Sony Semiconductor Solutions has published the specifications for six new full-frame sensors, including multiple stacked sensors and a 15MP sensor that uses Sony’s Quad Bayer design found in a few of its smartphone image sensors. As always, these are basic spec documents aimed at would-be buyers of the chips, suggesting that all these technologies are available to customers outside Sony.

Below is a gallery of the spec sheets with a breakdown of the sensors following:

Let’s start with the IMX521CQR: a new 15MP Quad Bayer sensor. This sensor appears to be a variant of the 61MP sensor inside the a7R IV but with Sony’s Quad Bayer color filter pattern in front of it. What’s interesting about this particular sensor is that Sony is calling it a 15MP sensor instead of 61MP; a very different approach to its marketing around the IMX586 smartphone sensor, which it calls a 48MP Quad Bayer sensor, despite its 12MP output. This isn’t the first Quad Bayer sensor outside of smartphones that Sony has developed either. Its IMX299CJK sensor is more or less a Quad Bayer version of the sensor inside the Panasonic GH5S.

The spec sheet suggests the sensor can be read as a series of large pixels or be treated so that alternate rows cut off after different exposures (or with different amounts of gain) to provide HDR images. This is conceptually very similar to the SR and DR modes of Fujifilm's Super CCD EXR technology. The possibility exists that Sony doesn't provide customers with the processing know-how that it uses to reconstruct a 61MP image, which may be why the chip is described as only offering 15MP.

Another interesting chip is the IMX311AQK (48.97MP). It's a stacked CMOS chip that uses a 45-degree pixel array. Not many details are given, but it sounds a lot like an idea Fujifilm flirted with twenty years ago, with its original Super CCD technology.

As we understand it, the logic is that Bayer pattern is very good at capturing horizontal and vertical detail but much less good at diagonal patterns, so rotating it gives a better diagonal resolution which is better at capturing natural subjects. Or, as Fujifilm's marketing once put it: 'better suits the distribution of spatial frequencies of image data in nature as well as idiosyncrasies inherent in human vision.'

Conventional sensors

Moving onto the other chips mentioned in the new documents, Sony has detailed the specifications for two stacked sensor that use a more conventional layout: the IMX554DQC - a 30.65MP chip that can read out at over 36 frames per second - and the IMX313AQK (48.96MP), which can shoot at up to 10 fps in 16-bit mode and 21 fps with 14-bit readout.

The IMX409BQJ, a backside-illuminated 55.16MP sensor achieves up to 13.2 fps for still images or 21.5 fps in 12-bit mode, without using a stacked design. There's no sign of this being in any current camera and overall it looks to be the most conventional sensor of the bunch.

Last up is the IMX410CQX, a 24MP backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor that looks very similar to the sensors we've already seen inside the Sony A7 III, Panasonic Lumix DC-S1, Nikon Z6 and Sigma fp cameras.