Sony announces new IMX586 image sensor with 48 megapixel resolution

Todd Singleton
July 25, 2018

The IMX586 sensor features the highest-ever pixel count for any smartphone image sensor, coming in at an effective 48 megapixels. Sony says that the compact size makes it possible to pack 48MP onto a 1/2-type 8.0mm diagonal unit. This all means that in those low-light situations imaging data from four adjacent pixels is being added in order to achieve sensitivity comparable to that of 1.6 μm pixels.

It's also worth noting that modern chipsets are so fast that they can double up, with oversampling or pixel binning from this Sony sensor and multiple exposure combination, producing computational images that are super-pure.

In addition to this, Sony's also shrunk the pixel size down to an impressive 0.8 μm. Pixels in a smartphone camera sensor are generally larger than 1 μm; the Pixel 2's sensor, for example, features 1.4-μm pixels. 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.

When designing iPhones, Apple has opted to offer smaller megapixel counts when compared to some of its competitors for one very simple reason: by cramming more and more pixels into a small sensor, companies create a high pixel density, which sounds great but is particularly bad when it comes to low-light performance.

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But when shooting in bright scenes (e.g. daytime outdoors), a signal processing function is used to do an array conversion that allows the individual tiny pixels to be used for an ultra-high-res 48-megapixel photo.

Finally, Sony says that this sensor is better placed for HDR capture because it has a four times great dynamic range than other sensors.

Sony plans to start shipping the sensors in September, at a price of 3,000 yen ($27).

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