Image Sensor


PDAF: Phase Detection Auto Focus

PDAF function is the high speed auto focus technology.
This technology has the following merits compared with a conventional one (contrast AF).

  • Phase Detection Auto Focus

    Phase Detection Auto Focus

  • Conventional

    Contrast AF search

PDAF provides amazing quick and accurate focusing by every frame detection.

Useful Case1Focusing to fast moving object

Object direction [Contrast AF search: Wrong search direction (near or far) Can't track the change of direction] [Ideal Phase detection AF: Can measure object distance on every frame]

Useful Case2Focusing in case of rapid scene change between near and far

Near Object, Far Object [Contrast AF search: Need Search Step] [Ideal Phase detection AF: Can move object position directly]

In-sensor HDR functions

Outdoor in the daytime, the difference in brightness between direct sunlight and tree shade can easily exceed a factor of 10,000, creating a difference in photographic subject brightness called dynamic range. Ordinary image sensors designed for mobile applications are unable to capture a dynamic range in excess of 1000 in a single image.
Sony's HDR (High Dynamic Range) Function addresses the need to take pictures with clarity in both dark and bright areas. It is effective in situations including:

  1. Commemorative photos against a bright background
  2. Scenery photography
    Sony's HDR Function beautifully captures the colors of the sky and nuances of clouds without overly darkening the land or sea.
  3. Shooting in direct sunlight
    In areas of excessive luminous intensity, where shadows may appear too dark or subjects may appear glaring, Sony's HDR Function enables beautiful pictures.

General HDR method: Synthesis of multiple images

Conventional HDR functions can only be used when taking still pictures, with a single press of the shutter taking multiple images using higher, standard, and lower exposure. These images are synthesized by an application to generate a single image. However, the image requires time to process, and its quality remains unknown until it is synthesized and saved. In addition, a moving subject may not be captured accurately.

In-sensor HDR technology

Two exposure conditions are configured when shooting, with appropriate signal processing applied to the captured image through hardware.

Two exposure conditions are set at the time of shooting, and the captured image is processed with appropriate signal processing by hardware

High CRA-compatibility

Optimized layout of the on-chip lens and improvements to the color filter structure ensure compatibility with large CRA (Chief Ray Angle) lenses. At the same time, reduced color mixing caused by cross talk of signals from adjacent pixels improves SNR performance.
These improvements enable a lower height camera module without sacrificing picture quality, achieving better camera performance in thinner smartphones.

High-speed shooting

For high speed shooting of moving pictures, Sony augments conventional vertical direction analog pixel signal addition (binning) with horizontal direction analog pixel signal averaging, followed by AD conversion of 4 analog signal pixels at once. This allows reading of images with double the SNR (excluding circuit noise) at four times ordinary speed.

* Example of shooting with IMX219PQ

Moving Image 1 : Tennis (Serve) Recording at 180 frame/s

*Recorded with a sample module, the actual picture quality of the image sensor might be different.

Moving Image 2 : Dog Agility Slalom Recording at 180 frame/s

*Recorded with a sample module, the actual picture quality of the image sensor might be different.

Stacked CMOS Image Sensor

Adding Functional Value to a CMOS Image Sensor that Exceeds Human Vision!

Example: "High dynamic range (HDR) movie" function

By setting two different exposure conditions within a single screen shooting, the appropriate signal processing is conducted for the captured image information under each optimal exposure condition.
And this process generates an image with a broad dynamic range and enables shooting with brilliant colors even in a bright environment.

HDR movie function off, HDR movie function on

Back-illuminated and stacked structure provide advanced functionality

Stacked CMOS Image Sensor is a Sony's CMOS image sensor that adopts a unique 'stacked structure.' This structure layers the pixel section, containing formations of back-illuminated pixels over the chip affixed with mounted circuits for signal processing, in place of conventional supporting substrates used for back-illuminated CMOS image sensors.

Structure of Stacked CMOS Image Sensor

Conventional CMOS image sensors mount the pixel section and analog logic circuit on top of the same chip, which require numerous constraints when wishing to mount the large-scale circuits such as measures to counter the circuit scale and chip size, measures to suppress noise caused by the layout of the pixel and circuit sections, and optimizing the characteristics of pixels and circuit transistors.
Sony has succeeded in establishing a structure that layers the pixel section containing formations of back-illuminated structure pixels over the chip affixed with mounted circuits for signal processing, which is in place of supporting substrates used for conventional back-illuminated CMOS image sensors. By this stacked structure, large-scale circuits can now be mounted keeping small chip size. Furthermore, as the pixel section and circuit section are formed as independent chips, a manufacturing process can be adopted, enabling the pixel section to be specialized for higher image quality while the circuit section can be specialized for higher functionality, thus simultaneously achieving higher image quality, superior functionality and a more compact size. In addition, faster signal processing and lower power consumption can also be achieved through the use of leading process for the chip containing the circuits.

Back-illuminated CMOS Image Sensor

Greater Sensitivity than the Human Eye!

Condition:1 lx F1.4 (QXGA image 60 frame/s) Existing [Internal gain 42 dB/ADC 10bit mode] BI [Internal gain 51 dB/ADC 12bit mode]

Back-illuminated structure provides higher sensitivity

Sony's back-illuminated CMOS image sensor improves sensitivity and noise reduction - the key factors to enhancing image quality, while radically realigning their fundamental pixel structure from front-illumination to back-illumination. It has retained the advantages of CMOS image sensors such as low power consumption and high-speed operation

Structure of Front and Back-illuminated pixel

With a conventional front-illumination structure, the metal wiring and transistors on the surface of the silicon substrate that form the sensor's light-sensitive area (photo-diode) impede photon gathering carried out by the on-chip lens, and this has also been an important issue in the miniaturization of pixels and widening optical angle response.
A back-illuminated structure minimizes the degradation of sensitivity to optical angle response, while also increasing the amount of light that enters each pixel due to the lack of obstacles such as metal wiring and transistors that have been moved to the reverse of the silicon substrate.
However, compared to conventional front-illuminated structures, back-illuminated structures commonly causes problems such as noise, dark current, defective pixels and color mixture that lead to image degradation and also cause a decrease in the signal-to-noise ratio.
To overcome this Sony has newly developed a unique photo-diode structure and on-chip lens optimized for back-illuminated structures, that achieves a higher sensitivity and a lower random noise without light by reducing noise, dark current and defect pixels compared to the conventional front-illuminated structure. Additionally, Sony's advanced technologies such as high-precision alignment have addressed any color mixture problems.

CMOS Image Sensor with Column-parallel A/D conversion circuit

Faster than the Human Eye!

Higher Speed with Column-parallel A/D Conversion and Reducing Noise

The key to increased speed of Sony's CMOS Image Sensor can be found in parallel signal processing. CMOS sensors have analog-digital (A/D) conversion circuits that convert analog pixel signals into digital signals (Figure 1). Speed is increased by arranging thousands of these circuits in a horizontal array and allowing them to operate simultaneously. The A/D conversion circuits used in Sony's CMOS sensors have important characteristics, including the reduced size of the analog circuits in which noise is created, and automatic noise cancellation. This circuit design enables noise reduction to be combined with enhanced speed.

Figure 1
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