Sony's monstrous 48 megapixel sensor could boost iPhone camera

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The IMX586 sensor features the highest-ever pixel count for any smartphone image sensor, coming in at an effective 48 megapixels.

While its smartphones haven't exactly been earning awards in any category, Sony still has the smartphone market cornered when it comes to camera sensors.

But it's worth taking a look outside the box, as Nokia introduced smartphone cameras with 40MP years ago, the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020, which were twice the size of the IMX586's sensor and therefore had significantly larger pixels that could capture more light.

Sony has also built the exposure control technology and signal processing functionality into the image sensor, allowing real-time output and a superior dynamic range that is four times greater than conventional camera sensors. Thanks to the ultra-compact pixel size of 0.8?m, Sony was able to pack 48 effective megapixels onto a 1/2-type (8.0 mm diagonal) sensor size. Usually higher pixel count means lower quality low-light photos, but Sony has managed to merge the best of both worlds.

Image Sony
Image Sony

In fact, the greater the megapixel count, the smaller each pixel is, creating more of a chance of coloured noise in low-light photography. According to Sony, the Quad Bayer does this in which "adjacent 2x2 pixels come in the same color, making high-sensitivity shooting possible".

'Generally, miniaturization of pixels results in poor light collecting efficiency per pixel, accompanied by a drop in sensitivity and volume of saturation signal, ' Sony says.

Adding these four adjacent pixels raises the camera's sensitivity to the equivalent of an efficient 1.6 μm pixels (12 megapixels). Of course, this isn't ideal for daytime shots, so the image signal processor will perform array conversion in brighter environments for more detailed images with the 48MP resolution. Perhaps the novelty of the sensor will be enough for DxOMark to actually put Sony's flagships to the test for the world to see where high-end Xperia phones truly stand.

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