Camera sensors and lenses for smartphones should work in a very tight space, but they continue to close the digital camera gap for full-size digital cameras each year. Sony’s new IMX586 sensor has a 48-megapixel resolution, which is the highest yet for a mobile phone’s sensors, and shortly it will be coming to a nearby phone soon.
This increase in quality reduces the pixel size to 0.8 microns, which usually results in lower sensitivity and poor light collection. However, due to the clever technology called the Quad Bayer array, where the adjacent pixels are merged intelligently, Sony says the effective pixel size is 1.6 Microns.
Higher the pixel size, better the captured light and low-light performance. For comparison, Google Pixel 2 – one of the best cameras in phones on the market right now – has a 1.4-micron pixel size.
On paper, this means Sony can produce a sensor that combines the enormous amount of detail with good light capture with low noise levels. We’ll have to wait until the sensors really come into the market to know for sure, but the signs are good.
Of course, you also have to think about the choice of lenses and image processing algorithms added in the phone by each manufacturer, but it seems IMX586 will provide a solid foundation for next-generation phone cameras.
Sony said that “Sony’s exposure control technology and signal processing function are embedded in the image sensor, which allows for real-time output and four times the power of conventional devices.” Even scenes with bright and dark areas can also be captured with little distortion or missing details in shadows.
CMOS sensor pre-assemblies measure 8 mm diagonal (0.31 inches) so it can fit even the smartest design of the smartphone. Many manufacturers use Sony’s sensors in their phones, including Samsung and Huawei, although Sony has always kept its last sensor for its own handset.
The sensor also captures 4K video at 90 seconds per frame, so you have to cover both pictures and movies if the next-generation smartphone has a Sony IMX586. Samples are shipped from September, so they may get the phones next year.
An area where proper DSLR camera still has the edge is optical zoom: there is no room in the optical smartphone that is needed. A double-sensor camera has been started to get around the problem, but it will take a long time for smartphones to catch up with the department.