The new sensor is known as the Sony Exmor RS IMX230, a stacked CMOS imaging sensor with a huge 21 effective megapixels. Despite its capabilities it remains compact at 1/2.4-inch, enabling its use in smaller pieces of technology.

Sony DSLR

A new era for smartphone photography

Sony Corp (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) says that the Exmor RS IMX230 is “the industry’s first CMOS image sensor for smartphones.” The most important feature for most users will be the built-in 192-point phase-detection autofocus, to improve photos of fast-moving objects. The new piece of kit also includes integrated HDR which enables both the background and subject of backlit locations to be captured clearly.

According to Sony the new sensor will be released in April 2015, and a 16-megapixel version will be added to the product range shortly after. The Exmor RS utilizes a new form of stacked construction which was first commercialized by Sony in 2012, instead of a traditional back-illuminated CMOS structure. Sony has long been a pioneer in improving image quality.

Sony sees “growing needs in smartphone photography for high-speed autofocus (image plane phase detection AF) and clear, high-quality capture of bright and dark areas even in backlit scenes (HDR imaging).” Some commentators have speculated that multi-sensor smartphone cameras are becoming a viable option, but this latest innovation from Sony is one that can be implemented quickly.

Sony smartphones

The new sensor could feature on Sony’s next flagship smartphone handset. If it does, it would provide one of the best Android camera options. The company needs to improve its smartphone offering, with the division losing a significant amount of money.

On the other hand the company earned $2.4 billion from cameras and sensors last quarter. The Sony Exmor sensor is used in the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 6, as well as various Android handsets such as the OnePlus One. The company needs to work out a way of combining the two product divisions into a handset that consumers want to purchase.