Sony's next-gen camera sensor could allow Apple to make thinner iPhones

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014


Sony, which builds the camera modules used by Apple in the iPhone 4S, has announced a smaller next-generation CMOS image sensor that could allow for even thinner iPhone models in the future.



The new complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor announced by Sony on Monday is a back-illuminated module that allows superior image quality in a more compact size. Sony has promised that the new sensors will allow cameras to continue to evolve.



The new image sensor layers the pixel section containing formations of back-illuminated structure pixels onto chips containing the circuit section for signal processing. Benefits of the new stacked CMOS image sensor touted by Sony are:



Large-scale signal processing circuits required for higher image quality and better functionality are built in



More compact image sensor chip size



Even higher image quality of the pixel section by adopting manufacturing processes specialized for superior image quality



Faster speeds and lower power consumption by adopting the lead processes for the circuit section




The camera components are currently one of the thickest pieces of the iPhone's internal hardware. It was said before the release of the iPhone 4S that the height of the 8-megapixel camera found in the handset presented design challenges for Apple, forcing the company to keep the same form factor as the iPhone 4.



Back in April of last year, Sony CEO Howard Stringer accidentally confirmed that Apple planned to add an 8-megapixel camera to its next-generation iPhone. That eventually proved true when Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S in October with a greatly improved lens sporting more pixels, faster picture taking, and image stabilization when shooting 1080p video.











In addition, Sony's entrance into the iPhone camera supply chain was confirmed by iFixit and Chipworks, who disassembled the iPhone 4S and did an X-ray cross-section of the 8-megapixel camera found in the iPhone 4S. Written on the base layer of the camera they found a die marking that clearly reads Sony's name.



Previously, Sony did not provide image sensors to Apple. Before the iPhone 4S launched, OmniVision had been Apple's primary camera supplier for the 5-megapixel camera on the iPhone 4 and the 3.2-megapixel sensor for the iPhone 3GS.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 70
    Apple, PLEASE buy that light field company!



    Do it before SOMEONE ELSE DOES.



    Thinner iPhones? I see this as more "better cameras in iPads and iPod touches".
  • Reply 2 of 70
    I just hope Apple keeps adding more pixels and doesn't cheap out just for the sake of thinness. Gave us the 12 mega pixel for next iphone
  • Reply 3 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by xavier83 View Post


    I just hope Apple keeps adding more pixels and doesn't cheap out just for the sake of thinness. Gave us the 12 mega pixel for next iphone



    Screw pixels. I want the best sensor and lens on the freaking planet. There's no reason for a 12 MP camera.
  • Reply 4 of 70
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Apple, PLEASE buy that light field company!



    Do it before SOMEONE ELSE DOES.



    Thinner iPhones? I see this as more "better cameras in iPads and iPod touches".



    Reasonable comment.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by xavier83 View Post


    I just hope Apple keeps adding more pixels and doesn't cheap out just for the sake of thinness. Gave us the 12 mega pixel for next iphone



    Not so much.
  • Reply 5 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Screw pixels. I want the best sensor and lens on the freaking planet. There's no reason for a 12 MP camera.



    not only that, why not double the size of the battery for example?
  • Reply 6 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pedromartins View Post


    not only that, why not double the size of the battery for example?



    You mean the physical size or the length of charge?



    I'm certain that Apple's still investing heavily in battery tech to make use times even longer. Haswell will greatly help out on the Mac end, but that's just the Mac end and with existing tech.
  • Reply 7 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Screw pixels. I want the best sensor and lens on the freaking planet. There's no reason for a 12 MP camera.



    That's exactly the right attitude. 8Mp is enough! better optics and more light sensitivity is needed.
  • Reply 8 of 70
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,666member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by xavier83 View Post


    I just hope Apple keeps adding more pixels and doesn't cheap out just for the sake of thinness. Gave us the 12 mega pixel for next iphone



    Read this article on the megapixel myth.
  • Reply 9 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    You mean the physical size or the length of charge?



