Sony’s new triple-layer CMOS image sensor includes DRAM; smartphones will be capable of 1,000 fps super-slow video

by XB on 7th February 2017

in Imaging


Sony has developed the industry’s first triple-layer stacked CMOS image sensor for smartphones. Sony’s previous camera chips, such as the IMX318, used a dual-layer stacked CMOS. This new 3-layer 1/2.3-inch 21.2 MP (megapixel) chip adds a DRAM layer, to the traditional back-illuminated CMOS image sensor layer and the logic processing technology layer.

So what does the additional DRAM layer add? Well it makes it possible to significantly increase data readout speeds, allowing users to capture still images of fast-moving objects with minimal distortion as well as filming super-slow motion movies at 1,000 frame per second (8x faster than the Sony IMX318 chip) in Full HD (1080p). The chip is also capable of recording 4K movies at 60 frame per second.

The new triple-layer chip is capable of reading a 19.3 million pixel image in only 1/120 second, 4x faster than the IMX318 chip. This reduces the time lapse for reading each pixel line. This is particularly important for smartphones, which lack a mechanical shutter for controlling exposure, as it minimises focal plane distortion in still images when shooting fast-moving objects.

There is no news as to when we expect formal production of the new CMOS chip to start, but it sounds like great progress for smartphone photography. Check out some examples of 64x super slow motion video below, to give you an idea of what to expect. The examples show video that was captured at 960fps and played back at 15fps.

Thanks Augustine, Diogo, Marinko and No Name!

  • tanago

    OMG <3

  • Kariko

    Impressive

  • Wow.

    Please put that into my next phone, Sony! <3 :-)

  • BraviaX

    Good hardware but bad software. Please sony why chinese’s phone camera is better than yours. What’s the problem.

  • Love it

  • Vuyo Ncube

    Where the curved sensors at?!

  • mUSICA

    keep this sensor sony exclusive only

  • mUSICA

    coz chinese fone uses sonys image sensors

  • karam abi karam

    Maybe it is the imx400

  • kaostheory

    It will be! Probably for Apple though. :-P

  • All smartphones makers will put this sensor in their flagship phones BEFORE sony does it, although sony had it first.

    Some say Sony is a Moron. Maybe they’re right. Loving your neighbor and Hating yourself isn’t even in a Martian Bible.

  • Ryuzaki Raiga

    because sony can make profit when they sell to other brand than their own

  • Ryuzaki Raiga

    it should be ” Sony didn’t know to create better software for camera than Chinese”

  • Moisés

    Hauwei, Xiaomi, Vivo and others can barely match z3+ cam…

    They will need 10 year to match z5

  • Moisés

    Maybe it is exclusive..

    All sensors used on XZ will not be sold to other brands.

  • Moisés

    I do not think others want a 22mp sensor.

  • razorg

    If this sensor, coupled with good lens elements and a nice OIS system, will be used on the next flagship Xperia, Sony will, once again, be the king :)

  • Vjekoslav Andric

    Imx 318 was pretty Sony specific. Others used lower mpx sensors.
    So I believe this one will be Xperia dedicated too….
    Probably the rumored imx400.
    Good things coming for Xperia :-)

  • Ryuzaki Raiga

    since sony use android, they no longer king in camera…..

  • PatQQ

    Hope it doesn’t just record for 3 mins followed by a heat warning popup……

  • P9

    new invention again
    u role it, Sony ❤

  • kaostheory

    Qualcomm is more the problem. Been saying this all along. The other manufacturers don’t use the 23mp sensor because of processing power. Sony is actually way ahead with its algorithm as it can process twice as many pixels as the competition in the same amount of time. Even in 8mp mode it still has to process all 23mp.

  • zymo

    First to be used by Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi….but definitively not by Xperia phones….

  • Moisés

    Xiaomi do not usually has Sony

  • Moisés

    Sony has to bring 4K video to front cam too.

  • nick

    The sad part is Sony will allow other oems to use it to full potential whereas its own flagship will be biting dust

  • Cakefish

    Xperia X2? Or X2 Compact?

  • RockStar2005

    Awesome!

  • Moisés

    Sucessor of XZ maybe

  • dragonsneeze

    3 mins of 1000 fps, slowed down to 30 fps would be a lot longer.

  • dragonsneeze

    Yeah, S650 doesn’t even support that high of mp.

  • penubag

    “Loving your neighbor and Hating yourself” sounds like something out of the American Libral Bible

  • Moisés

    X has 23mp cam and SD 650.

  • Night Guy

    So basically it will produce less blur image in lowlight?

  • dragonsneeze

    That’s what I’m saying. How did Sony do that.

  • Itsarapong Intoum

    XZ still can’t beat P9…

  • Steven Khoo Skkl

    How many other OEMs use a 20+MP camera sensor that has a 1/2.3′ size? Only a handful at the most while most use a max of 16MP.
    Doubt this will be sold to other OEMs.

  • Steven Khoo Skkl

    P9 barely beats my Z5 and X compact in my testing… Whats your point? Its subjective.
    Yes, I cross shop between the Z5 and P9 before I settled for the Z5 just 5 months ago.

