Sure, it's not all about the megapixels, but Sony's just trumped Panasonic's Lumix phone with their 16.41MP Exmor R-based CMOS sensor - seen in a phone near you shortly.
Shooting 1080p video at 30fps, it uses back-illumination to reduce visual noise. It will be offered to manufacturers from January and will no doubt show up in Sony Ericsson phones at the very least. I'm hopeful other companies will be interested in these modules, as there's no way in hell I'd ever consider buying a SE phone.
A second sensor, at 8.13MP, may not be as impressive with its specs, however the 5.67mm sensor is designed for super slinky phones where size matters most. It's actually the world's smallest and thinnest for phones, and with any luck we might see it in models with slide-out QWERTY keyboards (my favourite), where an excess millimetre around the waist is a dangerous game to play.
There's a ton of information on these two sensors in the press release below, or head over to Sony's site for comparison images between these sensors, and other "conventional" models. [Sony]
Sony commercializes world's first*1 16.41 Megapixel "Exmor R™" back-illuminated CMOS image sensors for mobile phones
— Also announces industry's smallest and thinnest*1 lens module for mobile phones —
October 7, 2010, Tokyo, Japan - Sony Corporation (hereafter, "Sony") today announced the commercialization of two new "Exmor R" back-illuminated CMOS image sensors with dramatically improved photographic performance including significantly high sensitivity and low noise. In addition, Sony will launch two new lens modules equipped with these image sensors, which also include the smallest and thinnest*1 model for mobile phones. This is also the first time that "Exmor R" is commercialized for the use in mobile phones.
*1 As of October 7, 2010
Model Name Shipment date (Plan) Sample price
Type 1/2.8 16.41 effective megapixels
back-illuminated CMOS image sensor
"IMX081PQ" January, 2011 2,500 JPY
Type 1/3.2 8.13 effective megapixels
back-illuminated CMOS image sensor
"IMX105PQ" April, 2011 1,500 JPY
Type 1/2.8 16.41 effective megapixels*2
Lens module "IU081F" March, 2011 12,000 JPY
Type 1/3.2 8.13 effective megapixels*2
Lens module "IU105F2" April, 2011 8,000 JPY
*2 Based on the effective pixels of the image sensor
"IMX081PQ" is world's first*1 type 1/2.8 back-illuminated CMOS image sensor which realises 16.41 effective megapixel resolution, and adopts the industry's smallest*1 unit pixel size of 1.12μm. "IMX105PQ" is a type 1/3.2 back-illuminated CMOS image sensor which realises 8.13 effective megapixel resolutions for higher sensitivity and adopts a unit pixel size of 1.4μm. By embedding these highly sensitive sensors into mobile phones, including those without camera flash, users can capture high quality photos and videos even in low light settings.
Furthermore, Sony will commercialize "IU081F" and "IU105F2" compact auto-focus lens modules which include the two new "Exmor R" back-illuminated CMOS image sensors. These down-sized modules are suitable and efficient for mobile phones with relatively limited space and are equipped with high performance lens which maximize the image sensors' respective performances. "IU081F" is the industry's smallest and thinnest*1 auto-focus lens module (W10.5 X D10.5 X H7.9mm) and is equipped with the 16.41 effective megapixel*2 CMOS image sensor. "IU105F2" adopts the 8.13 effective megapixel*2 CMOS image sensor, and belongs in the industry's smallest and thinnest*3 size class (W8.5 X D8.5 X H5.67mm).
Through its proprietary fine pixel fabrication process technology, Sony will proactively continue the development of "Exmor R" which adopts the 1.12μm unit pixel size for mobile phones. Accordingly, Sony aims to address customer demand by providing appropriately small lens modules especially for smartphones with large displays and limited space for components.
About the realisation of high resolution
"IMX081PQ" is world's first*1 type 1/2.8 back-illuminated CMOS image sensor which realises 16.41 effective megapixel resolution, and adopts the industry's smallest*1 unit pixel size of 1.12μm achieved by the fine pixel fabrication process technology. In theory, when a unit pixel size is made smaller, there are also some issues such as colour mixture among smaller unit pixels. Sony solved this problem by implementing a unique formation of photo diodes optimally designed for fine pixel structure to realise a CMOS image sensor with high resolution, high sensitivity and low noise.
Since 2009, Sony has been mass producing "Exmor R" for Digital Still Cameras and Digital Video Camcorders on wafer lines (with diameter of 200mm) at Sony Semiconductor Kyushu Corporation's Nagasaki Technology centre. At the end of 2010, Sony plans to start the mass production of "Exmor R," including those for mobile phones announced today, at Sony Semiconductor Kyushu Corporation's Kumamoto Technology centre, on cutting-edge wafer lines (with diameter of 300mm). Sony already announced (September 1, 2010) the investment of approximately 40 billion yen in Kumamoto Technology centre to increase production capacity for CMOS image sensors.
About Back-illuminated CMOS image sensor "Exmor R"
Sony first announced the development of "Exmor R" on Jun, 2008. "Exmor R" has been incorporated in Sony's digital imaging products since 2009, and its use in other products has continued to expand. "Exmor R" CMOS image sensor features Sony's independently developed back-illuminated structure, realizing significantly higher sensitivity as well as lower noise. In this back-illuminated CMOS image sensor, light is directed onto the silicon substrate from behind, allowing light to be used with a level of efficiency not possible with conventional front-illuminated structures.
1) CMOS image sensor with the world's first*1 16.41 effective megapixel resolution for use in mobile phones. ("IMX081PQ")
—adopts formation technology used to create industry's smallest*11.12µm unit pixel
2) realises high sensitivity and low noise through back-illuminated structure.
3) Adopts Sony's proprietary "Column-Parallel A/D Conversion Technique", providing each column within the sensor with its own A/D converter, achieving high frame rates of 15 frame/sec (in all-pixel scan mode) and Full-HD video taking capability.
1) The industry's smallest and thinnest*1 lens module equipped with CMOS image sensor, lens and auto-focus functions in which the pixel structure and lens are optimally designed. ("IU081F")
2) Approximately twice as sensitive as a conventional front-illuminated CMOS image sensor by combining back-illuminated CMOS image sensor and bright lens with small f-number. ("IU105F2")
3) Equipped with 28mm wide-angle lens (35mm conversion) which is convenient for daily shooting.