Sony unveils 48MP camera sensor for smartphones

Sony announced Monday that it's designed the highest-resolution image sensor for phone cameras, offering 48 effective megapixels. Pixels in a smartphone camera sensor are generally larger than 1 μm; the Pixel 2's sensor, for example, features 1.4-μm pixels. Its IMX range of mobile image sensors, in particular, are highly prized even by the company's rival smartphone makers. But today, the Japanese company has successfully revolutionalized the smartphone camera industry. The pixels measure in at just 0.8 microns, which will be the smallest on the market when the sensor begins sampling this September.

So the IMX586 can take enormous photos in well-lit situations, but cuts resolution to get extra detail out of more challenging conditions. The Quad Bayer array enables both high sensitivity and high resolution By adopting the Quad Bayer color filter array, where the adjacent 2x2 pixels come in the same color, the new sensor delivers both high sensitivity and high resolution. As a result, scenes with both bright and dark areas can be captured with minimal highlight blowout or loss of detail in shadows. Long story short, it's able to produce images in low noises thanks to the integrated exposure control and signal processing functionality technology. Sony's new sensor compensates for its little pixels by use of what's called a Quad Bayer color filter array: in low light, groups of four adjacent pixels essentially act as one.

Sony hasn't said when we'll start seeing the IMX586 used in smartphones, but it's likely handsets will start to make use of it at some point next year. Going by the spec sheet, other features of the sensor include full frame burst capture at 30 fps and support for 4K video recording at 90 fps and 1080p video recording at 240 fps.

Sony's image sensor business so far has been quite profitable racking in $5.9 billion in revenues in 2017.