    I'm certain that Apple's still investing heavily in battery tech to make use times even longer. Haswell will greatly help out on the Mac end, but that's just the Mac end and with existing tech.



    if increasing battery size means much more battery life, why not? thin components is great if used wisely. iPhone does not need to thinner.
  • Reply 10 of 70
    Leave the enclosure alone. Cram in more battery.
  • Reply 11 of 70
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,666member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pedromartins View Post


    if increasing battery size means much more battery life, why not? thin components is great if used wisely. iPhone does not need to thinner.



    But lighter would be awesome.
  • Reply 12 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rabbit_Coach View Post


    That's exactly the right attitude. 8Mp is enough! better optics and more light sensitivity is needed.



    Yes! I have an old Sony camera with fewer MP than the 3GS, but it takes pictures that are far better than the 3GS and even rivals those of the 4S (when not blown up). MP is nice, but the optics and light sensitivity really make the camera.



    On the other hand if the number of MP on the iPhone doesn't continue to steadily improve, all the noobs who don't know any better about what really makes a good camera will point to 8 MP and say the iPhone is crap.
  • Reply 13 of 70
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,369member
    A better sensor in this case meaning low light level capability. As far as optics go I'm not sure why Apple or the industry thinks that the lens assembly must be flush. I'd rather see a bump on the phones body, especially if it is used to support a faster higher quality lens.



    On the other hand I'm not going to resist 12MP, if they can get there while improving camera quality. For a point and shoot type usage 12MP is a sweet spot in my book. Effectively I want the iPhone to be a direct replacement for a point and shoot. In many ways it already is, but the acceptance as such will only increase if they can continue to improve the basic factors that affect image quality. That means addressing issues with low light performance, color and resolution first. 12MP should only come afterward, but I believe pixel counts around that number provide for much versatility for the average user.



    Beyond that I wonder how many people would object to an iPhone with let's say a 2 mm or so bump if that meant a much faster lens? Something in the range of F2.8 to 2 to allow for increased light gathering ability. I just see the drive to super thin phones as being detrimental to potential for great optics and would much prefer a focus on optics as opposed to thinnest.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Screw pixels. I want the best sensor and lens on the freaking planet. There's no reason for a 12 MP camera.



  • Reply 14 of 70
    modemode Posts: 163member
    Apple needs to move its manufacturing out of China.

    What good is an embargo on Iranian oil if China is going to buy it all so that it can run factories to produce goods for America?

    In other words, how long will Apple investors support the Iranian regime and terrorism?



    Or has the long arms of a blind capitalist society become too long for people to recognize and understand their actions? That your sending your countrymen off to die in wars so that you can watch your investments grow. Do you even understand that as the stock price grows, so does the body count of your neighbors?



    Where is the voice of Apple investors to bring manufacturing home and employ some of the 60+ million people out of work, homeless and living in poverty.

    Silenced by greed and little green ticker numbers?



    Shame on you investors and your blood monies. It doesn't have to be this way. You should be demanding Apple invest in R&D at home and develop your own technologies. Sure Sony is an ally country - but buying their technology because you have bankrupted society at home so that people can no longer afford education, and the brain-drain train that is full steam ahead... do you see the short sightedness of this folly?



    You have a voice and responsibility as investors.

    Be the change you want to see.
  • Reply 15 of 70
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pedromartins View Post


    if increasing battery size means much more battery life, why not? thin components is great if used wisely. iPhone does not need to thinner.



    Because you can be too heavy and large to appeal to users. There is a balance that has to be met. Since Apple already has the best battery life in the industry I don't see them moving to a much larger and heavier device just to add a significantly larger battery. If they can thin it out while being more power efficient they likely will... and Gorilla Glass 2 allows them to lose 20% on both the front and back glass without changing any of the internals. If you really want a significant amount increased there are always Mophie products.
  • Reply 16 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Screw pixels. I want the best sensor and lens on the freaking planet. There's no reason for a 12 MP camera.



    8 megapixels is A LOT, if the lens exploits them and the sensor is sensitive. More pixels means smaller pixels, which means less sensitive pixels with less dynamic range.



