OmniVision is behind the camera in the Moto X

BY Stefan Constantinescu

Published 2 Aug 2013

There are a handful of companies out there that make image sensors for mobile devices like smartphone and tablets. Samsung and Apple tend to stick sensors from Sony in their high end devices. But what about mass market devices? That’s where OmniVision comes in. The company has just confirmed, via a press release (PDF), that they’re responsible for the camera inside the Moto X.

The sensor, awkwardly called the OV10820, has 10.5 megapixels, and more importantly it’s also native 16:9. What does that mean? You know how Samsung says they have a 13 megapixel camera in the GS4? That’s technically true, but out of the box it’s set to crop the top and bottom parts to give you a widescreen image that’s 9.6 megapixels. This OmniVision sensor on the other hand, it’s built to spit out wide images that are of a higher resolution.

There’s even more awesome stuff: The sensor measures 1/2.6 inches, meaning it has 1.4 micron pixels. Think of cameras as the exact opposite of screens. With screens, you want the most pixels in the smallest amount of space. With cameras, you want to have fewer but larger pixels that capture more light in a given space. Just look at the HTC One, which has 2.0 micron pixels, and thus pumps out 4 megapixel photos.

Ultimately, the “coolest” feature of the OV10820 is the color filter. It uses RGBC instead of RGB. If you want to know what that means and why that’s great, you owe it to yourself to read this article on AnandTech. It talks about another camera sensor, but the underlying technology, the addition of clear pixels, is explained in academic detail.