The days of installing any old camera sensor into a smartphone, sticking the number of megapixels on the box and pushing it to customers are well and truly past us. We’ve seen many innovations when it comes to camera phones and indeed one of my favourite Android handsets, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, had at the time an innovative camera based around a 8 MP Sony Exmor R sensor. In three years, camera technology has come on in leaps and bounds: Sony’s current flagship handsets use a 20.7 MP Sony Exmor RS sensor, but an anonymous source has sent the Sony Alpha Rumors website information about Sony’s first APCS sensor. APCS stands for active pixel color sampling, but I need to clarify what this means. It means that each pixel sensor senses colors (red, green and blue) with the help of a moving electronic color filter, rather than via interpolation and the processing power that this requires. But I need to put this into perspective, because what I’ve just written is like detailing the ingredients of a cheesecake without explaining what it means! What it’ll mean at the sharp end of the camera is significantly higher frame rates, light sensitivity and color range, combined with lower battery use.
The leaked document details 4.8 MP sensors of 1.5-inch and 1.0-inch in size with the ability to record video at 2K resolution at 16,000 fps (sixteen thousand frames per second!). If you want to record at 4K resolution I’m afraid you’ll need to drop to just 240 fps. Because the sensor is capable of recording the full color spectrum with one pixel, the processor doesn’t have to interpret each individual color from the camera unit and the sensor takes a color HDR, high dynamic range, image with every shot. According to the photography websites I’ve seen, this implies that we’ll be able to enjoy large pixel, sensitive smartphone pictures without the issues we experience at low resolutions. Think: HTC’s UltraPixel technology without the drawbacks. However, as I’m sure my readers will appreciate, there’s quite a difference between a specification sheet detailing a new camera technology and actually seeing it in a device and using it.
When and where may we see the camera sensor used? I would expect it’ll appear in a Sony flagship device next year and Kristijan’s already mooted this. It’s looking more likely that Sony’s next camera will be more than a simple megapixel and sensitivity bump. And we likely only have a couple of months before we find out, too!