Smartphone vs dedicated cameras: Sony’s new 1-inch camera sensor is coming to a phone near you

The smartphone camera continues to rise. And the rise seems to be accelerating.

According to reports, we should see Sony’s new 1-inch sensor (IMX989) hitting the market next month.

By digital trends, Chinese tech company Xiaomi has confirmed that its upcoming 12S Ultra will use the sensor. This new model is expected to launch on July 4.

This isn’t the first time 1-inch sensors have appeared in a smartphone – models from Sharp and others have been released in 2021. But it’s certainly the first large-scale manufacturer to bring them to market, which makes this important news for those who follow technology and camera trends.

What are the benefits of a larger sensor?

Mainly: light.

Larger sensors can capture more light because they have larger surface areas. This means you can capture photos (and video) in conditions that would normally be impossible or require additional flash or lighting.

There are also other advantages; such as resolution and field of view and many other aspects that are far too technical to discuss here. And it’s worth pointing out that a bigger sensor isn’t necessarily always better.

For example, full-frame sensors have been all the rage in the dedicated camera world these days (eg Sony Alpha A7 III, Canon EOS R5, Panasonic Lumix S5, etc.). However, the film industry has been pretty much standardized on “Super 35” for a century of cinema. Ultimately, different sensor sizes exhibit different behaviors. Just like lentils of course. It’s up to the creator to decide how best to use the available technology without a single solution being the end and being everything.

No doubt Apple will have more big news in a few months when the iPhone 14 arrives.

We can expect the iPhone camera to get a lot of attention. Like always. Multiple lenses will make headlines. As they always are. However, Apple will likely continue to rely on its computational photography toolkit.

Of course, the competition will use larger sensors (Apple too!). But software is key and where Apple and its vast pool of talent and resources can really make a difference. This is how things like auto bokeh/background blurring can happen.

Camera nerds like me will continue to gravitate toward dedicated DSLRs and mirrorless cameras – it’s as they say, a kind of “craft” after all, not just a spec sheet and Twitter post or Instagram (not that there’s anything wrong with that). ILE cameras will continue to lose market share. Not much risk in predicting this turn of events. The smartphone camera will continue to gain new followers, those who would have previously shot on Sony, Nikon, Canon or Panasonic in the past. If the compact phone in our pockets and purses can produce a cinematic image, why bother with a dedicated camera and lenses? Well, at least that will be the rhetorical question asked by many – but not all.

Given Xiaomi’s decision to move to larger sensors and tout things like “faster focus” and other photography and videography related features, it will be interesting to see if a Another wave of camera innovation will soon follow.

Note: The main photo is the sensor of a Sony Alpha A7R mirrorless camera.

Comments are closed.