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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.jpg
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.jpg
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.

Article Link: Apple Supplier Sony Debuts 21-Megapixel Image Sensor With Ultra Fast Autofocus, 4K HDR Video
 

brianvictor7

macrumors 65816
Oct 24, 2013
1,054
429
United States
And what does that actually get you in terms of photo quality?

Never mind. I just read the article. "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."

Okay, this is cool.
 

gavroche

macrumors 65816
Oct 25, 2007
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Left Coast
Megapixels matter far less to me than sensor size, and light sensitivity.
Say hello to 10-20mb image file sizes! :D
 

iolinux333

macrumors 68000
Feb 9, 2014
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The Xperia line of phones uses 21MP sensor, but whenever mentioned here it is quickly pointed out that Sony sensors are inferior to the sensor used in iPhone. I wonder what this means about the world.
 

Glassed Silver

macrumors 68020
Mar 10, 2007
2,096
2,567
Kassel, Germany
Okay Apple, time to fill those iMac 5k Retina screens, don't you think?

Wishlist bulletpoint.

Glassed Silver:mac

PS: Yes, MP matter. Anyone who wants to crop a part of an image and not be left with a forum avatar pictures sized thumbnail will agree.
 
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X5-452

macrumors 6502
Feb 16, 2006
483
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Calgary, Canada
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!
 

gavroche

macrumors 65816
Oct 25, 2007
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The Xperia line of phones uses 21MP sensor, but whenever mentioned here it is quickly pointed out that Sony sensors are inferior to the sensor used in iPhone. I wonder what this means about the world.

I haven't any idea what those people had told you... but i do know that a lot of people try to point out (rightly) that megapixels by and of itself is not a great indicator of quality. There are far more important factors to take into account. Other than that... i am not sure what comparisons they were making.
 
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gavroche

macrumors 65816
Oct 25, 2007
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Left Coast
PS: Yes, MP matter. Anyone who wants to crop a part of an image and not be left with an forum avatar pictures sized thumbnail will agree.

I personally would much prefer larger sensors to more megapixels. And some form of optical zoom would be sweet (although given Apple's obsession with thinness, very very unlikely).
 

Northgrove

macrumors 65816
Aug 3, 2010
1,152
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I wouldn't like more than 12-16 MP on smartphone photos. Way too large and just wasted space for my needs. Who prints poster sized smartphone photos anyway? Heck those resolutions are even enough for that too. What is the need for this? Even many prosumer DSLR's far better than this one don't do 21 MP photos. I'm currently sporting a Fujifilm X-T1 @ 16 MP right now and it made me stop lusting for full frame.
 

The Mercurian

macrumors 68020
Mar 17, 2012
2,153
2,440
"Apple supplier Sony" - is that all they are now, Apple suppliers ? Methinks this chip will be available to more than just Apple!
 

agsystems

macrumors 65816
Aug 1, 2013
1,203
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This means we can go EVEN THINNER
and still have a protruding lens
but THINNER

That's my fear - this will give license to Apple to go even thinner and still say they are improving quality - luckily the 6s will remain with the same casing so they will be able to fit this beauty.
 

JoEw

macrumors 68000
Nov 29, 2009
1,583
1,291
How thin are these new sensors? I think Apple has purposefully stayed at 8mp to keep shrinking the devices.
 

mdelvecchio

macrumors 68040
Sep 3, 2010
3,151
1,149
And what does that actually get you in terms of photo quality?

Never mind. I just read the article.

yeah its pretty amazing the way that works, reading.

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Btw, this chip will be on the iPhone 6s

says who?

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This means we can go EVEN THINNER
and still have a protruding lens
non-issue. haven't thought about that once on my 6.

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I personally would much prefer larger sensors to more megapixels. And some form of optical zoom would be sweet (although given Apple's obsession with thinness, very very unlikely).

optical zoom on an iphone aint never, ever happening.

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"Apple supplier Sony" - is that all they are now, Apple suppliers ? Methinks this chip will be available to more than just Apple!

you're reading it wrong. the statement that they are an Apple supplier is true, and appropriate in the context of an apple-oriented article. that statement does not exclude that they could be suppliers elsewhere.
 

mdelvecchio

macrumors 68040
Sep 3, 2010
3,151
1,149
That's my fear - this will give license to Apple to go even thinner and still say they are improving quality - luckily the 6s will remain with the same casing so they will be able to fit this beauty.

hate to break it to you, but the next-gen iPhone has already been in process, and isn't likely to use any new chips just announced. apple doesnt usually turn on a dime, and rarely w/ a brand new component.
 
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