Sony has promised to meet the ‘growing need’ for high-speed AF in smartphones by launching a 21-million-pixel imaging sensor featuring a new signal-processing function.

The image plane phase detection on Sony’s latest sensor uses 192 AF points

Announcing ‘commercialisation’ of the Exmor RS IMX230 sensor, Sony Japan said the sensor is aimed at smartphone cameras and other devices requiring ‘increasingly sophisticated image-capture functionality’.

Sony said it is due for release onto the market in April 2015.

On its website yesterday, Sony trumpeted the development as the industry’s first CMOS imaging sensor for smartphones to feature an onboard image plane phase detection AF signal processing function, ‘to achieve excellent focus tracking of fast-moving subjects’.

The image plane phase detection AF system uses up to 192 AF points.

Dedicated image plane phase detection AF pixels are built into the imaging sensor screen – the distance to the subject and lens position for focusing being calculated based on the data obtained from these pixels.

The sensor is a 1/2.4in-type that Sony claims will also deliver high-quality bright and dark areas, even in backlit scenes.

Sony explains that image plane phase detection AF enables a camera to ‘capture quick-moving subjects, and makes accurate, high-speed autofocus tracking possible when shooting still images and videos, such as kids and animals constantly on the move, and other fast subjects including athletes at sporting events’.

Sony said it plans to add image plane phase detection AF and HDR imaging functions to a new 16MP sensor ‘by the end of the next fiscal year’.

Sony first commercialised this type of stacked imaging sensor in 2012.