    I'd rather see this technology used to make existing pixels larger, not cram more in or make the optical assembly smaller. The phone is thin enough, anyway. A faster lens would be awesome also.
  • Reply 17 of 70
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Alonso Perez View Post


    8 megapixels is A LOT, if the lens exploits them and the sensor is sensitive. More pixels means smaller pixels, which means less sensitive pixels with less dynamic range.



    I'd rather see this technology used to make existing pixels larger, not cram more in or make the optical assembly smaller. The phone is thin enough, anyway. A faster lens would be awesome also.



    I think the iPhone 4 with the 5Mpx camera uses the same size sensor as the iPhone 4S with an 8Mpx camera. The 4S's sensor is much better, but the pixels are unfortunately smaller, if I remember correctly.
  • Reply 18 of 70
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Thinner iPhones? I see this as more "better cameras in iPads and iPod touches".



    We can only hope. The camera modules in the iPod and iPad are an embarassment (in my opinion).



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


    A better sensor in this case meaning low light level capability. As far as optics go I'm not sure why Apple or the industry thinks that the lens assembly must be flush. I'd rather see a bump on the phones body, especially if it is used to support a faster higher quality lens.



    On the other hand I'm not going to resist 12MP, if they can get there while improving camera quality. For a point and shoot type usage 12MP is a sweet spot in my book. Effectively I want the iPhone to be a direct replacement for a point and shoot. In many ways it already is, but the acceptance as such will only increase if they can continue to improve the basic factors that affect image quality. That means addressing issues with low light performance, color and resolution first. 12MP should only come afterward, but I believe pixel counts around that number provide for much versatility for the average user.



    Beyond that I wonder how many people would object to an iPhone with let's say a 2 mm or so bump if that meant a much faster lens? Something in the range of F2.8 to 2 to allow for increased light gathering ability. I just see the drive to super thin phones as being detrimental to potential for great optics and would much prefer a focus on optics as opposed to thinnest.



    I mostly agree, except I'm not sure what the average user (or even a prosumer) would need 12 MP for, other than bragging rights? 12 MP would get you a bigger than 13 x 10" print at the highest printing resolution, twice that on your typical home ink jet. Or you could crop out 90% of the image and still print a good 4 x 6" print or upload to Facebook. Is that really the capabilty folks need? Just think of the amazing quailty you'd have if they took all the technology that makes 12 MP acceptable and applied it to an 8 MP sensor! No amount of noise reduction in the world would make up for not have a nice, big, fat light-gathering pixel.



    The only reason for 12 MP is for marketing purposes.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mode View Post


    Apple needs to move its manufacturing out of China.

    What good is an embargo on Iranian oil if China is going to buy it all so that it can run factories to produce goods for America?

    In other words, how long will Apple investors support the Iranian regime and terrorism?



    Or has the long arms of a blind capitalist society become too long for people to recognize and understand their actions? That your sending your countrymen off to die in wars so that you can watch your investments grow. Do you even understand that as the stock price grows, so does the body count of your neighbors?



    Where is the voice of Apple investors to bring manufacturing home and employ some of the 60+ million people out of work, homeless and living in poverty.

    Silenced by greed and little green ticker numbers?



    Shame on you investors and your blood monies. It doesn't have to be this way. You should be demanding Apple invest in R&D at home and develop your own technologies. Sure Sony is an ally country - but buying their technology because you have bankrupted society at home so that people can no longer afford education, and the brain-drain train that is full steam ahead... do you see the short sightedness of this folly?



    You have a voice and responsibility as investors.

    Be the change you want to see.



    Apparently it's not just about the money. The US simply doesn't have a capability to support it.



    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/bu...pagewanted=all
  • Reply 19 of 70
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    But lighter would be awesome.



    I don't agree with that. The one thing I have enjoyed from my several years of carrying an iPhone is that compared to the various other smartphones out there, the iPhone's 'heft' (if you can consider 5 oz 'heft') has always made it feel more like something well built. Compare it to the lighter Samsung or Motorola phones, and they feel like toys to me.
  • Reply 20 of 70
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