I don’t usually pay much attention to Sony Ericsson’s products but last week I saw a billboard in the subway stating that the Xperia Arc sported a camera with excellent low light capabilities. A quick google search revealed that SE is pushing the 8 Mpix low light camera as a major selling point. The low light capabilities come from Sony’s new sensor technology Exmor R.
It looks like SE’s marketing department has realized that most of their customers put a high value on the ability to take “natural” photos in low light conditions without a disturbing flash. Back in 2009 I wrote a highly critical review of their then flagship model Satio. The Satio was equipped with an oversized 12 Mpixel camera that was mediocre in low light due to the small sensor size. Two years later and it looks like they’ve finally fixed the problem.
It’s great that Sony has developed the Exmor R sensor for improved low light photography. But if they want to exploit this technology and use it to jump ahead of the competition they should push the low light threshold to the extreme in a sensor with larger pixel size but fewer megapixels. Instead Sony has developed a small silly 16 Mpix sensor while most of their competitors are concentrating on factors other than megapixel count.
The Mpixel count is only one design parameter. Pixel size is as important as the number of pixels. If each pixel is larger it will capture more photons.
And the sensor is only one component in the camera. Compare it with the highly touted Nokia N8 camera. Nokia’s sensor is one the largest in any camera phone, the Zeiss lens is made of glass not plastic, it has a mechanical shutter, a Xenon flash, and a built-in ND filter to handle extremely bright shooting conditions.
It’s a shame that Sony(Ericsson) and the new owners Sony don’t understand that they could use this new technology for an extreme low light camera phone that would sweep the competitors away. If they developed a 6 Mpix Exmor R sensor with a larger sensor size and used a Zeiss lens made of hardened glass they would really have a winner on their hands.