Sony’s new smartphone camera can snap at 1,000 FPS

Alex Kidman 8 February 2017

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Get ready for some serious slo-mo action.

While plenty of users are fiercely loyal to a given smartphone brand, the reality of smartphone production is that every single phone is a cornucopia of products from different manufacturers.

This means that, for example, some iPhone models have shipped with Samsung components, nearly everybody uses Qualcomm modems, and increasingly, if there’s a good smartphone camera to be had, irrespective of the brand on the phone case, it was most likely manufactured by Sony. Naturally, that puts pressure on Sony to produce camera optics for smartphones of increasing complexity and quality.

Sony’s latest foray into this area, per its own announcement, is the first 3-layer CMOS image sensor, mixing in a DRAM layer on top of a standard 2-layer image sensor. Unless you’re an electrical engineer, that's probably just so much technobabble to you. It’s what the new sensor can do that makes it interesting.

Sony’s claim is that the sensor is capable of capturing video at Full HD 1080p resolution at an astonishing 1,000 frames per second. To give that some context, the Google Pixel XL supports slow motion video capture at 240 frames per second, so this is a serious step up on those slow-motion videos of things exploding, being dropped or simply kittens being cute that everyone goes nuts for on YouTube.

The effect of 1,000 FPS Full HD is quite mesmerising. Here’s Sony’s proof of concept video:

There’s no word as yet as to when Sony will go to manufacturing with the new sensor, although it is expected to launch new phone models at Mobile World Congress 2017. That’s probably a little too early if it’s only just announcing the sensor now, however.

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