Nexus 5 to feature a MEMS camera? Probably not

by: Bogdan PetrovanOctober 2, 2013

Camera modules on LG G2

An alleged Nexus 5 log file made the rounds recently, revealing some of the specifications of the upcoming smartphone. Now, MyCe and AndroidWorld, the two sites that originally leaked the file, found a possible reference to the Nexus 5’s camera.

Scouring through the log file, the two sites found what they believe to be the code number of the camera module on the new Nexus: IMX179. Some quick research lead the two sites to an 8MP camera module equipped with a MEMS (microelectromechanical system) actuator manufactured by DigitalOptics (DO), a San Jose-based company specializing in imaging systems for smartphones. MyCe and AndroidWorld then connected the dots and concluded that the Nexus 5 will feature an 8MP mems|cam from DigitalOptics.

If this supposition would be accurate, it would be a huge deal – MEMS actuators are faster, longer lasting, more compact, and more precise that the conventional voice coil motors (VCM) actuators in most cameras. MEMS technology also enables some interesting applications, such as taking multiple images of the subject at different focus zones and combining them into one image, allowing the user to select the preferred focus level. Here’s a demo video of the tech, courtesy of Engadget.

However, we find it unlikely that the Nexus 5 would feature a MEMS camera from DigitalOptics, for several reasons:

  • The log file only contains a reference to “IMX179”, which is the Sony-made sensor equipping some versions of DigitalOptics’ mems|cam camera modules. But other camera module makers may use the same Sony sensor. In fact, the recently launched Meizu MX3 is equipped with an IMX179 sensor, but we couldn’t find any reference to it featuring a DigitalOptics MEMS camera.
  • According to a DigitalOptics press release from August, production of the mems|cam will ramp in Q4 2013, with “high volume capacity” to be added in 2014. The Nexus 5 is expected to launch this month.
  • MEMS cameras are relatively expensive – the price is $25 per module for a batch of 10,000 units. For comparison, the Note 3’s 13MP camera is estimated to cost about $15. While that may not seem like much, keeping the cost of the Nexus 5 in check is probably a big concern for Google.

We can’t rule out this report as 100 percent incorrect, but for now, we think it’s just a case of wishful thinking.

Update: here are a few samples taken with the Meizu MX3, which features a Sony IMX179 sensor.

Remember that the camera module may be different on the Nexus.

  • Anthony Tran

    Damn, that camera sensor would be so sweet T_T

  • Damn!! *Reminding myself to keep my expectations in check..*

  • MasterMuffin

    Only bad side about Nexus devices has always been the bad camera performance. ME WANTS THIS! ;_;

    • Chirabrata Bhattarjee

      and lack of memory card slot too.

      • MasterMuffin

        But hopefully there will be a 32Gb model, it’s something!

      • Maher Salti

        GS4 GPE? It comes close to a nexus device right?

        • iDroid

          Closer maybe. The problem is it is not pure Android, and will not be able to install Google updates.

          You will still need to wait for Samsung updates, which will likely stop being updated after new GS devices are released.

          Pure Nexus devices get to use the current versions of Android much longer (and they get them faster) than other brands.

  • Balraj

    So much of expectations…guys relax !!!
    I hope nexus 5 doesn’t get over hyped

    • tech4life

      Yes, over hyping things is never good.

  • Luka Mlinar

    Why not. It’s 8MP. There is something special about it for sure.

  • TechDevil

    Just a heads up to the editors: If you say “MEMS” as in a word, it’s “a”. But if you say it M-E-M-S, then it’s “an”. Be careful with that. Much better to just drop “a” alltogether in my opinion.

  • dcdttu

    Sooooooooo, is that 8mp Sony sensor even good? Or are we getting another mediocre camera on the Nexus?

  • Ruz

    Why not have such camera in upcoming premium mobiles?

  • ConCal

    I hope it has BSI and OIS.

    • Clarence Alvarado

      Sony sensors are custom-made for every OEM’s request, but BSI tech is available to IMX models. OIS is a custom-made thing for each OEM.

      • ConCal

        Awesome! Thanks for the info!

  • Elvis

    Surely this is a rip off of the litro camera technology?

  • Blowntoaster

    they can at least do this if the cam stays at 8mpx. otherwise why not just use the G2 cam module/parts and go 13mpx with OIS…

  • iDroid

    Bogdan Petrovan, you seem to be missing other details from the log file.

    In addition to the part number, you also have:

    1. The lens aperture of 2.4

    2. A sensor size of 1/3.2″

    3. An 8 megapixel sensor is not backside illuminated

    All of these exactly match the specs on the MEMS module

    • I can’t see those specs in the log anywhere. Can you point me to them?

      • iDroid

        lol. Would you like me to write a retraction article for you as well? ;)

        You have to do more than just see it, you have to interpret it.

        You won’t find values we are interested in, like 1/3.2″ It will be listed as dimensions, which need to be converted to inches and ratios.

        Try looking for entries that start with