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Sony's new camera tech promises wider dynamic range, reduced noise

This tech could be key if Sony ever offers a 108MP or 200MP camera on smartphones.
By
December 17, 2021
Sony Xperia Pro I camera profile from the left
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Sony has announced a stacked camera sensor for smartphones.
  • This tech sees photodiodes and pixel transistors occupying different substrates.
  • Sony says this innovation will lead to increased dynamic range and reduced noise.

Sony is one of the world’s leading camera sensor manufacturers, alongside the likes of Samsung and Omnivision. The company is generally on the cutting-edge of smartphone photography, and it’s just announced another promising innovation in the space.

The Japanese firm announced what it calls the world’s first stacked CMOS image sensor with “2-Layer Transistor Pixel.” So what exactly does this mean?

Whereas conventional CMOS image sensors’ photodiodes and pixel transistors occupy the same substrate, Sony’s new technology separates photodiodes and pixel transistors on different substrate layers.

Sony also posted an image to give people a better idea of what’s changed compared to conventional sensors. You can view this picture below.

 

Sony says this solution doubles a sensor’s saturation signal level and therefore results in wider dynamic range. The firm adds that moving the pixel transistors to a separate substrate frees up space to increase the size of so-called amp transistors. It explains that larger amp transistors result in notably reduced noise, which should be beneficial for low-light photography. The company adds that this tech will allow a sensor’s pixels to maintain or improve their existing performance even at smaller pixel sizes.

In other words, it sounds like Sony thinks this tech could be key for higher resolution smartphone cameras with smaller pixels. So this could be an important enabler if the company wants to follow in Samsung’s footsteps and offer 108MP or 200MP cameras.

Sony confirmed that this tech is meant for smartphones, but didn’t give a timeline for when we should expect to see the first sensors with this layout. Nevertheless, it’s still pretty fascinating to see camera sensor manufacturers continuing to innovate in this space.