Toshiba Announces Ultra-Small 13MP CMOS Image Sensor for Mobile Devices


Smartphones are getting smaller, well thinner at least, with each new generation. The popularity of the phablet devices may result in ever-increasing screen sizes, but users are demanding that these devices be thinner and lighter, and manufacturers are responding. Toshiba, a manufacturer of tablets themselves, provides internal hardware pieces for many other manufacturers. In a press release this week, the Toshiba America Electronic Components subsidiary announced a new 13MP CMOS image sensor for mobile devices.

What makes this sensor special isn't its abilities, but rather its size. The 1.12 micrometer pixel image sensor features 13MP resolution, color noise reduction, and backlight illumination. All of this is packed into an area of only 8.5 square millimeters, and offers the quality of a larger 1.4 micrometer sensor. A general rule is that as pixel size goes down, quality goes down with it as well. Toshiba says they have overcome that obstacle, and have created a sensor of a much smaller pixel size with no reduction in quality. The sensor's backlight illumination should also help it perform well in low-light situations.

The sensor will begin trials in December of 2012, but it will likely be several months before it is available for production. There was no word in the press release on what companies have signed on to use the new sensor, but it's likely that Toshiba will release a partnership list following next months trials.

The full text of the press release:

Toshiba Announces 13 Mega Pixel, 1.12 Micrometer, CMOS Image Sensor With Color Noise Reduction That Improves Image Quality

Company's new CMOS image sensor created with on-circuit color noise reduction lowers pixel noise and improves image quality on smartphones, mobile devices

SAN JOSE, Calif., Nov. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. (TAEC)*, a committed leader that collaborates with technology companies to create breakthrough designs, announced a new 13 mega pixel, 1.12 micrometer, CMOS image sensor delivering high-image quality equivalent to a 1.4 micrometer pixel image sensor. Toshiba implemented back side illumination (BSI) technology and integrated color noise reduction (CNR) to develop its newest CMOS image sensor that fits into an 8.5mm x 8.5mm size camera module and enables high-quality pictures even in low-light conditions.

"As mobile devices like smartphones and tablets get smaller and thinner, the pixel size of image sensors needs to shrink accordingly," said Andrew Burt, vice president of the Analog and Imaging Business Unit, System LSI Group at TAEC. "However, the miniaturization of pixel size reduces the amount of light entering into the pixel which impacts image quality. Toshiba addresses the challenge of pixel miniaturization with its newest CMOS image sensor."

The miniaturization of pixel size impacts performance of light sensitivity and signal to noise ratio (SNR) in today's 1.12 micrometer pixel image sensors. BSI technology helps improve sensitivity, but falls short on elevating image quality. Leveraging its innovation and technology expertise, Toshiba developed its newest CMOS image sensor with BSI and CNR integrated on the sensor to address both low-light sensitivity and SNR. As a result, the Toshiba CMOS image sensor provides approximately 1 ½ times higher SNR value1 than a 1.12 micrometer pixel image sensor with no CNR feature allowing manufacturers to deliver products with high-quality imagery, even in low-light conditions.

Pricing and Availability

Samples of the Toshiba 13 mega pixel, 1.12 micrometer CMOS image sensor, part number T4K37, will be available in December 2012. Sample pricing begins at $20.00 (U.S.). For more information go to:

Source: Toshiba

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About the Author

Kody Frazier

Kody Frazier is a freelance journalist focused primarily on mobile technology.