Sony's monstrous 48 megapixel sensor could boost iPhone camera

Sony 48MP IMX586 CMOS sensor

Sony 48MP IMX586 CMOS sensor

On July 23, the company announced its all-new IMX586 sensor that features the highest megapixel count and smallest pixel size we've seen on a mobile sensor to-date. It also offers the world's first ultra-compact pixel size of 0.8 μm. This amount is even superior to Google's Pixel 2 XL which at 1.4 microns is now one of the best low-light smartphone cameras available. Pixels in a smartphone camera sensor are generally larger than 1 μm; the Pixel 2's sensor, for example, features 1.4-μm pixels.

It believes the new complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) IMX586 sensor, capable of delivering an image resolution of 8000 x 6000, will achieve that.

Moreover, the press release details that the increased pixel count will manage to capture extreme high-quality photos amid the digital zoom. The IMX586 packs an impressive 48 MP on an 8mm diagonal unit with each each pixel measuring just 0.8 microns. In low light situations, such as shooting at night, the signal from the four adjacent pixels are added, raising the sensitivity to a level equivalent to that of 1.6 μm pixels (12 effective megapixels), to capture bright, low-noise photos and videos.

Sony 48MP CMOS sensor
Conventional image vs. IMX586 image

However, the new sensor, called IMX586, counters that effect with the introduction of a Quad Bayer color filter. Of course, this isn't ideal for daytime shots, so the image signal processor will perform array conversion in brighter environments for more detailed images with the 48MP resolution.

Sony has also built the exposure control technology and signal processing functionality into the image sensor, allowing real-time output and a superior dynamic range that is four times greater than conventional camera sensors.

Sony will start shipping samples of the IMX586 camera sensor in September 2018, which means that the first smartphones sporting this sensor are expected to ship in early 2019.

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