Sony has been an industry-leading smartphone camera manufacturer for many years now, and the company's top Exmor RS image sensors can be found in some of the most iconic smartphones on the market, including those released by companies such as Apple and Samsung. Needless to say, Sony has been working on a new CMOS image sensor for the year 2016, dubbed the Exmor RS IMX318. The sensor was announced in Japan earlier today, and Sony plans to start shipments in May.
Some of the new Exmor RS sensor's characteristics worthy of reaching the headlines include a built-in high-speed hybrid autofocus (AF) module which, as of February 16, is an industry first. The AF module can bring the subject into focus (from a distance of 2 meters to 2 cm) as fast as 0.03 seconds, assuming that the proper light conditions are met (2,000 lux or above). The sensor is also capable of autofocusing in as fast as 0.017 seconds when capturing videos at 60 frames per second. Speaking of recording videos, another characteristic worth mentioning is the IMX318's 3-axis electronic image stabilization technology built into the internal signal processor, which can be taken advantage of while capturing videos (again, an industry first).
Although the sensor size comes in at 1/2.6 inches, it also features the industry's smallest unit pixels, measuring a mere 1.0 micrometer each. The Exmor RS IMX230 announced in 2014 (and found on a number of smartphones including the Motorola Moto X Style) features a smaller 1/2.4 sensor, but also has larger pixels measuring 1.12 micrometers. Although generally speaking, a smaller sensor is better, the smaller pixel size on the new IMX316 compensates for the slightly larger sensor and brings the module's effective resolution to 22.5 megapixels. It's also worth noting that despite the smaller pixel size compared to the IMX230, Sony claims that the IMX318 does not suffer in terms of image quality thanks to new manufacturing technologies that improve light utilization efficiency and eliminates noise.
Other features worth pointing out include 4K video recording at 30fps, 1080p recording at 120fps, and 720p recording capabilities at 240fps. Aside from the 3-axis (video) image stabilization and hybrid AF module, the unit also benefits from HDR imaging, white spot correction, and lens resolution correction.
Sony expects to begin shipments of the IMX318 in May 2016, so we should expect the sensor to hit the shelves in commercially-available smartphones sometime in the second half of the year.