Currently, the Huawei P20 Pro boasts the world's highest-resolution camera at 40 megapixels, but it looks like it won't be keeping that honor for much longer — Sony has apparently developed a new sensor that's even bigger than Huawei's impressive lenses.
While Sony's smartphone division continues to lag behind competitors, its camera department is still unbeatable. In fact, it remains the leader in image sensors, a title to be further bolstered by its new IMX586 sensor, which promises a leap in image quality by dramatically increasing the resolution to 48 megapixels. That's an 8,000 x 6,000 photo, for those who can't comprehend just how massive a sensor, that is. Sony says it currently features the highest pixel count in the industry.
The Thing With Megapixels
Of course, any photographer worth their salt knows that high megapixel counts don't always mean better photos. Adding more megapixels may even be detrimental, with smaller pixels leading to noisy photos in low-light photography. Sony says the new sensor uses 0.8-micron pixels, which is the smallest in the market, but it'll get around this by integrating a quad Bayer color filter array and allowing each pixel to use signals from the four adjacent pixels. All those fancy-schmancy words just mean that light sensitivity levels will be equivalent to a 12-megapixel photo taken by 1.6-micron pixels.
Sony has a detailed explanation on how all this works, so make sure to check that out. In a nutshell, the new sensor will use pixel-binning tricks to output excellent photos. That's really all there is to it.
Sony isn't the first company to use such tricks, though. Nokia did it back in 2012 with the 808 PureView, and the P20 Pro also experimented with different techniques on sensors with 40 megapixels or higher. Sony's sensor, as The Verge predicts, will likely become the more mainstream option. More importantly, the sensor module itself will be just 8 mm, which means there will be no need for manufacturers to make huge camera bumps.
Sony IMX586 Sensor Release Date
The IMX586 sensor will apparently start appearing on phones next year. Sony says it's planning to start providing samples this coming September. Don't expect the sensor's final form to be released in phones other than the flagship category, though — the component costs a whopping JPY 3,000, or about $27. Such an expensive tag price for such a tiny component.