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This 2-millimeter sensor could bring cameras to the smallest smartwatches

sony one megapixel two millimeter sensor
360b / Shutterstock
Camera-equipped wearables could be getting even smaller — Sony’s semiconductor division recently unveiled the development of a one-megapixel, two-millimeter sensor. The company says it’s the smallest one megapixel sensor yet and could help reduce the size — or increase the features — of smartwatches and other small, lightweight devices.

The sensor captures images at about 1,296 pixels at the longest edge, yet the sensor itself only measures two millimeters. That sensor is paired with a low-profile lens that measures 2.6 millimeters. The circuit that connects the camera to the rest of whatever tiny device it’s implemented in is also tiny — Sony reduced the number of conductor pins to 20 to shrink the connection down to 3.3 millimeters.

The entire lens and sensor combo, including the flexible circuit board, weighs just a tenth of a gram.

Along with the new sensor’s tiny size, Sony also says the camera module boasts low power consumption. With a reduced frame rate, the camera only eats up 8mW, but at 60 frames per second, that number bumps up to a still low 55mW.

Image used with permission by copyright holder
Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation

The sensor can capture up to 240fps with three different high speed scan modes, though that fastest speed cuts the resolution down to 324 pixels. Using the sensors at full megapixel, the camera captures video at up to 60fps.

The sensor and lens module, available in a color and monochrome version, are designed to put cameras in the smallest devices. Since Sony offers the lens module to other developers, it’s unclear yet where the module will be incorporated, but Sony says the sensor is designed for the smallest wearables as well as other mobile devices and even small drones.

While the one-megapixel resolution isn’t designed for serious photography work, the sensor could open up possibilities inside small tech, such as by supporting video calls with a small smartwatch, or shrinking down the profile of wearables and even camera drones.

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