Kodak breakthrough could end poor camera phone pics

Kodak has come up with a new kind of image sensor that could made blurred, 'noisy' camera phone pics a thing of the past. Its 1.4 micron sensor is small enough for the dinkiest cameras, yet still delivers 5-megapixel images and shoots 720p high-def video. Kodak is so confident of the sensor's capabilities that it is showing them off to mobile phone companies at Mobile World Congress (MWC) next week.

The KAC-05020 image sensor combines CMOS technology with Kodak's own Color Filter Pattern (sic) technology to deliver great-looking pics, even in very low light. Kodak says this makes the 1.4 micron KAC-05020 better even than 1.75 micron pixel CMOS image sensors - and so lends itself brilliantly to current and future gen mobile phones.

Another key feature of the KAC-05020 lies in the CMOS image sensor itself. Kodak says it has completely re-engineered the technology so that it can finally compete with the CCD image sensors used in 'proper' cameras. Kodak's Truesense CMOS reverses the underlying polarity of the silicon so that the absence of electrons is used to detect a signal - the complete opposite of what CMOS image sensors have done before now.

Kodak says the KAC-05020 supports digital equivalent film speeds of up to ISO 3200, full 720p high def video at 30 frames per second (FPS). It can also offer digital image stabilisation, rapid auto-focus, red-eye reduction and facial recognition - features that pose a direct threat to today's compact cameras. Fas Mosleh, worldwide director of CIS Marketing and Business Development for Kodak's Image Sensor Solution business said in a statement:

"For consumers today, high resolution is required but no longer sufficient. Smaller and thinner camera phones, high performance under low light, and superior video performance are the types of features that will enable the next generation of consumer imaging devices.

"With this new Kodak sensor, camera designers can now put those features directly into the hands of their consumers."

However there is a downside to Kodak's camera breakthrough - it first has to convince cameras makers to use the KAC-05020 sensor in their phones - and even then they may not appear until 2009 at the earliest, Reuters notes.