Advances in Camera Phone Picture Quality
A unique digital postprocessing technique compensates for performance problems posed by ever-shrinking pixels
by Dr. Guichard Frédéric, DxO Labs
, November 2007
As camera phones become ubiquitous, consumer demand for a photographic experience similar to that of traditional digital cameras is growing. Coupled with the ready availability of high-definition displays, this need has translated into a requirement for higher-resolution cameras in mobile phones. However, handset design aesthetics impose a much smaller form factor for the miniature camera modules built into hand-sets than can be accommodated by reusing the same technology found in digital still cameras.
One of the most challenging aspects of designing a high-resolution camera for a mobile phone is the limitation on the overall height of the camera, measured from the top of the lens to the back of the camera substrate. The typical target height is 6 mm or less, unless a more expensive folded-optics design is considered. Given the angular acceptance of CMOS image sensor pixels, the maximum-size sensor that can be used with such a thin camera measures approximately 4.5 mm diagonal. To increase the resolution without increasing the height of the camera (or thickness of the phone), more pixels must fit into the array defined by this diagonal size. Using a 2.2-× 2.2-µm-pixel size, 2-megapixel sensors can be used in these thin cameras. To achieve 3.2-megapixel resolution, 1.75 × 1.75-µm-pixel size must be used, and 5-megapixel resolution requires 1.4 × 1.4-µm pixel.