As if the makers of standalone cameras don’t have enough problems holding off smartphones, Sony has just announced a sensor that has the potential to be yet another game changer for what’s possible in mobile device photography. Its new design adds a layer of DRAM between the pixel layer and the circuit layer. That allows it to capture and readout images several times faster than current designs.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Sony announced the new chip architecture at ISSCC this week, as the latest in its long line of innovations in sensor design. The addition of on-board DRAM will help solve at least three major issues with current smartphone cameras: rolling shutter artifacts, slow-motion videos, and multi-image noise reduction artifacts. We’ll look at each in turn.
A great band-aid for rolling shutter headaches
One problem with low-cost imagers, like those used in smartphones, is that they don’t have a mechanical shutter. Their images are read out one piece at a time while the sensor is still actively recording data (called a rolling shutter). That means that objects moving at high speed appear distorted, like the locomotive in this illustrative example from Sony:
On the left, the typical 1/30s readout time smears the profile of the moving locomotive. On the right, while still technically a rolling shutter, the new chip’s 1/120s readout time greatly reduces the potential for distortion.