Sony is all set to start a new chapter in the history of smartphone cameras with their 48 MP camera sensor, the IMX586
Sony launched the world’s first 48 Mega Pixel Sensor for smartphones, in a recently held event. If you don’t know, the camera sensors in the smartphones you are using, regardless of the brand, are manufactured by Sony. Although there are other great options such as the Leica sensors used in Huawei’s for their high-end smartphones like Huawei P20, Sony’s new feat- IMX586 is commendable considering the sensor’s extraordinary capacity and Sony’s attempts to beat its own high record. The newly launched product is a Stacked CMOS Image Sensor with industry’s highest 48 effective Mega-Pixels.
Background to IMX586
Some years ago, before it was sold to Microsoft, Nokia also had released a smartphone with a 41 mega-pixels sensor. It was a big achievement at that time as most high-end smartphones of the time featured only a 13 MP or a 16 MP camera, at the highest range. Then Sony began to release smartphones with 21 megapixels sensors. It was not quite a success because Samsung and LG were using 13 MP or 16 MP cameras that produced pretty good quality images.
Shift of focus from Mega Pixels to Sensors and back to Mega Pixels
Then came a phase where smartphone companies stopped the megapixel-war and worked on to provide sensors with high pixel size sensors. With that, the megapixel size again reduced to 12 or 13 megapixels. Now, a good smartphone has a maximum of 16 MP sensors. What is the highlight of the new Sony IMX 586 is that it features an earth-staggering 48 MP sensor which is the first of its kind in the smartphone market.
The relevance of such a high sensor smartphone lies in the fact that, these days, people prefer smartphone-camera over a DSLR camera because of its compactness and easy photo-sharing options. The image quality from the smartphones also has improved considerably over the period and one can compare the quality to that of beginner level point-and-shoot cameras and DSLRs.
IMX586 – What to expect?
The pixel size on the new Sony IMX586 is not large. While regular smartphone camera sensors have a pixel size of 1.2 μm to 1.4 μm pixel size, the Sony IMX 586 has only 0.8 μm ultra- compact pixel size. It means that the Sony sensor would not perform great in low light conditions but would deliver images will great detail in well-lit circumstances. Even at 100% zoom-in, it will have great details because of its 48 Megapixels which is four times higher than the normal sensors.
Sony’s claims about the IMX586
According to Sony, the new technology, known as the Quad Bayer Array, enables the sensor to produce images with both high sensitivity and high resolution. In this technology, the adjacent 2*2 pixels come in the same color. Sony says, while shooting out-door photos in the daylight, the built-in original signal processing array conversion makes it possible to obtain a 48 MP high definition images in real time. In the low light conditions, such as shooting at night, the signal from the four adjacent pixels are added, which raises the sensitivity to a level equivalent to that of a 1.6 μm pixels. It generates 12 MP pixels images with bright and noise-free images.
Sony also claims the new IMX 586 can produce four times greater dynamic-range than its previous model sensors and real-time output. Sony has built in its Original Sony exposure control technology and signal processing function which enables a real-time output and a superior dynamic range which is four times greater than the conventional products.
Sony has not yet announced the smartphone where the sensor will be first featured and launched. However, there is a rumour that Sony XZ3 will be the first smartphones to feature this sensor. Sony’s 2018 flagships were not really able to compete with other manufacturers’ flagships because of its design and build materials. Let’s see if IMX 586 sensor changes the past record for good.