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Toshiba preps 13MP phone camera sensor that promises low-light shooting without the noise

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
November 29, 2012
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Toshiba isn't the most vocal of mobile camera designers; it's often shouted out by the likes of OmniVision and Sony. It has reason to crow now that it's near launching a next-generation imager of its own. The 13-megapixel, CMOS-based TK437 sensor carries the backside illumination we already know and love for its low-light performance as well as color noise reduction that should fight the side-effects of such a dense, sensitive design. If we take Toshiba at its word, the visual quality of the sensor's 1.12-micron pixels is equal to that of much larger, less noise-prone 1.4-micron examples -- important when stuffing the sensor into 0.33 square inches. Photos will prove whether the achievement is more than just talk, although we'll have some time to wait when test samples will only reach companies in December. It's months beyond that before there's a production phone or tablet with a TK437 lurking inside.

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Toshiba Announces 13 Mega Pixel, 1.12 Micrometer, CMOS Image Sensor With Color Noise Reduction That Improves Image Quality

Company's new CMOS image sensor created with on-circuit color noise reduction lowers pixel noise and improves image quality on smartphones, mobile devices

SAN JOSE, Calif., Nov. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. (TAEC)*, a committed leader that collaborates with technology companies to create breakthrough designs, announced a new 13 mega pixel, 1.12 micrometer, CMOS image sensor delivering high-image quality equivalent to a 1.4 micrometer pixel image sensor. Toshiba implemented back side illumination (BSI) technology and integrated color noise reduction (CNR) to develop its newest CMOS image sensor that fits into an 8.5mm x 8.5mm size camera module and enables high-quality pictures even in low-light conditions.

"As mobile devices like smartphones and tablets get smaller and thinner, the pixel size of image sensors needs to shrink accordingly," said Andrew Burt, vice president of the Analog and Imaging Business Unit, System LSI Group at TAEC. "However, the miniaturization of pixel size reduces the amount of light entering into the pixel which impacts image quality. Toshiba addresses the challenge of pixel miniaturization with its newest CMOS image sensor."

The miniaturization of pixel size impacts performance of light sensitivity and signal to noise ratio (SNR) in today's 1.12 micrometer pixel image sensors. BSI technology helps improve sensitivity, but falls short on elevating image quality. Leveraging its innovation and technology expertise, Toshiba developed its newest CMOS image sensor with BSI and CNR integrated on the sensor to address both low-light sensitivity and SNR. As a result, the Toshiba CMOS image sensor provides approximately 1 ½ times higher SNR value1 than a 1.12 micrometer pixel image sensor with no CNR feature allowing manufacturers to deliver products with high-quality imagery, even in low-light conditions.

Pricing and Availability

Samples of the Toshiba 13 mega pixel, 1.12 micrometer CMOS image sensor, part number T4K37, will be available in December 2012. Sample pricing begins at $20.00 (U.S.). For more information go to: http://www.toshiba.com/taec/adinfo/cmos/

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