Will the next smartphones measure in ultrapixels?
Lauren Crabbe | Published: Feb 4, 2013 at 19:39 UTC16
If early tech blog reports ring true, HTC's much-anticpated "M7" smartphone, expected to be revealed at press events to be held in New York City and London on February 19, may seriously be worth the excitement.
According to Pocket-lint, HTC will forgo a previously-speculated (and presumably conventional) 13-megapixel sensor for three, 4.3MP sensors to achieve a stacked "ultrapixel" sensor.
Although we don't know what this means - sensors aren't transparent, so you can't simply 'stack' three on top of one another - it is just possible that HTC is planning on using a sensor similar to the Foveon imagers used in Sigma's line of DSLRs and large-sensor compact cameras. While traditional Bayer sensors work by capturing information for just one color (red, green or blue) at each pixel location, and then interpolating that data to make true color, in a Foveon sensor, every pixel captures a true color because the red, green and blue filters are stacked above the light-gathering photodiodes.
However, we're not convinced. The Foveon sensors in Sigma cameras are known for excellent pixel-level detail but at present, compared to conventional Bayer sensor-equipped cameras they struggle with noise in low light conditions - a problem that would only be exacerbated in a cellphone, equipped with a much smaller sensor capable of gathering much less light. We wonder if the story comes from a translation error of Sony's 'Stacked CMOS' technology - which is used in a 13MP Exmor RS sensor. This Sony sensor appears to be the standard for 2013's top-of-the-line smartphones. This leaves open the posibility of HTC using a Nokia 808-style pixel combination system to give images with 4.3m super pixel made up from a 13MP whole.
Whatever the truth about HTC's "ultrapixel" technology, HTC's M7 will be one to watch amongst a batch of new mobile devices coming in conjunction with the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of the month. If the rumors are true we'll see a quad-core Qualcomm processor, 4.7-inch 1920 x 1080 pixel display and an HTC Sense 5 update.
We'll be reporting live from the weeklong Mobile World Congress event to share with you the most exciting mobile photography advances we spot.