According to the latest research by Counterpoint, mobile phones are expected to account for 71.4% of the total global CMOS image sensor (CIS) market revenue in 2022. Flagship smartphones are chasing DSLR-like shooting performance. Image sensors as core imaging components have become the key area of focus for mobile phone camera performance breakthroughs, with 50MP CIS being the most popular. As the current mainstream configuration for flagship phone main cameras, the 50MP image sensors are forecast to have a solid life cycle for a long time in the future.
Recently, SmartSens, an advanced CMOS image sensor supplier, launched its first 50MP ultra-high resolution 1.0μm pixel size image sensor new product ―SC550XS. The new product adopts the advanced 22nm HKMG Stack process as well as SmartSens’ multiple proprietary technologies, including SmartClarity-2 technology, SFCPixel technology and PixGain HDR technology to enable excellent imaging performance. In addition, it can achieve 100% all pixel all direction auto focus coverage via AllPix ADAF technology and is equipped with MIPI C-PHY 3.0Gsps high-speed data transmission interface. The product is designed to address the requirements of flagship smartphone main camera in terms of night vision full-color imaging, high dynamic range, and low power consumption.
Innovative technologies enable premium imaging performance
SC550XS has a 50-megapixel ultra-high resolution with a small pixel size at just 1.0 µm. Based on the advanced 22nm HKMG Stack process, the sensor combines SmartSens’ unique SFCPixel technology and High Gain in PixGain technology with 2×2 SmartQCell micro-lens design to further improve the light acquisition rate of a single pixel, making it to have superior sensitivity performance under the same specifications. These technologies, coupled with low noise reading circuit design and upgraded color process allow the sensor to present a movie-like image quality in night shooting.
Multiple HDR technologies such as PixGain HDR are supported
The SC550XS integrates SmartSens’ innovative PixGain HDR technology through the combination of High Gain (high conversion gain) and Low Gain (low conversion gain) dual images under the same frame exposure, achieving artifact-free motion capture with high-quality HDR imaging. Additionally, the SC550XS also supports 4K 30fps video in 3-exposure Staggered HDR with up to 120dB and 60fps video in two-exposure Staggered HDR of 100dB. Hence, by means of the combination of various high dynamic range technologies, the camera can capture richer detail in the highlights and shadows of a scene.
AllPix ADAF technology provides 100% all pixel all direction auto focus coverage
Compared with the technology that uses part of the pixels for shooting on the sensor as phase focus, AllPix ADAF® technology utilized on the SC550XS features full pixel 2×2 SmartQCell™ micro-lens design—a combination of horizontal and vertical pixel binning to reach 100 percent all pixel all direction auto focus coverage. Therefore, it is capable of offering accurate and fast autofocus in dark scenes, while optimizing autofocus performance on objects with blurry outlines.
Better performance comes with lower power consumption
The SC550XS uses an advanced 22nm HKMG Stack process that offers faster device speed and operates at a lower voltage than the 40nm process employed in the industry’s previous generation of main camera CIS, allowing image sensors to operate at higher frame rate and lower power consumption. At the same performance level, the power consumption of the 22nm process can be reduced by 30%. Furthermore, benefited from SmartSens’ innovative low power consumption circuit design, the operating power consumption of SC550XS attains a significant 43% decrease compared with similar products in this industry, providing extended battery life for high-end smartphones. 2×2 SmartQCell™ micro-lens design fused with the upgraded pixel process enables the QE (quantum efficiency) of the SC550XS to reach 82%, resulting in excellent low-light scene shooting performance.
Additionally, beside similar products in the industry, the SC550XS obtains 20% increase in FWC, and 20% and 40% reduction in read noise and FPN, respectively, which further advances the delicate texture of imaging while maintaining premium low-light performance.
Dr. Yaowu Mo, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at SmartSens said:
“SC550XS is our high-resolution, high-performance milestone product for flagship mobile phone applications which incorporates several SmartSens core patented technologies for high-end image sensors including SFCPixel® technology, SmartQCell™ micro-lens design, AllPix ADAF® technology and multi-row parallel readout technology, and also takes advantage of advanced 22nm HKMG process, allowing it to support up to 50MP/8K 30fps Bayer RAW high speed output with excellent dark light results as well as color reproduction and realize ultra-low power consumption. Multiple hardware-level image processing and phase focus algorithms are also integrated on-chip, enabling high quality 50MP/8K/4K video output with high dynamic range and real-time phase focus.
“In terms of high-speed transmission interface circuit design, we have broken through the voltage limit under 0.9V power supply, and innovatively achieved full compatibility with the C-PHY/D-PHY interface protocol to meet the needs of high-resolution, high-frame-rate video transmission. In addition, as the current 5G radio frequency interference in mobile phones is becoming more and more serious, we not only reduce the radiation of the image sensor itself through spread spectrum technology to obtain better EMI performance, but also support the C-PHY output swing to be greatly adjustable, further improving its own anti-interference capability to ensure normal data reception at the module end.
“We hope that this ingenious work that integrates multiple core technologies of SmartSens can provide customers with better photo and video results and create an imaging system with optimized performance.”
X represents both the unknown mystery and the infinite possibilities of the future, as well as the Roman numeral 10. As a landmark product for the tenth anniversary, SC550XS strives to empower high-end mobile phone camera applications with advanced product performance. It will start sampling in Q2 2022, and is expected to achieve mass production in Q3 2022. Customized specification products based on the same process and technology platform are also welcomed. For more information on SmartSens SC550XS, please contact SmartSens sales.