When people think camera sensors, usually two companies come to mind: Sony and OmniVision. Now yes, both Samsung and LG also make camera sensors, but there's a reason that Samsung's Galaxy S III and Apple's iPhone 5 use a Sony component. Not to be forgotten, Toshiba is also in the camera sensor business. They were the company responsable for the 41 megapixel sensor inside Nokia's 808 PureView. Today they're announcing that they've developed a 13 megapixel sensor that they say is best in class. Because the sensor is so small, with an optical size of just a third of an inch across, each pixel measures 1.12 microns. Smaller pixels almost always translate to worse image quality, but Toshiba has integrated both backside illumination technology and color noise reduction into this sensor.
So how long until we see devices shipping with this sensor? Toshiba says they're going to begin shipments next month, with each sensor costing roughly $20. Add in the time it takes for a handset maker to iron out all the kinks, and you're looking at somewhere around the first half of 2013. Which companies are going to make use this component? That's tough to say. Analyst firms will no doubt tear apart flagship phones to figure out which companies made which parts, but that data isn't going to come out for at least a few more months.
To tell you the truth, we really couldn't care less about the sensor itself. The industry has reached a point where it's the lens, white balance sensor, and image processing algorithms that make or break a camera phone. The only real innovation in terms of hardware that we've actually seen this year came from Nokia with their Lumia 920. That device features optical imaging stabilisation.
How long until that feature comes to other devices? That's what we want to know.