Sony Corporation (s sne) unveiled its next-generation back-illuminated CMOS digital image sensor (via 9t05Mac) on Monday, which boasts a stacked design that saves space, lowers power requirements and increases quality, all of which adds up to a veritable mating call for Sony component customer Apple(s aapl).
Sony supplies the current iPhone 4S image sensor, which provides 8-megapixel resolution and improves upon the iPhone 4’s camera in pretty much every regard. The new design, which eliminates a supporting substrate component in favor of a design that layers back-illuminating pixels onto signal processing chips, will make next-gen image processors smaller, faster, more energy-efficient and capable of taking better shots all around, including in low-light situations.
The tech was developed specifically in response to the increasing consumer appetite for high-quality cameras that work well in a number of situations, which has come along with the rise of smartphones. Sony’s new design features built-in signal processing, which is generally handled through an external component. That, combined with specific models using “RGBW Coding,” which allows for a signal-to-noise ratio of much larger sensors using traditional construction methods, makes the new design perfect for slim, carry-anywhere shooters that need to be used both indoors and out — of which the iPhone is a perfect example.
Sony also touts a new “High Dynamic Range (HDR) Movie” function, which would allow cameras to use two different exposures at the same time to optimize the exposure of both subject and background, especially in bright light situations. Apple currently incorporates an HDR mode in the iPhone’s camera app for still shots, but the new Sony tech would allow the same concept to be applied to video, too.
If Apple is looking to improve its camera tech in upcoming iPhones, the new Sony CMOS sensor seems like a natural fit, especially because it’s basically an evolution of tech Apple’s already using that offers space and power savings, unlike more novel competing approaches like the one from Pelican Imaging that would require considerable changes on the software side, for instance. Sony says the chip will enter trial production in March 2012, so it could potentially make its way into an iPhone 5 debuting sometime in the fall, around the same time this year as we saw the iPhone 4S arrive in 2011.