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New phone camera sensor promises dramatically improved low light photos

It will reach vivo phones starting in 2021.

Published onSeptember 8, 2020

vivo X50 Pro camera module
  • vivo is working on an RGBW camera sensor that could lead to huge improvements in low-light photography.
  • It’s reportedly twice as efficient as a conventional sensor.
  • Phones using the sensor are already in the works, and expected to arrive in 2021.

It’s still challenging to take a good low light photo with your phone, but vivo might just fix that in the near future. The Chinese brand has unveiled plans for an RGBW (red, green, blue, white) camera sensor that excels in dim lighting conditions.

The design is billed as the first sensor with both an RGBW matrix and a color filter array, and reportedly boasts a 160% higher photosensitive efficiency than a conventional RGGB (red, green, green, blue) unit — you’ll take “precise and clear” photos in low light, vivo claimed. It’s even 60% more efficient than the RYYB (red, yellow, yellow, blue) sensors in phones like the HUAWEI P40 Pro, according to vivo, and isn’t prone to their color casting issues.

Devices using the new sensor are in the works, and are expected to reach stores in 2021. vivo said it had been “discreetly” working on the sensor for about a year.

Read more: Tips to take your photography to the next level

This isn’t the first time phone makers have used RGBW sensors. HUAWEI used one in the P8 from 2015 to reduce low light noise and improve brightness in high contrast situations. We generally liked its output, although it had problems with brightly-lit backgrounds as well as color saturation in dark scenes. That was five years ago, however, and we’d expect vivo to benefit from technical progress since then.

There are no guarantees this will lead to the stellar output the company has promised. However, vivo has developed a knack for low light photography in devices like the X50 Pro, even without relying on a night mode. The main concern is simply that the competition isn’t standing still. Samsung is rumored to be creating a new version of its 108MP sensor, and we’d expect sensor experts like Sony to deliver updates in 2021 as well. Still, this suggests vivo won’t be left behind.

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