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Cellphones Sony Hardware Technology

Sony's Latest Smartphone Camera Sensor Can Shoot At 1,000fps (theverge.com) 86

Sony has taken the wraps off of its latest smartphone camera sensor which it says can shoot 1080p slow-motion video at 1,000 frames per second. "The new 3-layer CMOS sensor -- an industry first -- can capture slow motion video about eight times faster than its competition with minimal focal pane distortion, according to Sony," reports The Verge. From their report: The sensor can also take 19.3MP images in 1/120th of a second, which Sony says is four times faster than other chips, thanks to high-capacity DRAM, and a 4-tier construction on the circuit section used to convert analog video signals to digital signals. All of that fancy camera talk basically means this sensor blows every camera currently in a smartphone out of the water. Although the iPhone 7 and the Google Pixel can shoot 1080p slow-motion video at 120fps, they are still miles behind what Sony has reached with its latest sensor. At 1,000fps it even surpasses the Sony RX 100 V, which can only shoot at 960fps.
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Sony's Latest Smartphone Camera Sensor Can Shoot At 1,000fps

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  • storage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spiny ( 87740 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2017 @06:09AM (#53824633) Homepage Journal

    but the base model will probably only have enough room to store three seconds of video

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      but the base model will probably only have enough room to store three seconds of video

      With no sd card slot.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Probably so. I wish Nokia was still making good-quality camera phones (yes, they used to be top quality compared to competitors back then). Anybody still remember that Nokia Lumia 1020 with a 41 megapixel camera from 2013? Would have been nice if they continued on that path.

      Captcha: optical

    • Re:storage (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2017 @07:04AM (#53824755)

      Full HD at 8 bit per channel is about 50Mbit.
      Their specs say the DRAM has 1Gbit capacity.
      So that's 20 frames at high speed that can fit in the internal buffer.
      At 240 fps (their specs don't mention 1000 fps??), that gives you 0.08s of video before it needs to be transferred to flash storage.
      Transfer to flash is probably a few orders of magnitude slower, so this will only work for very short bursts of 20 frames.
      They could use the chip in a specialized camera with a high bandwidth RAM buffer, but for smartphones this just seems to be a gimmick.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I wonder if it's a coincidence that 240fps 1080p has the same bandwidth as 60fps 2160p. It's plausible to think that at 960fps you are limited to 20 frames (or 40 with yuv?) but at 240fps you can stream it to the flash.

    • No worries - it will just stream directly to the cloud.

  • by dv82 ( 1609975 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2017 @06:20AM (#53824657)
    "4-tier construction on the circuit section used to convert analog video signals to digital signals" ... Really, posting marketing non-information on Slashdot? Perhaps it's a parallel/pipelined A/D, judging form the application, performance and use of "tier". In any case, A/D converters have common specs, and if this one is special those specs would be of interest. Nerds don't have to be protected from "fancy camera talk".
    • Welcome to Slashdot, where snippets of press releases are posted verbatim at the mere mention of advertising cash.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, and it hasn't been for several years. Today we see PR and adverts wrapped up as news. The new owners lust for click impressions on a dying site. Heck, this places sees less traffic that the likes of voat.

      Back on topic: Regardless of the CCD capture rate on our mobile devices, they are still complete pig swill when lighting conditions are less than ideal. How about making sensors a little better rather the buzzword bullshit gimmicky 1 bajillion pixesl at pointless framerates that nothing supports?

  • This is great! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2017 @07:00AM (#53824747)

    Finally a feature we can really use in our everyday lives. I bet some poor sap got fired after suggesting, "if we make our phones a little bit thicker we could double the battery life!" What an idiot. ;)

    • Absolutely this ^^^. I'm all for progress, but WTF people? 20 years ago, this kind of high speed photography was rare, and very expensive, and not terribly necessary to everyday life. 20 years ago, when you picked up a phone to dial it, it just worked - no problems about battery life, no problems about spotty wireless service. Can we please focus just a little bit on retaining what we had, instead of doing things because we can?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm looking at this from a different angle. No, most people are not going to use this for anything more than filming the dog shaking at 1000 fps a couple times.

        But as someone who actually has a use for HD 1000fps, this crap cannot hit the consumer market fast enough. For years there has been basically no mid-range option between the old casio exilim line(which could do technically 1000fps, at an almost unusable resolution) and high-end dedicated HS cameras that you either rent for $$$/day or buy for outrig

        • I'm looking at this from a different angle. No, most people are not going to use this for anything more than filming the dog shaking at 1000 fps a couple times.

