Toshiba sensor to sharpen smartphone photos

Mass production of 20-megapixel sensors could improve phone photos

Toshiba has developed a new image sensor for smartphones and tablets that promises better image resolution for run-of-the-mill smartphones when it goes into mass production.

The T4KA7 is a 1/2.4-inch, 20-megapixel backside illuminated sensor with a 1.12 micrometer pixel size, which provides for a smaller sensor size overall.

The sensor allows for a lower module height of under 6 millimeters compared to the current 20-megapixel, 1.2-micrometer sensors, the company said.

"T4KA7 is the first 1.12-micrometer, 20-megapixel sensor on the market with a high frame rate of 22 fps at full resolution," a Toshiba spokeswoman wrote in an email.

The frame rate is 1.8 times the speed of Toshiba's previous 20-megapixel sensor, the T4K46.

When zooming digitally, the sensor provides crisper images compared to 13- and 16-megapixel sensors, which are resolutions widely adopted in recent smartphones, she added.

Announced earlier this year, Samsung's camera-phone hybrid Galaxy K zoom has a 20.7-megapixel image sensor that is supposed to perform well when taking photos in low-light settings.

Without a specific measurement for comparison, it's hard to say whether the T4KA7 would do any better in low-light shooting situations than other sensors, the Toshiba spokeswoman said.

"We think we are providing top-class sensors in terms of pixel performance," she added.

Toshiba is producing samples of its new sensors now, with mass production of up to half a million units per month to begin in November.

Higher-end smartphones already featuring 20-megapixel cameras include the Sony Xperia Z1, the Nokia Lumia 930 and 1520.

Announced last month, the Nokia Lumia 1020 sports a camera designed for photographers -- it has a sensor with 41-megapixel resolution.

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Tim Hornyak

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