Meet Sony IMX586, sensor powering 48MP camera phones like OnePlus 7 Pro, Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro and more
48-megapixel camera phones are all the rage in the smartphone space. From premium OnePlus 7 Pro to budget Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro, a number of phones now offer 48-megapixel camera. The real star of such 48-megapixel camera phones is Sony's IMX586 sensor.
Launched in 2018, Sony's IMX586 sensor was then the world's highest resolution sensor for phone cameras. The sensor features 48 effective megapixels and an ultra-compact pixel size of 0.8-micron pixels. It uses "Quad Bayer" colour filter array to embed high sensitivity and high resolution in photos.
"Generally, miniaturisation of pixels results in poor light collecting efficiency per pixel, accompanied by a drop in sensitivity and volume of saturation signal. This product was designed and manufactured with techniques that improve light collection efficiency and photoelectric conversion efficiency over conventional products, resulting in the world's first 3 0.8 μm pixel size, with both high sensitivity and high saturation signal level," Sony explained in its post last year.
"Original Sony exposure control technology and signal processing functionality are built into the image sensor, enabling real-time output and a superior dynamic range that is four times greater than conventional products. Even scenes with both bright and dark areas can be captured with minimal highlight blowout or loss of detail in shadows while viewing the image on the smartphone display," it added.
Since its launch, phones such as Huawei P30 Pro, Realme X, Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro and Oppo Reno have launched in the market. Looking at the trend, more phones will launch with the sensor later this year.
Long wait for 40MP and above phones
Megapixel counts don't really much if you don't have good sensors under the hood. For instance, Apple iPhone X's dual 12-megapixel cameras are much better than twice the megapixel cameras offered on low-end phones. That said, it took almost seven years for smartphone companies to standardise 40-megapixel and above resolution since the launch of Nokia 808 PureView in 2012. At its time, Nokia 808 PureView, a candybar feature phone, offered the largest ever sensor on a phone. It offered 41 MP image sensor with high-performance Carl Zeiss optics.
What's next for smartphone cameras?
Things look really good for mobile photography enthusiasts. Samsung recently launched ISOCELL Bright GW1 image sensor which brings 64-megapixel resolution.
Samsung claims its latest sensor is capable of delivering brighter images in low-light conditions and more details in brighter settings. The sensor also comes with support for real-time HDR of up to 100-decibles for more detailed colours.
According to Counterpoint Research, smartphone companies are going to launch 64-megapixel camera phones. The research firm also predicted that the phones will be able to achieve 100-megapixel camera resolution by end of the next year.
"In 2020, we expect smartphones with camera resolutions of 100MP and more. Google does not even have dual cameras in its flagship Pixel phones and was relying on the stellar image quality through software. However, with the premium segment increasingly adopting dual camera sensors, Google will be under pressure to integrate this into their upcoming flagships," said Hanish Bhatia, Senior Analyst, Devices and Ecosystem, Counterpoint Research.