This post was most recently updated on July 26th, 2018
Sony recently made a bombshell announcement about an upcoming CMOS sensor for smartphone cameras from the company. The IMX586 would pack a whopping 48 megapixels, the highest count for the industry, according to Sony. Not only that, the size of each pixel would ultra-compact at only 0.8 μm, which Sony announced to be a “world first.”
Cameras and Vloggers
When (or if) this massive CMOS sensor is released, it would support unprecedented levels of enhanced imaging on smartphones. Many brands are competing to deliver high-end cameras for smartphones, largely thanks to photo and video-obsessed buyers. Could an IMX586-packed camera finally change the tide for smartphones cameras?
Smartphone cameras are mainly used to take selfies. When it comes to taking conventional photographs like portraits, or better yet for shooting video, traditional cameras still dominate. Consumers still buy point-and-shoot DSLRs for traveling and serious personal photography, even though brands like Apple have made major strides in developing smartphone cameras. Vloggers, who shoot video, travel, and digitally communicate all the time, prefer Canon DLSRs to smartphone cameras, despite the latter being more convenient.
Considering the above, it’s worth asking whether Sony’s upcoming hardware could really change the fate of smartphone cameras and DSLRs. To fully understand what the proposed CMOS sensor can do, read below:
Sony Makes Megapixels Matter Again
Smartphone buyers have long known that the MP account doesn’t actually improve photo quality in smartphones. The real difference between an 8MP and a 16MP camera boils down to picture print size. The MP count indicates how big a photograph can be when printed onto paper without any visual distortions.
What makes Sony’s announced CMOS sensor noteworthy is the size of each pixel. Sony calls it a “smart pixel size.” Because the IMX586 can render in smaller than standard pixels, the resulting image can have better saturation as well as photoelectric conversion. It should be generally more efficient.
Sony says that the small pixel size allows for 48MP smartphone camera sensors. The unit is small enough to fit in a small handheld device. Keep in mind that smartphones use digital zoom, as opposed to optical zoom available with many DSLRs. Optical zoom actually zooms in on an object in a distance. Digital zoom just takes the image as it is and enlarges it. With an increased pixel count, smartphone cameras can reach high-def picture clarity similar to what users get with an optical zoom.
The new sensor is also equipped with a Quad Bayer color filter array. It makes adjacent pixels adopt the same color. That increases the sensitivity level of the camera, meaning users can take high-res photos.
unlike every before with smartphones. This array effect will mostly be useful when shooting in bright sunlight.
The new sensor would have four times the dynamic range of the average smartphone camera. Sony is building signal processing and exposure control technology into the sensor simultaneously. These very technical functions increase the dynamic range of the camera. Users can expect to catch highly detailed images even in low-light conditions. Users will also be able to see shadows and highlights when looking at a low-light photograph on the smartphone.
Overall, Sony’s IMX586 will elevate the resolution levels, detail, and visibility in lowlight conditions of smartphone cameras in unprecedented levels. Could that lead to more smartphone users using their phones for something other than taking selfies? Could an IMX586-equipped phone camera become the GoPro of vlogging?
The Camera Challenges Vloggers Face
The preference for the camera will depend on the individual needs of each vlogger. But many prefer to own an affordable and compact camera with high portability. Ideally, smartphones should fit into this category. However, most vloggers don’t use smartphone cameras because of the low-resolution levels and inability to capture fine details, compared to a conventional DSLR.
Vloggers consistently prefer to use DSLRs like the Canon G7X overs smartphones. The Canon and sometimes Nikon DSLRs are more popular because these cameras offer significantly high resolutions without the body being too heavy or bulky. DSLR cameras tend to have better sensors, thus offering excellent detail when shooting videos as well as taking photographs.
Until Sony announced the 48MP CMOS sensor, smartphone cameras could not level the playing field with DLSRs. Digital zoom makes smartphone cameras particularly weak, compared to even the cheaper end DSLRs that have optical zoom.
When Sony finally unveils the new CMOS sensor, smartphone cameras might become a dominant force, possibly putting small cameras out of business. At least, that was the speculation until Nikon unveiled a mirrorless camera only half a day later.
Nikon’s mirrorless cameras are such a big deal, the company actually made a Hollywood-style teaser trailer for it. Nikon’s announcement wasn’t as detailed as Sony’s, but it let on just enough to get fans excited about the brand’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras.
The teaser offers a glimpse of the camera. And from the preliminary looks of it, the camera seems capable of supporting f/0.95 lenses, which can capture an astounding amount of light. It will likely come with an electronic viewfinder as well. The design looks futuristically ergonomic too.
Nikon’s camera is aimed at professional photographers and would come in two different models. One model would support 48MPs while a more budget version would support 25MPs. Nikon is clear that the mirrorless camera would be high-end. So users can expect to see advanced features such as a 5-axis image stabilization and 4K video.
If there’s a downside to this camera, it would be the price. The mirrorless Nikon is estimated to cost around $4,000. Indeed, only top professionals and perhaps career vloggers would opt for a camera like this. Most vloggers look for price affordability as mentioned above. Perhaps Sony’s IMX586 smartphone cameras might actually fill the void.
High-end smartphones don’t cost as much as high-end cameras. From a newbie vlogger perspective, buying a smartphone with a great camera would be the better investment on a cash-strapped budget. As new camera tech advances, it’s possible that we might see low-end cameras being slowing swallowed up by improving smartphone cameras.