With smartphones becoming ever thinner and their cameras becoming increasingly powerful, it seemed inevitable that something had to give – though not now necessarily with Toshiba's announcement of a new highly sensitive CMOS sensor.
Toshiba announced the launch of its new 1.12 micrometre pixel CMOS image sensor, that offers “the industry's smallest level pixel size with enhanced sensitivity and improved imaging performance of back-side illumination technology (BSI).” Most high-end smartphones these days have cameras with sensors boasting between 5 and 8 megapixels and the challenge now is to create smaller pixels but without the miniaturisation causing a fall-off in image quality.
Toshiba has overcome this by using BSI senors which deploy lenses on the rear of the sensor, on its silicon substrate, not on the front, where wiring limits light absorption. This positioning boosts light sensitivity and absorption, and allows formation of finer image pixels in smaller CMOS image sensors, bringing it more suitable for motion pictures applications as well. A statement from the company said: “Toshiba has made full use of the advantages of BSI to realize image pixels with a pitch of 1.12 micrometers, and to pack 8.08 million of them into a 1/4in sensor. The new sensor achieves high level imaging and processing that will bring a new level of image quality to smartphones.”
Toshiba has said it expects BSI CMOS image sensors to become the mainstream technology in portable digital technology, with applications expanding from mobile phones and digital cameras to smartphones and tablets. Sampling of the new sensor will begin at the end of this month and mass production will follow from the end of 2011.