Sony Developing 3-Layer Stacked CMOS Image Sensor For Phones

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Sony has announced a brand new camera sensor for smartphones during the International Solid-State Circuits Conference 2017 (ISSCC). The announcement includes a very impressive video of super-slow-motion shots taken with the new sensor. Sony goes on to explain some of the other advantages the three-layer sensor will offer thanks to its newly-added 125MB DRAM layer.

By adding a DRAM layer to their chip, Sony claims that its new sensor can read a still image of 19.3 million pixels in 1/120 of a second. For comparison, Sony's previous IMX318 sensor chip completed the same task in 1/30 of a second. That's a 400% increase in speed. The company also included an example image with the announcement to show that there is no noticeable degradation in image quality, despite the increase in speed. The claim is that action shots – or other photos of objects or people moving at speed – should see a marked decrease in shutter lag and a noticeable improvement in quality.  More to the point, because the new sensor captures pixels four times faster, motion blur will be drastically reduced and greater detail in those photos can be obtained. Capturing stills is also not the only improvement gained from the new sensor's DRAM. The increase in pixel capture speed has implications for videos too and Sony has a video to prove it. The video shared by Sony shows a video captured in super-slow-motion by the new sensor at 960 FPS. The company also claims that the camera can shoot 1080 HD content at up to 1,000 FPS. Moreover, the new sensor allows for seamless combinations of slow-motion video in combination with real-time video.

Although there is no word on when the sensors will make their way into smartphones or even which smartphones may be considered, this is very good news for mobile photography enthusiasts and consumers alike. There have been many camera improvements over the last several years and many devices claim to have the best camera around, including last year's Google Pixel and Pixel XL. However, this new Sony sensor does seem to be a big improvement and will likely be beneficial to those who like to use their smartphones to shoot images and video.

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