Sony has announced smartphone image sensors that use clear pixels to improve low light performance and allow 'HDR videos' with greater dynamic range. The chips, which will be branded 'Exmor RS' also use the company's latest 'stacked CMOS' design to maximise the light capturing area of each pixel. Adding a white (clear) pixel to the conventional red, green and blue (RGB) filters has been proposed before but Sony says its processing allows it to 'heighten sensitivity without compromising its high resolution.' The first chips to use the design will be small, smartphone-targeted 1/3"-type 13MP (IMX135) and 1/4"-type 8MP (IMX134) designs.

Both chips will be available as imaging modules (with an autofocus lens built onto the front) or as bare chips. A variant of the IMX134 with a conventional RGB filter (ISX014) will also be offered. Development of the chips and details of both technologies were announced in January.

Press Release:

Sony Develops “Exmor RS,” the World's First*1 Stacked CMOS Image Sensor

Also introduces imaging modules that deliver high picture quality and compact size, for use in mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets

Above: Imaging modules (left to right): the 'IU135F3-Z,' 'IU134F9-Z' and 'IUS014F-Z'

August 20, 2012, Tokyo, Japan - Sony Corporation (“Sony”) today announced the commercialization of “Exmor RS,” the world's first(*1) CMOS image sensor incorporating a unique, newly-developed ‘stacked structure.’ Shipments will commence in October. Sony is introducing three models of the “Exmor RS,” stacked CMOS image sensor, for use in smartphones and tablets, which combine superior image quality and advanced functionality with compact size. Sony will also launch three corresponding imaging modules incorporating these sensors.

Going forward, Sony will continue to evolve its digital imaging products, while aggressively pursuing the further development and expansion of its core “Exmor RS” stacked CMOS image sensor technologies and lineup, in order to deliver increasingly diverse and user-friendly image capturing experiences.

Two of the three “Exmor RS” models Sony is launching are the ‘IMX135’, a type 1/3.06 model with 13.13 effective megapixels and the ‘IMX134’, a type 1/4 model with 8.08 effective megapixels, which feature ‘RGBW coding’ function and ‘HDR (High Dynamic Range) movie’ function. The ‘RGBW coding’ function can capture sharp, clear images even when filmed or photographed in low light conditions, such as a dark room or at night by featuring W (white) pixels in addition to conventional RGB (red-green-blue) pixels, and leveraging Sony’s proprietary device technology and signal processing to heighten sensitivity without compromising its high resolution. ‘HDR (High Dynamic Range) movie’ function enables two different exposure conditions to be configured within a single screen when shooting, and seamlessly performs appropriate image processing to generate optimal images with a wide dynamic range and brilliant colors, even when pictures are taken against bright light. The other “Exmor RS” model is the ‘ISX014’, a type 1/4 model with 8.08 effective megapixels, which has a built-in camera signal processing function.

In addition to the higher image quality and superior functionality, the use of a ‘stacked structure’ has helped Sony to achieve a more compact size.

The “Exmor RS” is a CMOS image sensor that adopts a unique ‘stacked structure.’ This structure layers the pixel section, containing formations of back-illuminated pixels over the chip affixed with mounted circuits for signal processing, in place of conventional supporting substrates used for back-illuminated CMOS image sensors.

Sony will also bring to market three compact auto-focus imaging modules equipped with lens units and featuring auto-focus mechanisms that incorporate these image sensors: the ‘IU135F3-Z,’ ‘IU134F9-Z’ and ‘IUS014F-Z’. These three imaging modules adopt a newly-designed lens which has been optimized for the industry’s smallest(*1) 1.12μm unit pixel size to achieve higher resolution.

The ‘IU135F3-Z’ is an auto-focus imaging module incorporating a bright, high-resolution F2.2 lens. The ‘IU134F9-Z’ (W:8.5 x D:8.5 x H:4.2mm(*4)) is thin and compact. The ‘IUS014F-Z’ is an all-in-one imaging module that comprises an image sensor with built-in camera signal processing function and built-in auto-focus and picture adjustment function.

Going forward, Sony plans to continue with the proactive development of its “Exmor RS” stacked CMOS image sensors in order to bring to market imaging modules that achieve higher image quality, advanced functionality and an even more compact size. Sony aims to leverage the characteristics of its ‘stacked structure’ design to respond to the demand for larger screens in devices such as smartphones, where the amount of space available for embedding imaging modules is limited, and to continue expanding its product lineup to better accommodate its customers’ needs.

