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Several trends of mobile phone camera components in 2014

With the rise of social networking, smart phones¡¯ camera functions have become increasingly prominent. The powerful cameras have not only enabled users to quickly share what they are seeing, but also added a lot of new fun. In 2014, with the upgraded Smartphone resolution, phones¡¯ camera functions have been enriched accordingly and become a selling point for differentiation of phones. Behind 8megapixel camera being replaced by 13 million pixels is big technological advance in photography parts. In 2014, the smart phone industry shall understand the following trends of mobile phones¡¯ camera parts.

This article is prepared by "Electronic innovation network." The article interviews Mr. Holmes Shen, Senior Product Manager of Asia Pacific Market of Fujitsu Semiconductor, and introduces Fujitsu Semiconductor¡¯s planning and solutions of ISP product lines.

For details, please visit:
http://www.eetrend.com/interview/100049279

With the rise of social networking, smart phones¡¯ camera functions have become increasingly prominent. The powerful cameras have not only enabled users to quickly share what they are seeing, but also added a lot of new fun. In 2014, with the upgraded Smartphone resolution, phones¡¯ camera functions have been enriched accordingly and become a selling point for differentiation of phones. Behind 8megapixel camera being replaced by 13 million pixels is big technological advance in photography parts. In 2014, the smart phone industry shall understand the following trends of mobile phones¡¯ camera parts.

At "2014 Media Seminar on Technology and Industry Outlook" held by Shenzhen EEVIA Consultancy Co., Ltd. on January 8, Holmes Shen, Market Manager of Fujitsu Semiconductor and senior image processing expert, known as "Old Devil" in the industry, shared with media the information about several trends of smart phones¡¯ optical components.

First, he breaks down the phone cameras¡¯ optical components. Basically, the phone camera functions include the following modules: phone camera components are composed of optics parts and ISP panels. And optical parts include lens, CMOS sensor, IR filter and motor control sections.

Optical components of mobile phones have the following main trends:
1. Lens size becomes larger and larger, so you can get a larger aperture;
2. Lens group is increased from the previous four groups to five groups, but the consequence of this is heavier camera components, affecting autofocus;
3. Infrared filter develops from reflective type to absorptive type by using blue glass filtering;
4. Sensors: sensor size becomes larger; the number of pixels is increased from 8 million to 13 million or even 16 million or 20 million; the pixel size begins to decrease from 1.4um to 1.12um to 0.8um; condensation technology develops from front illumination to passive illumination or even SIP;
5. Autofocus module develops to VCM closed loop, MEMS or passive phase detection auto focus system. Passive AF means that the AF system does not emit light, but only passively measuring the imaging light from the shot objects. Such light may go through the photographic lens (TTL), or may not. This is the commonly used technology in SLR cameras.

Apple iPhone5S still use 800 pixels, but with increased pixel size. However, Android phones increase the sensor pixels while reducing the pixel sizes. He believes that reducing the pixel size will lower the images¡¯ SNR. Apple¡¯s acceptable size is 1.4 um, so it does not want to give up image quality by increasing pixels. Android phone manufacturers lack the right to speak in the operating system and hardware platform, so they can only differentiate themselves by pixels, thus forming low, middle and high configurations."Too small pixels will lead to serious loss of information, which is a huge challenge for ISP. For example, low-illumination areas may be unable to provide information, so ISP is difficult to complete processing," he said. Another important trend is the height of optical components continues to decrease to less than 6mm, a big challenge, as pointed by Holmes Shen.

He shared a product roadmap of a CMOS sensor manufacturer. As you can see, as of 3Q 2014, 20-megapixel sensors will be available.

It can be seen that the future Smartphone cameras have these trends: Pixels continues to increase, and the image quality is more stressed; and ZSL (Zero Second Later) requires higher bandwidth of MIPI to transmit high-quality images. Mobile phones will adopt more intelligent VCM and MEMS autofocus modules. Market segmentation formed by camera modules will also be more obvious.

For these market needs, Fujitsu also provides targeted product lines. E.g., 800 mega pixel is upgraded to 13 megapixel, with differentiation in accordance with the needs of users. For example, M10MO ISP supports ZSL, high-speed RAW format, JPEG encoding and etc., and the final feature is average power consumption of about 280mW at 1080P@30FPS. "Two years ago, some manufacturers integrated ISP into the processor platform; however, because ISP needs to continue to take processor resources, the processor platform has very high power consumption. So, we now commonly use separate ISP. For applications in smart phones, low power consumption is always an important topic." He pointed out, "in the future, we may achieve lower power consumption via 40nm or even 20nm or better semiconductor process."

It is reported that, in terms of low power consumption, Fujitsu is licensed by SuVolta for the deep depleted channel (DDC) technology, which can further reduce the chip power consumption by 15-20%.

According to Holmes Shen, Fujitsu Semiconductor is currently the only company able to offer ISP solutions for card cameras, SLR cameras and mobile phones. For SLR cameras, Nikon, Canon and Laika are all Fujitsu¡¯s major clients. For card cameras and mobile phones, many well-known manufacturers are its customers, taking more than 50% shares of ISP globally.

Apple, Samsung, OPPO, Meizu, Blackberry and VIVO are all using Fujitsu's ISP.

Here is some introduction to ISP (Image Signal Processor). As a dedicated digital integrated circuit, ISP processes the image data from CMOS sensors, so as to deliver recovered and enhanced digital images, which are closer to what we see in reality. Why can the smart phones with the same ISP deliver different effects? Holmes Shen believes this is because ISP processing is actually a manifestation of cultures, as shown by following comparison of several pictures. The bottom left one is the standard image by ISP processor. But after handled by different mobile phone manufacturers, different effects are produced ¨C e.g., VIVO phones enhance the contrast, Sugar phones deliver somehow cool colors, and iPhone are pursuing natural effects.

The guys who engage in evaluation, do you find this pattern?

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