          As I read TFA, I was thinking to myself, wtf would I ever use this for?!
          Sold.

        • Anybody who coaches sports (e.g. golf swing) could make good use of this.
      • Re:This is great! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2017 @11:56AM (#53826067)

        Or not. We already have what you want, you people just don't want to turn it on. Reliable phone with 10-20 days of battery life? Turn on ultra-low power mode and you get everything you ever want. Oh but you don't use that mode do you? No one does, because as much as you claim that's what you and everyone wants, the convenience of a device that instead does EVERYTHING trumps your silly battery life + dumb phone requirements every time.

        In the mean time I'm sure we'll all be happy not further crippling our devices to please people like you who don't use these modes which are provided to you already thank you very much.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Battery saving modes are useless and often do the opposite due to being broken.

          • Battery saving modes are useless and often do the opposite due to being broken.

            Thankyou for your insight anonymous coward. I would take your comment seriously if it weren't for the fact that my phone happily ran for 12 days on battery saving mode and still had 20% battery left when I returned from my camping trip.

            Truly horrible performance. Horrible I tells ye.

  • by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2017 @07:08AM (#53824761) Homepage

    I guess that 100fps means every shot will have an aperture less than 1/1000th of a second, meaning it will only work in very bright setups. Still an impressive feat though.

    • Bright light has always been a requirement of high speed photography - so, you can catch an awesome slow-mo of junior sliding into home plate on a sunny day, post it to Facebook to wow your friends what a tech wizard you are, and then never use the feature again because: what a pain in the ass and who really cares?

      20 years ago, I needed a high speed camera like this, once, for about 5 minutes in a professional/scientific setting, and that was it. Any other uses for something like this, for me, in the last

  • As impressive as those speeds are, I am much more impressed by a camera's image quality. What are the practical applications to these per-second speeds? Will they help eliminate blurring when I take a picture of my daughter, and she starts crawling away right when I take the picture? That would be useful.
    • You could, you know, go to the linked article and watch the videos. That is, if you wanted to know what the quality of the images was like.

      • Sure, but I've learned long ago to take what the manufacturer says with a grain of salt
      • You could, you know, go to the linked article and watch the videos. That is, if you wanted to know what the quality of the images was like.

        Watching video that has been carefully-selected and adjusted by the marketing-department to give as positive an impression as possible doesn't actually tell much of anything about the actual quality.

      • We're used to linked articles that don't even have a single photo of the topic. I'm shocked to hear that there's a video for this one.

    • As impressive as those speeds are, I am much more impressed by a camera's image quality. What are the practical applications to these per-second speeds? Will they help eliminate blurring when I take a picture of my daughter, and she starts crawling away right when I take the picture? That would be useful.

      Um, take a quick look at the size of the lens, that will tell you immediately what the limits are on image quality. Can you get good (or good-enough) photos out of a phone camera, in perfect conditions, yep... Can you get excellent photos in any number of challenging conditions? Nope... you need a real camera with a good quality lens for that.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2017 @08:24AM (#53824897)

    While I can certainly applaud Sony in advancing technology for the sake of innovation and capitalism, the form factor certainly questions logic here.

    I shouldn't be surprised though. When it comes to consumer electronics, the vendor knows best, which is why they no longer give a damn about asking a single customer if 1,000fps is something they want or need in a smartphone. It's not exactly a necessary feature in order to take drunk selfies and cat videos destined for social media.

    Camera enthusiasts will continue to cringe as smartphone focus will eventually push development away from the DSLR form factor entirely. It's a shame, because as it stands today, there is no substitute for a lot of good glass.

    • Once the chip is developed, the extra cost of 1,000 fps support is very small, so why not ? And while not always useful, there are certainly times when I'd like to shoot some slow-motion footage. Work-related stuff comes to mind.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Glass might be replaced by processing:
      http://spectrum.ieee.org/consumer-electronics/gadgets/inside-the-development-of-light-the-tiny-digital-camera-that-outperforms-dslrs

      • by b0bby ( 201198 )

        That's really neat; I know that the reviews of the dual-lens iPhone setup are pretty good, and Light looks like that idea taken to its logical conclusion.

    • The 1000fps is really out there in terms of "will I ever use it" - if it pushes the low light capabilities forward, that will definitely improve the drunk cat photo quality.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sony make the professional cameras used for TV, live sports and movies. They know what the fsck they are doing. This is just downstream usage for stuff created for high end CCDs. It has probably been sitting on a shelf until Samsung or LG could retool one of their plants and run these things off at a scale and price that makes them viable for consumer gadgets.

