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:
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.