Sony's new 21MP camera sensor will bring lightning-fast autofocus to smartphones next year

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Sony is touting a new smartphone camera sensor with vastly improved autofocus performance and better HDR capabilities.

The company says its Exmor RS IMX230 is the first smartphone camera sensor with “image plane phase detection autofocus system,” which is designed to improve the focus tracking for fast-moving objects so you don’t miss out next time you’re taking pictures of your cat chasing that red laser pointer. The sensors enables up to 192 phase-detection sample points, which if you know image sensors, is a crazy-high number for a smartphone.

The new sensor also ramps up the quality of its HDR capabilities, offering an example (below) to support its claim that it can use the full megapixel capacity of the sensor, while other smartphone cameras must downgrade the quality in order to balance out the image.

exmor 230 sample Sony

Sony's press release included a sample showing improved HDR imaging quality.

Sony says it will be available in April 2015, so it’s possible we could see it in some phones next summer.

Why this matters: Camera quality varies widely across the Android ecosystem, with even top-flight devices like the Nexus 6 sometimes coming in below expectations. Sony's camera sensors are quite popular among phone makers, from Apple to Samsung, LG, HTC, and Motorola. This sensor is a step up from the current cream-of-the-crop, and will deliver a bump up in performance when it hits phones next summer.

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