This photo of the sensor, provided by Toshiba, shows the tiny, 13-megapixel camera component floating in a Y2K-era cyberspace illustration.

Hardware manufacturers are steadily keeping up with the ever-growing demand for smaller and more advanced smartphone cameras.

Toshiba announced last week a 1.12-micrometer, 13-megapixel sensor out this month. The move to 1.12-micrometer technology allows for 13 megapixels on a standard 1/3-inch sensor. Despite its smaller scale, Toshiba claims the sensor has an image quality equivalent to that produced by a 1.4-micrometer sensor.

The company explains that the camera sensors on mobile phones perform poorly in low-light conditions because the miniaturization of pixel size creates less light sensitivity. By introducing color noise reduction to a backside illuminated sensor, Toshiba claims it provides an approximately 1.5 times higher signal to noise ratio value than a 1.12 micrometer pixel image sensor with no color noise reduction feature. This higher signal to noise ratio implies that it can take clearer photos in low light conditions. 

Full Press Release:


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 — 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.)