Sony Delivers Built-In Hybrid Autofocus, 3-Axis EIS With New 22.5MP IMX318 Sensor

Sony announced its first ever Exmor RS sensor with integrated hybrid autofocus (AF) and 3-axis electronic image stabilization (EIS) for video.

Smaller Sensor

The new sensor, called IMX318, is 1/2.6” in size, which means it’s smaller than Sony’s previous 1/2.3” sensors. Sony seems to have prioritized a smaller size this time to make its sensors better suited for ever thinner smartphones. Despite its smaller size, the 22.5MP sensor with a pixel pitch of 1.0μm matches the image quality of the previous generation, even in night shots.

Hybrid AF

Previously, hybrid AF was achieved through the combination of an image sensor and an application processor. Sony managed to create the industry’s first stacked CMOS sensor with hybrid AF built into the sensor’s internal image signal processor.

The hybrid autofocus technology, which combines phase detection autofocus and contrast detection autofocus, can achieve much faster autofocus speeds than either of them separately. Sony claimed a still image AF that’s as fast as 0.03s (in high lighting conditions) and video AF that’s as fast as 0.017s.

3-Axis EIS

According to the company, the IMX318 is also the industry’s first stacked CMOS sensor to have electronic image stabilization built into its internal signal processor. The sensor can capture smooth 4k video by utilizing the output signal from the phone’s 3-axis (pitch, yaw and roll) gyro sensor. The image stabilization technology corrects not just camera shake but also lens distortion, which leads to clearer videos.

Further, because the image stabilization is processed by the sensor’s signal processor, less power is used compared to when the image stabilization is done by the phone’s CPU. Sony claimed that the IMX318 could also be used for aerial drones, where having good image stabilization is important.

Latest MIPI Specifications

Sony adopted the latest Mobile Industry Processor Interface (MIPI) for its new sensor, which means it can do more energy efficient and faster data transmission from the image sensor to the application processor. Sony said that users should be able to capture 22.5MP resolution stills while shooting 4k video, without interrupting the video recording.

Sony will begin sampling the new IMX318 sensor in May this year, so we may be able to see it in some smartphones by the end of the year.

Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. You can follow him at @lucian_armasu. 

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Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • ZolaIII
    Looks like Sony is up to making much more a complete camera SoC then traditional CMOS stand alone sensor which is a good thing as it saves: inter bandwidth (on usage of IPS), latencies & time meanwhile saving the power. I assume they additional logic is integrated in ASICS form that doesn't take much die but I am still concerned on the impact this approach will have on price of a product.
  • Lorenzo55
    Great work Sony!

    Somehow your competitors optimize it always better than yourself in smartphones.