Demand is growing rapidly for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and Sony is committed to strengthening its production capacity(*2) for stacked CMOS image sensors, which combine the dual strengths of advanced functionality and compact size. This will enable Sony to solidify its position as the global leader in CMOS image sensors, and to act as a driving force for the industry in the future.

Model Shipment date
(planned) 
Sample price
(incl. tax)
Type 1/3.06
13.13 effective megapixels(*3)
Stacked CMOS image sensor
'IMX135' 
January, 2013  1,500 JPY 
Imaging module
'IU135F3-Z'
March, 2013  8,000 JPY 
Type 1/4
8.08 effective megapixels(*3)
Stacked CMOS image sensor
'IMX134
March, 2013 1,000 JPY
Imaging module
'IU134F9-Z' 
May, 2013  5,000 JPY 
Type 1/4
8.08 effective megapixels(*3)
Stacked CMOS image sensor
'ISX014' 
October, 2012  1,200 JPY 
 Imaging module
'IUS014F-Z'
November, 2012  6,000 JPY 

Main Features "Exmor RS" stacked CMOS image sensor

1) Commercialization of new, independently-developed "Exmor RS," incorporating the world's first(*1) unique 'stacked structure'
2) This stacked structure facilitates higher image quality, advanced functionality and a more compact size.
- Equipped with 'RGBW coding' and 'HDR movie' functions ("IMX135" and "IMX134")
- Equipped with a built-in camera signal processing function, enabling compatibility with automatic controls, picture adjustment and multiple image output formats (such as YUV) ("ISX014")

Main Features Imaging modules(each image sensor is mounted with a built-in lens unit with auto-focus mechanism)

1) High resolution has been achieved by adopting a newly-designed lens, which is optimized for the industry's smallest(*1) 1.12μm unit pixel size.
2) The "IU135F3-Z" auto-focus lens module adopts a bright F2.2 high-resolution lens.
3) The "IU134F9-Z" achieves a thin, compact size (W:8.5 x D:8.5 x H:4.2mm(*4)).
4) The "IUS014F-Z" is an all-in-one model capable of picture adjustment that comes equipped with a camera signal processing function.

Model name IMX135IMX134ISX014
Number of effective pixels 4208(H) x 3120(V)
13.13M pixels 
3280(H) x 2464(V)
8.08M pixels 
3280 (H) x 2464 (V)
8.08M pixels
Image size  Diagonal 5.867 mm
(Type 1/3.06) 
Diagonal 4.595 mm
(Type 1/4) 
Diagonal 4.6 mm
(Type 1/4) 
Unit cell size  1.12 μm (H) x 1.12 μm (V)  1.12 μm (H) x 1.12 μm (V) 1.12 μm (H) x 1.12 μm (V) 
Frame rateFull 24 fps 30 fps  15 fps 
1/2 sub sampling  48 fps 60 fps  30 fps 
1/8 sub sampling  Not supported  Not supported  120 fps 
HD mode  1080p 30fps (HDR mode)
1080p 60fps
720p 60fps 
1080p 30fps
720p 30fps (HDR mode)
720p 60fps 
1080p 30fps
720p 60fps 
Sensitivity
(typical value F5.6) 
92mV (Green pixel)
127mV (White pixel) 
92mV (Green pixel)
127mV (White pixel) 
84mV 
Sensor saturation signal
(minimum value)
260mV 260mV 260mV
Power
supply 
Analog  2.7V  2.7V 2.7V
 Digital  1.05V  1.05V 1.05V
 Interface  1.8V 1.8V 1.8V, 2.7V
Key features RGBW coding function
HDR movie function
Auto-control function
Picture quality adjustment function
Output  MIPI (4lane, 2lane)  MIPI (4lane, 2lane) MIPI (4lane, 2lane, 1lane) 
Image output format Bayer RAW YUV,RGB,RAW, Y/Cb/Cr,
JPEG + YUV (thumbnail), JPEG (4:2:2)

*1: Accurate at time of press release (August 20, 2012)
*2: An announcement has already been made (on June 22) regarding capital investment at Sony Semiconductor Corporation's Nagasaki Technology Center with the objective of increasing the production capacity for stacked CMOS image sensors.
*3: Based on method for specifying effective pixels in image sensors
*4: The dimensions width (W) and depth (D) exclude flexible printed circuits. Typical values exclude tolerance.