Nexus 6P camera sensor – 1.55 micron pixels did the trick

October 5, 2015

The new Google Nexus 6P features a relatively large 1/2.3-inch 12.3MP image sensor with 1.55μm pixels. The key for the Nexus 6P superb image quality is due to the sensor design and its fast f/2.0 aperture lens.

In my opinion Google went with the optimal resolution for the 1/2.3″ sensor considering the market demands. Consumers, so it seems, prefer having more pixels for making large prints and photo editing, whether in-app on on their home computer. More pixels means more detailed images.

The problem with most mobile phone cameras is that the sensor size is very small. For example, the Nexus 6P 1/2.3″ sensor measured 6.17×4.55 mm, which is significantly smaller than those found on DSLR, mirrorless or large-sensor compact cameras (e.g. Canon APS-C: 22.3×14.9 mm, Sony RX100 1″: 13.20×8.80 mm).


1.12 micron vs 1.55 micron relative pixel size comparison

1.12 micron vs 1.55 micron relative pixel size comparison

Although 1/2.3″ is relatively very small, in mobile phone cameras terms it’s considered as a relatively large one. In order to maximize the IQ performance, Google has chosen to go with a 12.3MP resolution, which results in 1.55 micron pixels. Google could have chosen to go with 8MP and have even bigger pixels, but obviously consumer demands and sensor availability dictates what’s available for use in future phones.

The Nexus 6P camera is apparently utilizing the Sony IMX377 Exmor R Back-illuminated sensor. 1.55 micron are relatively large pixels. Most of the latest high-end devices have a 1.12 micron pixels. This means that the Nexus 6P can collect more light photons for each photosite which helps improve image quality and low-light performance of the camera. The results certainly speak for themselves. The image quality is outstanding. The combination of large pixels and fast aperture certainly help to capture well exposed shots under restricting lighting conditions.

I’m happy that Google didn’t opt for a 16MP resolution and went for that specific sensor, which is really an excellent one. DxOMark lab test results show that this new sensor in the 6P is indeed an impressive one image quality wise. The lack of an OIS on the Nexus 6P will therefore be less noticeable or needed.

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