Sony’s 21 megapixel Exmor RS IMX230 smartphone camera sensor looks to change the game for 2015



Sony this morning announced a new camera sensor made for smartphones that they’ll look to introduce starting April 2015. It’s the Sony Exmor RS IMX230, a stacked 21 megapixel CMOS sensor that features the world’s first image plane phase detection autofocus system that makes for super fast focusing.

Alongside fast focus, image plane phase detection helps improve focus tracking for fast-moving targets, something other smartphones look to handle with software but often aren’t up to scratch. Sony uses 192 different autofocus points to help achieve that, a mark rivaling what you’d find inside a mirrorless SLR camera.

Sony also mentioned that the sensor is capable of capturing high resolution HDR images, as well as capturing HDR-enhanced 4K HD footage (most phones will lower image quality to equip HDR capabilities). For comparison’s sake, they note that the 13 megapixel IMX135 sensor captures HDR images at 3.2 effective megapixels, while the IMX230 can grab the full capabilities of the sensor. Here’s a quick comparison shot to note the massive difference in image quality:

sony imx230 sample comparison

The achievement is such an important one as HDR technology becomes an industry standard for folks who want to capture images and footage with balanced lighting. So when’s it coming? Tough to say for sure. April 2015 availability of the sensor doesn’t mean we’ll be seeing it in smartphones that soon.

We imagine Sony will load their biggest 2015 flagships up with it when that time does come, though, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see other OEMs tap Sony for the sensor in various smartphones at its reasonable price of around $18 per unit. Sony is also planning a 16 megapixel unit with the same features, though that particular sensor isn’t expected to arrive until later in 2015. Unfortunately there aren’t any other samples to be had from Sony at this point, but we’ll be looking to chase some down as time goes on.

[via Sony]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. BEAST.

  2. That is one sick camera

  3. Seriously….given how the camera ends up performing for me with the Nexus….this could be my next phone (or whatever Xperia is out in 12 months from now). Every time Sony releases a new Xperia, I get mad that its never on AT&T. This camera is going to be awesome!

    1. The Xperia line usually works on AT&T if you buy the unlocked version.

      1. yeah I know….my problem is dropping money on the Nexus and talking my wife into being ok with dropping more money on a Sony just around the corner haha. Wouldnt be so bad on the Next Program.

        1. It’s only money! :D

    2. I think the nexus and xperia line have similar camera issues. The actual optics on the nexus line (at least for the 4 and 5) were kind of upper midrange but performed horribly while the xperia line has top of the line optics it tended to not perform as well as it should either. Both suffered from shoddy image processing. Say what you will about apple but they nail image processing every time. I remember being rather impressed with my nexus 5’s pics coming from a nexus 4 but was blown away by the picture quality on my friend’s 5s. And now that I’m using the oneplus one the pics are overall better but I can’t stand the lack of OIS. I think the perfect Android camera would be Sony’s G lens and image processing on apple’s level. Sorry for the long ramble.

  4. OIS?

    1. Ois is inside the lens, and has nothing to do with the sensor.

      1. With advanced sensors – and lenses – surely comes advanced software to run them. So, my point was, will this advanced setup come with nifty advances like OIS.

        1. It’s up to the phone manufacturer. They could use this sensor with or without OIS.

  5. Very impressive, so long as these are real samples.

  6. Hope they use this in the z4 ultra, my next phone.

    1. And on VZW that would be the Z4v which will actually end up being like a lame Z3 that they try to call a Z4 and which won’t have any of the Z4 cool pieces and parts – like this camera – by the time VZW is done with it.

      1. Haha I know the z2v was just odd, it even has Sony’s z2 software easter egg on it. I really hope that z4 ultra is real though man. That’ll end up being my first xperia and I really like what Sony has been doing lately.

      2. Keep crying.

  7. Great but don’t mess up the z4 with QHD display without compensating with a bigger battery.

    1. I think we can trust Sony to cram in a beefy battery cell. Although personally I wish they’d do that and just use a 1080p panel for amazing performance and battery. The only z4 that would really warrant the 2.5k would be the z4 ultra which would give it a reasonable 458ppi.

  8. Xperia Z4 Compact anyone?

    1. watch them put it in the “Sony z4 Xperia Tablet ultra+21” for all the Aunt Helens that take pics with tablets :S

    2. I really want a z4 ultra I don’t care if it gets this lens. It probably won’t though considering the sub par optics of the z ultra but I think it’s safe to assume that most of the z4 line will get this sensor.

    3. Or the regular Z4.

  9. Will S6, G4 & New/Newest HTC One (or whatver they want to call it) make the cut ? S6 & HTC One are out of question as their yearly cycle is Feb-Mar..

    1. It’s also up in the air whether or not the z4 line will get it either if they come out before April Sony’s own flagship’s won’t have this sensor. Although I really wouldn’t mind at this point I just want the z4 ultra in my hands ASAP.

  10. This is what innovation looks like. Sony +9000 and Crapple – 1000

    1. Well in all fairness apple uses sony’s exmor sensors in their iphones so your comment is invalid, sorry.

      1. Links confirming it with teardowns or gtfo, wiseguy.

        Btw, even if Apple has a Sony sensor in their iPhones that doesn’t invalidate Sony being innovative and Apple not being innovative since Sony created the sensor.

          1. Ughh when will Phandroid update their app to allow editing??

            IPhone 5s

        1. Did you just purposely make yourself look like an ass? It’s been widely known for years that they use Sony lenses.

    2. To be fair they both use Sony optics and oddly enough despite Sony and other Android OEM’s using superior lenses Apple’s image processing tends to more than make up for it, delivering comparable if not superior stills and videos. Still won’t make pick up an iPhone over a high end Android but it’s still worth noting.

  11. Who the f#%k is Owen?

  12. When someone tells me why the average person needs a 21 megapixel camera on a Smartphone, then ill call it a “gamechanger”. Maybe if I were a professional, but if I was a real professional I would just use a real camera.

    1. I’m more interested in sensor quality than megapixels at this point. This sensor seems to achieve both.

    2. Did you read the abilities of the lens and how the megapixel count is used, or is it just the usual argument that XX pixels are unnecessary?

      1. Its a valid argument. The average smartphone user will never use a high MP camera to its full ability anyways. Its a waste.

        1. People like to say this all the time on the internet, and it’s true that the average user can’t discern the differences between a good photo and a photo with imperfections, but the bottom line is anyone who takes pictures with their phone, wants to take pictures that look good. This kind of setup allows that. Again, it’s not just about the megapixel count.

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