updated 03:10 am EDT, Thu October 7, 2010
Sony 16MP cameraphone sensor due in months
Sony tonight unveiled camera sensors that it says could overcome many of the traditional barriers for phone cameras. The 16.41-megapixel IMX081PQ is Sony's first Exmor R-based CMOS sensor for a phone and uses the back-illuminated sensor to cut back significantly on noise. A unique photo diode positioning has let Sony achieve high image quality even with photo cells as small as 1.13 micrometers.
Even with the density, the sensor can still shoot 1080p video at 30 frames per second. A new, very thin lens system keeps the thickness to 7.9mm (0.31in), which while not thin doesn't protrude as much as previous phones.
Another, noticeably smaller 8.13-megapixel design, the IMX105PQ, is tailored for smartphones where space is at a high premium. Combined with its own thin lens, it could fit into a 5.67mm space while still offering most of the benefits of the 16.4-megapixel option, including the Exmor R design and high light sensitivity.
Sample production of the 16.41-megapixel and 8.13-megapixel sensors won't ship until January and April respectively, when individual sensors will cost $30 and $18 without a lens. Adding the optics will boost the prices to $145 and $97. These prices should fall significantly once the devices are made in large volumes and discounted for the economy of scale.
No customers are known, other than likely Sony Ericsson, but the sensors could be serious contenders versus the OmniVision sensors that have been staples of the iPhone since launch. Apple isn't so far expected to adopt Sony's sensors, but it has been a fan of image quality over sheer resolution and may be eager to offer both in a phone. OmniVision hasn't yet directly responded with an alternative.