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Sony's New Backlit CMOS Camera Phone Sensor Can Shoot HDR Movies

Sony shrinks back-illuminated CMOS technology into camera phone-sized sensors that can shoot in low-light and take HDR movies.

The boffins at Sony have developed a new back-illuminated CMOS sensor for phones. The new sensor promises better shooting performance in low light and HDR movie making.

A traditional backlit sensor is made with a combined backlit pixel-sensor and processing circuit section backed by a large supporting substrate. The sensor Sony has developed layers the pixel area and circuit on top of each other with no substrate.

This allows Sony to create a thinner sensor that is also more sensitive because it has a larger light-sensitive pixel area and image processor. A thinner CMOS sensor with less circuitry also means the camera should operate faster while boasting low power consumption.

The sensor will also incorporate Sony's new "RGBW coding." This means white pixels are included into the usual mix of red, green, and blue pixels. Unlike the colored pixels, the white pixel allows all light to pass through to the camera sensor for better low light shooting.

The HDR movie functionality will work just like shooting a regular high-dynamic range photo. The camera will take low and bright-light exposures simultaneously and combine the two for a less blown-out or darkly shadowed film.

So far, the only phones to sport a backlit sensor have been the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.

Sony is planning to ship an eight-megapixel backlit sensor--without either the RGBW feature or HDR movie--to cellphone producers by March. Sony will later release two other sensors with both features including a 13-megapixel edition in the following June and another eight-megapixel sensor in August.

[Sony (1, 2) via Engadget]

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