The Exciting New Wave of Sony Sensors

by Bret Hoy3 Comments

We live in amazing times for camera technology. Ten years ago, some people were still not convinced that high definition 1080p quality was necessary.

Fast forward to 2015, and we’re standing on the precipice of adopting Ultra High Definition 4K.

Your iPhone shoots 240 frames per second.

Your tiny mirrorless camera, and camcorder can shoot 4k.

Your a7S can shoots at 25,000 ISO and be entirely usable.

These are truly amazing times we live in.

In April, the Wall Street Journal released an article detailing the ways in which Sony is able to profit off of iPhone sales. How do they do it? Sony makes the sensor that each iPhone camera uses—and it doesn’t stop there. The article goes on to elucidate that 40% of all cameras sold in 2014 utilized Sony sensors. This incredible statistic shows the immense influence that they’ve had on the industry, and it foreshadows the impact that their new technology might generate.

So far in 2015, Sony has made quite a splash in the industry with the release of the massively improved and updated Sony a7R II. Not only have they released new content, they’ve gone back and made newer technologies available on older cameras. The RX100 Mk. IV has been given upgrades to shoot S-Log2, 4k at a robust 100mps and a more graceful High Frame Rate mode.

Whether you’re shooting with these cameras, or not, there’s a great chance that this will impact you. Why? Sony has proven that they’re very generous with the distribution of their technology. If they’re making such large leaps in their labs, it’s bound to translate to new technology in whatever Sony sensor you’re using– and there's a pretty decent chance that you'll be using one.

In 10 years, will we look back and wonder why it was so difficult for us to adopt 4k? Perhaps not. Companies like Sony are making that transition easier and more accessible than ever.

Sony’s New Sensors Are More Exciting Than Its New Cameras

Via Wired:

THE INFLUENCE OF Sony’s imaging sensors extends far beyond its camera lineup. Some of the biggest names in tech use Sony sensors: The iPhone 6 camera has a Sony sensor, as does the Samsung Galaxy S6, Nikon DSLRs, and Olympus mirrorless cameras. All told, nearly half of the image-sensor market is dominated by Sony. The company’s three newest cameras are intriguing in their own right, but it’s their brand-new sensors that will likely have a real impact on the entire photography industry.

In video mode, the A7R II captures 4K video with full-pixel readout, which delivers professional-level footage.

In video mode, the A7R II captures 4K video with full-pixel readout, which delivers professional-level footage.

But first—the new cameras in question. The marquee new camera is the Sony Alpha A7R II, a full-frame follow-up to the A7R. With sensors, you usually have to choose between resolution and low-light performance—bigger photosites on the sensor translates to better light-gathering capabilities at the expense of megapixels—but Sony claims this new camera’s sensor is the first to offer “higher resolution without compromise or tradeoff,” according to Mark Weir, senior manager of technology at Sony Electronics. “Photographers are no longer forced to choose between resolution and sensitivity.”

The new A7R II boasts a 42-megapixel full-frame sensor that Sony says performs well at very high ISO settings.

The new A7R II boasts a 42-megapixel full-frame sensor that Sony says performs well at very high ISO settings.

Here’s what that means: This is a 42.4-megapixel CMOS sensor with backside illumination—the first full-frame sensor of its kind, according to Sony. Normally, all those megapixels would generate a pock-marked mess at high ISO levels. With this camera, you’re able to jack the ISO up to an insane 102,400—which you may want to do if you use its top shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second—and Sony claims the images still look sharp at the upper reaches of that range.

The A7R II is likely to be a go-to camera for filmmakers, too. Manual exposure controls are enabled in video mode, where the camera captures 4K video using a full-pixel readout from the large sensor. Sony says this is another first, and the sample videos the company showed at the launch event were jaw-dropping. This is essentially a professional 4K video camera shrunken down into a DSLR-sized body.

Read full article at Wired “Sony’s New Sensors Are More Exciting Than Its New Cameras”

Note: it is our policy to give credit as well as deserved traffic to our news sources – so we don't repost the entire article – sorry, I know you want the juicy bits, but I feel it is only fair that their site get the traffic and besides, you just might make a new friend and find an advertiser that has something you've never seen before

(cover photo credit: snap from Wired)

Bret Hoy

Bret Hoy

Bret Hoy is a filmmaker, photographer and writer based out of St. Louis, Missouri. Mainly focused on documentary and experimental film, he has produced, directed, shot and edited many short films and a few long form works.

He shoots a lot and often.
Bret Hoy


  1. There’s always a tradeoff between resolution and noise (grain). Would you believe an ultra-sharp, grain-free ISO 3200 Kodachrome? I wouldn’t. I don’t believe Sony has pushed sensor technology to the point it can’t be further improved.
    Edgar Villchur (does any reader know who he was?) once said “The average loudspeaker ad reads ‘Our old model was perfect, and our new model fixes all its problems'”. Sony is making essentially the same claim, and an intelligent person knows better than to swallow it.
    Back-illumination does allow a bit more light to reach the silicon. But it’s hardly going to make a huge difference in sensitivity (noise level).
    In the unlikely event Canon comes up with a significantly better sensor, will all you idol worshippers suddenly shift allegiance?

  2. Hey @William Sommerwerck
    Those who know their tech will always follow the best image, as we always have! While online readers can afford brand dedication, true professionals go where they find the best image, with the most inspiring features.
    The thrust of the article wasn’t to say that we’ve reached some pinnacle of technology. Rather, it was to say that Sony has pushed the sensor industry over the past few years and that’s a great thing for a large group of consumers and shooters. No one is saying that they’re perfect and as an a7S shooter, I can attest to that. The goal is to be conscious of the negatives while taking advantages of the positives.

  3. averagehoy  Although you present Sony’s claims as claims (and not facts), the fact is that Sony’s claims are grossly exaggerated. “Resolution without compromise or tradeoff” is an extreme claim, one that implies “thus far, and no farther”. No serious reviewer would take it without a grain of salt — no, make that a ton of salt.
    A reviewer who fails to demand proof of exaggerated claims comes off looking like a shill. When I wrote for Stereophile, Gordon Holt, the magazine’s founder, once asked me what I thought of another reviewer’s reviews. “He presents manufacturers’ claims as truth.” Gordon’s response was an affirmative “Uh-huh”.
    Just to clarify my position on this issue… For me, “resolution without compromise or tradeoff” means full resolution and extremely low noise at ISO 3200. That’s not unreasonable. I don’t think any sensor has reached that level of performance.
    Need I add that high image quality does not, per se, automatically produce aesthetically meaningful photographs? Jumping from system to system, from lens to lens, doesn’t make much sense.

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