  • razor7s

    Why the hell they don’t put this technology in XZ?

  • Itsarapong Intoum

    Noise reduction of XZ is not so good also it has limited manual setting.

  • Geese Howard

    GOOD, but NOT GOOD enough when you don’t use it on your phones.

  • deekbee

    Or at least be much better used by Apple, Samsung, etc. Sony make great sensors, but have seriously lousy software engineers.

  • deekbee

    Indeed; Sony (SE) were amongst the very best back in the days of the K750, K800, etc. But since then, not so much ….

  • deekbee

    Nokia/MS managed to get the S4 chip capturing/processing a 41mp image.

  • @vuyoncube:disqus Howzit boet! :-)

  • PatQQ

    That’s great, let’s just hope it doesn’t start heating up with the camera opened before recording

  • Moisés

    Haha…

    Mate 9 is better than p9…
    Both miles behind z5

  • Moisés

    Just go on youtube, search this..

    Xperia XZ cam.. Many videos XZ is compared to s7. See the comments.. Most of people are very impressed with XZ and say it is better than S7

  • Moisés

    Helio p25 support 24mp.
    650 is almost as powerful as 810.

  • Moisés

    A youtuber was able to use XZ for 43 min while recording 4K

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  • dragonsneeze

    https://www.qualcomm.com/products/snapdragon/processors/650 Up to 21 Mp. That’s the official statement, I’m not saying it’s not powerful.

  • dragonsneeze

    Yes, but it was slooow.

  • Ryuzaki Raiga

    many people bough k750 back then in my country, today its rare to find people own xperia

  • bobeobi gzigzigzeo

    Xiaomi prime 4 has gorgeous screen comparing to Z5 for example, 4100mAh and costs almost 4 times cheaper

  • Moisés

    Z5: great cam, stereo sound, waterproof, ddr4 ram, gorilla 4 display. Display has same technologies used on their tvs.
    Inner memory much faster.

    I do not think any Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, OP has all this..

    I am sure the Mi5S Plus costs much less than XZ to be built.

    I doubt Sony pays US$50 monthly for the people who work at factories like few chinese brands do.

  • Would have loved to take a peek at such a Libral Bible. How cool it’ll be

  • Moisés

    Limited?

    Manual mode you can choose:

    Brightness
    Speed of shutter
    ISO
    HDR
    White Balance
    E.V
    Other stuff too…

    All this even on 23mp, not like z3 that you could only change WB e EV

  • Moisés

    Be imx400 please…

    Xz Premium will humiliate S8+ and G6

  • kaostheory

    Why do you think? The problem with the larger sensors is overheating due to the extra processing that also makes it harder to make an algorithm that combines speed with quality. Nokias 41mp takes great pictures but sacrifice a ton of speed. If this extra ram fixes that problem every manufacturer will implement this module.

  • yopo

    It will pass the same as the sensor imx318, boasted of fast autofocus and no flagship sony takes it

  • Łukasz Leszczyński

    Let me do the math here:
    We have 1Gbit of dram, so its 1’000’000’000 bits.
    They claim it can be used to shot 1080p slow-motion with 1000fps.
    One 1080p still image is 2’073’600 pixels.
    If we assume sensor uses RAW format with 12-bit color depth, we would have 24’883’200 bits per one frame.
    So we can only store about 40 frames in buffer. Interesting.
    But that shows us nothing.
    There is also image processor behind, which can take images from the buffer and send it further, while recording is in progress.
    Okay we need to assume that normal 60fps capture does not need buffer (so breaks within slow-mo capture are used to process residual data and free bufer)
    From specification of this sensor we know that its capable of shooting 4K@60fps and 1080p@240fps -> image processor needs 1/240s to process one 1080p frame and send it to storage.
    One thing from this video. All “slow downs” are 4s long and then is 1-2s break before another one. All of them are also played in 15fps mode, so within 4s we have 60 frames of slow motion capture – a.k.a. 1/16 of a sec of slow-mo recording.
    So after first slow-mo capture (1/16s), we would have 15 frames processed, and 40 frames in buffer.
    Hmm, that is 55 frames, played in 15fps mode, so c.a. 3,67s. See, exactly like in wideo.
    Next thing is clearing the buffer, which contain 40 frames and another 60 are coming in next second. That is easy, while processor can handle up to 240 frames per second.
    So after about 1/4 of a second we are up to date with frames coming to processor, buffer is free, and ready to store another slow-mo frames sequention.

    So my conclusions:
    Its neither gimmick, nor tru slow-mo mobile sensor.
    We would be able to do two things with it:
    -> shot perfect stills with very fast object – even in 40frames burst mode
    -> shot 1080p@60 with 3,6s intrasections of slow-mo@15fps (representation of 1/17 of a second in a real time), which could be repeated once in 1-2seconds, but not sustained without increasing size of the buffer in the future.

  • Bashar Shehab

    Because they just announced this sensor now?

