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Sony makes brighter/lower power 'WhiteMagic' LCD panel

By dpreview staff on Aug 10, 2011 at 18:16 GMT

Sony has developed the 'WhiteMagic' high-resolution LCD panel that can be brighter or consume less power than existing units. The 3.0" LCD uses an additional white 'dot' at every position to provide a brighter image for use in bright light. Alternatively, the unit can be used in a low power mode that offers the same brightness as conventional monitors but using half the power. The RGBW design uses 1.24M dots to produce a VGA display (640x480 pixels), rather than the 920k dots used in current (RGB VGA LCD) designs. Sony supplies LCD panels to many of the big camera makers, so it could appear in a variety of cameras. It could be particularly useful in the Mirrorless sector, where the rear screen is the primary means of composing an image and any improvements in battery life or screen brightness for outdoor use would be especially valuable. Sadly a shipping date of October is likely to mean it's too late for any releases this side of Christmas.

Press Release:

Sony has commercialized “WhiteMagic™”*1 a 3-inch VGA LCD module incorporating the newly-developed ‘RGBW method’ for digital cameras

Enabling a reduction in power consumption of approximately 50%* & improved outdoor visibility (around twice* the brightness), suitable for implementation in Smartphones

* compared with the conventional RGB method (Sony's comparison)

Sony Corporation has succeeded in commercializing “WhiteMagic™ ”*1, an LCD module for digital cameras that utilizes the newly-developed ‘RGBW method’.

  “WhiteMagic™ ” incorporates a 3-inch VGA low-temperature polysilicone TFT LCD module that adds a white (‘W’) pixel to the Red-Green-Blue (‘RGB’) pixels. By improving the brightness of the entire screen, Sony has been able to develop a module that offers one mode to reduce the power consumption of backlight by around 50%, as well as another mode that approximately doubles the brightness to improve outdoor visibility. Even adding the W pixel, the analysis of the input picture data and Sony's unique signal processing algorithm enable images to be displayed without any deterioration.

In recent times, devices such as digital cameras and Smartphones have been gradually calling for even larger screens and higher resolutions. There are also increasing demands to reduce the power consumption of the displays. The conventional RGB display, however, has a major difficulty in simultaneously achieving both high resolution and low power consumption.

By incorporating the newly-developed ‘RGBW method’ that adds a white (‘W’) pixel to the conventional RGB pixels, Sony has succeeded in enhancing the brightness of the entire screen of its new LCD module.

The addition of a white pixel tends to result in deterioration of the image quality. However, Sony's “WhiteMagic™” analyzes the input picture data and performs suitable signal processing (using its new algorithm), thus enabling a deterioration-free display.

As a result, Sony has succeeded in equipping its LCD modules with a new ‘low power mode,’ which enables brightness equivalent to that of conventional RGB LCD modules, even the power consumption of the backlight is reduced by approximately 50%. There is also an ‘outdoors mode,’ which successfully improves outdoor visibility of the display by enhancing the display brightness to roughly double, even without the use of any additional power. Consequently, the ‘Low power mode’ increases the battery life of the devices, while the ‘outdoors mode’ facilitates focusing of the camera and/or checking of the images being filmed even under strong sunlight.

“WhiteMagic™” is also applicable to displays for Smartphones. Sony hopes that “WhiteMagic™” module will meet the demands of customers across a wide range of mobile devices.

Special features of this product & its technology

  1. ‘High resolution LCD’
    Equipped with 3-inch 1.23M-dot full VGA LCD
  2. ‘RGBW method without deterioration in image quality’
    By adding a W pixel to the RGB pixels as well as developing a new algorithm for image signal processing, Sony has succeeded in improving the brightness of the entire screen without any deterioration in image quality.
  3. (3) ‘Low power mode’
    Reduces the power consumption of the backlight by approximately 50%, with keeping the display brightness equivalent to that of conventional RGB LCD modules.
  4. (4) ‘Outdoors mode’
    Improves outdoor visibility of the display by enhancing the display brightness to roughly double, while using the equivalent power consumption of conventional RGB method displays.
  5. (5) ‘Flexibility for mobile device displays’
    Can be used in applications for displays of Smartphones and other mobile devices

Sony White Magic 3.0" LCD specifications

Screen size • 3.0 inches
LCD mode • Vistarich™*2, transmissive
Number of display dots • 1.23M-dot (640 x RGBW x 480)
Color reproducibility • NTSC ratio 60%
Contrast ratio • 1000 : 1
Viewing angle • Vertical/horizontal160 degrees

Mode Surface brightness Power consumption
Low power mode • 470 cd/m² 225mW
(Backlight 125mW)
Outdoors mode • 1000 cd/m² 400mW
(Backlight 300mW)

*1 “WhiteMagic ™” is the generic name attributed to the LCD technology of low power consumption and of enhanced outdoors visibility, which uses RGBW method, as well as the LCD panels and LCD modules that have been designed based on this technology.
In addition, the WhiteMagic logo and “WhiteMagic ™” is a trademark of Sony Corporation.
*2 Vistarich™ is a trademark of Sony Corporation.


Total comments: 15
Beat Fehr
By Beat Fehr (Aug 15, 2011)

I hope the screen will be in the A77

By shaocaholica (Aug 13, 2011)

And yet there will still be some makers who will keep using ~400k dot screen for the next 5 years.

By yuyucheu (Aug 11, 2011)


Chaitanya S
By Chaitanya S (Aug 11, 2011)

I would rather prefer a OLED screen than a LCD screen.

By Teddy (Aug 10, 2011)

Good. Hopefully the D400 will have it early next year.

By pgphoto_ca (Aug 10, 2011)

Probably to late for the Nikon D4......but maybe on the D4X .... hummm

By Photogaz (Aug 10, 2011)

Sony is always doing cool stuff with their displays.

By eye-spy (Aug 10, 2011)

The reason i can't see my existing lcd screen in bright light is because the atrocious glossy piece of plastic that covers the screen acts as mirror and the reflections prevent me seeing the image on the screen.

We don't need a new LCD panel, we need non reflective pieces of plastic covering the existing LCDs!

By czesiu (Aug 10, 2011)

I guess it would be nice to have both :)

1 upvote
By viking79 (Aug 10, 2011)

It isn't that, many cameras already use anti-reflective coating on their LCD's (like Pentax on the K-5), and it is still hard to see in bright light. The problem is the sunlight enters into the display and washes it out (much like veiling glare in lenses). This is general limitation with this type of display. I am glad something is being done to address it.

1 upvote
By falconeyes (Aug 10, 2011)

That's one reason. But an even more important reason is that current rear LCDs are backlit rather than reflective (like many top LCDs). A combination of both could solve the issue too.

I believe some smartphones do or did this already.

1 upvote
By dara2 (Aug 11, 2011)

>By czesiu (Aug 10, 2011 at 19:18:56 GMT)
>I guess it would be nice to have both :)

We are talking about new tech here:
My ipaq H3600 has a transflective lcd touch screen (a combination of transmissive + reflective with light sensor). The ipaq H3600 was just released in ... 2000

1 upvote
By IEBA1 (Aug 10, 2011)

This is cool news. Maybe if you're doing B&W, the screen can be set to ONLY use the white pixels.

Bruce Crossan
By Bruce Crossan (Aug 10, 2011)

The screen on the back of my D300 is already a little too bright - resulted in few underexposures until I got used to it

By RedFox88 (Aug 10, 2011)

You really can't use any camera LCD to judge exposure since they are typically too bright by default to make them easier seen in bright light. You should use the camera's/image's histogram as a judge of exposure not how the image looks.

Total comments: 15