2023 6:00 am PST by
Following last week's hardware announcements, this week saw the actual release of several of the new products as well as operating system updates bringing new features and bug fixes across Apple's platforms. This week also saw some fresh rumors about the iPhone 15 lineup and Apple's upcoming AR/VR headset, while we shared some tips to help you get the most of your macOS experience, so read...
iphone 15 pro wifi 6e

Internal Apple Document From Leaker 'Unknownz21' Confirms Wi-Fi 6E Will Be Limited to iPhone 15 Pro Models

Friday January 27, 2023 10:01 am PST by
Multiple rumors have suggested that the next-generation iPhone 15 models will adopt the Wi-Fi 6E standard that Apple has already introduced in the iPad Pro and MacBook Pro, and now a leaked document appears to confirm Apple's plans. Sourced from researcher and Apple leaker Unknownz21 (@URedditor), the document features diagrams of the iPhone 15's antenna architecture. D8x refers to the...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Side Perspective Feature Purple

iPhone 15 Pro Rumored to Have These 8 Features

Friday January 27, 2023 2:11 pm PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are expected to be announced in September as usual. Already, rumors suggest the devices will have at least eight exclusive features not available on the standard iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. An overview of the eight features rumored to be exclusive to iPhone 15 Pro models:A17 chip: iPhone 15 Pro models will be equipped with an A17...