  • azzido

    Moat probably it will end up like usually:
    – Great hardware that will be ruined by soft
    – the competition using older Sony sensors like IMX300 will outperform Xperia with IMX400
    – as usually Sony focusing too much on a video (what for?) while abandoning picture quality…

    Dear Sony, most people are using phones to take the pictures instead of making videos, have you heard that?

  • azzido

    Theycshould patent it!

  • azzido

    Sony should patent their solutions

  • Vuyo Ncube

    Sup :)

  • Itsarapong Intoum

    Once you adjust shutter speed then the ISO automatically changed to auto. It should not be like this. Also the available slowest shutter speed should be 30s not just 1s like this.

  • Itsarapong Intoum

    That’s wrong because I have XZ and compared it with mate 9 at the shop already.

  • Itsarapong Intoum

    Of course I agree that XZ beats S7 but not P9

  • Moisés

    Z5 is better than any chinese.

  • Moisés

    Did you set 20 or 23mp of auto or only 8mp ( default setting)?

  • Itsarapong Intoum

    I tried all (8mp, 20mp, 23mp) with auto setting, superior auto

    Also when I was taking night shot with XZ in any mode except 1s shutter speed and night scene I can see a lot of noise which doesn’t happen with Mate 9 camera.

  • Moisés

    No need because other brands do not make it, just buy. Sony gets paid anyway.

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  • Chaturanaga Manchanayake

    Are you going to shoot stars at 30s? 10s is enough for a mobile camera. But I agree with that iso shouldn’t be changed to auto. Then the noise reduction algorithm ain’t that great. I wish they gave us RAW shooting too.

  • Itsarapong Intoum

    Whatever the user need to shoot it’s always the best to have an option for them. The fact right now is Xperia Flagship has only 1s shutter speed. That’s it.

  • bobeobi gzigzigzeo

    I have Xiaomi in my hand right now as Z5, I love Sony, but screen is sucks comparing with this cheap chinese

  • Łukasz Leszczyński

    Let me play with it further :D
    I noticed that if we lower color depth of raw images to 8-bit (so to standard depth of JPEG), we could store up to 60 frames in buffer at once! That would prolong slow-mo sequence to full 5 seconds. But thats not interesting as it is easy to accomplish with this hardware.
    -> Lets increase the buffer:
    8Gb = 1GB, would give us 321 frames in 12-bit depth (482 frames in 8-bit mode!)
    Let me write it from now in format 321 (482).
    So to take that much frame we would need in real time – 1/3s (1/2s)
    While taking those frames processor could handle – 80 (120) frames
    So total o 401 (602) frames of slow-mo recoring.
    If we extend that to 15fps mode it will be 26,7 (40,1) seconds of recording!
    That is much, but remember we are talking about something that occured in less than 1/2s, so our timings to start recording slow-mo sequence are still tight.
    Let use 24p cinematic playback (that was the main complain in comments):
    It would take 16,7 (25) seconds to play recorded slow-mo footage.

    -> Another thing that could be extended is number of frames that image processor can handle. But without decrease in manufature node, there isn’t much we can do. Overclock would generate much heat (which is problem in such small sensor). Lets hit 10% overclock. With 1Gbit buffer it would give us 264fps in 1080p, so within our 1/16s we could process stunning 16 frames, so only one more that before. Not worth it.

    -> We could also use 720p. It takes roughly 2x less storage.
    720p is 921’600 pixels, so 11’059’200 (7’372’800) bits
    In 1Gbit buffer we could store – 90 (135) frames
    Unfortunately image processor still can not handle more than 240 frames, even if we decrease resolution… So in time of taking them processor handles 22 (33) frames
    It totals in 112 (168) frames of slow-mo recording, so:
    with 15fps playback – 7,5s (11,2s), with 24p playback – 4,6s (7s)
    Lets go further:
    In 8Gb buffer it would be 723 (1085) frames – finally full second of footage!
    Image processor handles 180 (271) frames in time of recording with total of 903 (1356) frames taken before buffer is fully loaded.
    That is 60s (90s) in 15fps & 37,6s (56,5s) in 24fps

    -> Last thing I could calculate is another frame rate!
    Sensor is capable of sustaining 240fps in 1080p. That is much, since we can have 4x slower footage with full 60fps, 8x slower with 30fps, 10x slower with 24fps and even 16x slower with 25fps. And we are not even using buffer!
    Lets use 480fps recording mode (so 2x less frames than sensor can handle):
    I gives us roughtly 2x more duration of footage before buffer is fully loaded.
    So its 40 (60) frames of 1080p, but processor can handle 2x much frames in that time – 20 (30) additional frames -> 60 (90) frames in total -> 4s (6s) of 15fps playback.

    Uff, I feel fulfilled ^^
    Hope you liked my thought process :)

  • Chaturanaga Manchanayake

    I agree with you but 30s is too much. But 10s is enough to get cool light streaks and nice long exposure shots of water falls etc. But not letting change iso is absurd.
    I don’t own a XZ cause I am enjoying my Z3

  • Moisés

    Go to youtube and see channel IL Franz..

    He has videos he gives advices on how to use XZ cam well.

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