      • Sony make the professional cameras used for TV, live sports and movies. They know what the fsck they are doing. This is just downstream usage for stuff created for high end CCDs. It has probably been sitting on a shelf until Samsung or LG could retool one of their plants and run these things off at a scale and price that makes them viable for consumer gadgets.

        A toilet maker likely knows what the fsck they're doing as well. Doesn't justify forging one out of titanium, which speaks directly to my original point.

        Just because you can, doesn't mean a customer will appreciate the fact the new-and-improved model with features no one asked for now costs $75 more. Bigger is not always better, as pointless remains pointless.

        • Doesn't justify forging one out of titanium

          Sounds cold... But also strangely awesome

        • by Anonymous Coward

          > features no one asked for now costs $75 more.

          You are assuming that the cost will increase. This is not necessarily true. Once the development cost and machinery has been paid for by using these on DSLRs and system cameras (which have been using these for a couple of years), then churning out smaller sensors with the same technology may be cheaper than continuing with older sensors.

          You may not need slow-motion video, but you might want the other photo features that this can lead to, and already does on

    • Camera enthusiasts will continue to cringe as smartphone focus will eventually push development away from the DSLR form factor entirely.

      It won't, if only because the photographers who take pictures of the phones still want DSLRs. But that won't actually be the only reason. There's also sensor size, which remains relevant.

    • I shouldn't be surprised though. When it comes to consumer electronics, the vendor knows best, which is why they no longer give a damn about asking a single customer if 1,000fps is something they want or need in a smartphone.

      When Canon / Nikon developed video capabilities in their camera EVERY customer said it was something they don't want. It is now a standard feature that has opened up a new world of videography to to many people.

      Not every customer needs to be asked about every feature, otherwise we'd all be riding really fast horses. Me ... I can't wait. 1000fps would lead to some neat effects for camera footage, and that's before taking into account the features that this opens up from an image processing point of view (ant

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > smartphone focus will eventually push development away from the DSLR form factor entirely.

      Complete nonsense. The same technology is used for both. DSLRs and Mirrorless system cameras get the technology first and phones only benefit later. Current developments in cameras are moving to 4K and higher and using this to do 'HDR', 'post focus'* and 'focus stacking'* by getting the camera to take several very high speed shots, varying focus or aperture or other, and then the user can choose the one(s) they wa

    • The high frame rate is just the inverse of the short sensor scanning time. You need this to avoid rolling shutter effects when you don't have an actual shutter. The fact that you can capture a lot of frame is just an interesting side effect.

  • > Shoot At 1,000fps
    > this sensor blows every camera

    It seems that, to advertise the qualities of a smartphone, expressions related to firearms and ballistics are of common usage. So, if once in a while a smartphone explodes it should not be a surprise, after all.
  • Also see through clothes like those Sony camcorders from the 90s?

  • That's good. Say a raw file is ~20MB, so one second costs 20GB!
    • Don't use raw then. At 1000 fps most things don't move much, so there's a lot of potential for temporal compression with minimum loss of quality.
      • Good point, but would compressing the images on the fly restrict the maximum sustainable frame rate? Either way, it's gonna strain the storage and IO of a handheld device.

  • I find it weird that the slow-motion is only compared to iPhone 7 and Pixel at 120 fps, while Galaxy S7 has a double framerate of 240 compared to those. Of course this is still far from 960 fps, but the summary gives an impression that iPhone 7 and Pixel were the industry leaders in this regard, which they simply aren't.
  • by OldMugwump ( 4760237 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2017 @10:59AM (#53825579)
    FWIW, the 3 layers are not red/green/blue, but photosensor, DRAM, and logic. It's a standard Bayer pattern sensor; not a multilayer color sensor. And by "focal plane distortion" they don't mean focus error due to different depths for RGB, but rolling shutter ("jello effect"). (The post was a bit confusing - it's easy to read it as being about a Foveon-type sensor. But no.)
  • A camera like this used to cost $10,000 or more and it wouldn't even have a phone attached.

  • by JazzXP ( 770338 ) on Wednesday February 08, 2017 @05:09PM (#53828747) Homepage
    For me the real innovation here is significantly reducing the rolling shutter effect. 1000fps is just a byproduct of the tech to do that.

Premature optimization is the root of all evil. -- D.E. Knuth

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