Sony integrates hybrid AF, 3-axis electronic stabilization into new 22.5-megapixel image sensor

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Sony has revealed a new Exmor RS image sensor for smartphones that improves on earlier models in virtually every category.

The new sensor, which Sony is calling IMX318, is a type 1/2.6 stacked CMOS image sensor that outputs images at 22.5 megapixels. Sony says the sensor offers higher performance and greater image quality while boasting a more compact size, attributes that’ll certainly make it attractive for smartphone makers looking to churn out increasingly thinner handsets.

Interestingly enough, the sensor uses a hybrid autofocus system that combines phase detection and contrast detection autofocus technology. While this has been done before, Sony says it required a separate application processor. With the IMX318, hybrid autofocus has been built directly into the sensor’s internal signal processor which is said to help it lock focus in just 0.03 seconds (in high light conditions) and 0.017 seconds when shooting video at 60fps.

It doesn’t stop there, however, as Sony has also managed to cram a 3-axis (pitch, yaw and roll) electronic image stabilization system into the internal signal processor that also corrects lens distortion. Processing within the hardware of the image sensor also reduces power consumption as an external application processor isn’t needed.

Sony said it plans to sample the new image sensor in May which means we could see it show up in select smartphones by the end of the year.

Sony offering free multiplayer weekend for PS4 owners, seeking beta testers for next system update

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Sony has announced a promotion in which PlayStation 4 owners will have access to the online multiplayer mode in any game this weekend. Normally, only those with a PlayStation Plus subscription can play online.

Sony Computer Entertainment America’s (SCEA) Andy Lum announced the news in a recent blog post, noting that it was just in time for the launch of Street Fighter Vreleased on Tuesday. Lum said it was also a great opportunity for gamers to check out multiplayer in Call of Duty: Black Ops III as the new DLC pack, Awakening, dropped earlier this month.

The free weekend starts on Friday, February 19, at 12:01 a.m. PST and runs through Sunday, February 21, at 11:59 p.m. PST.

In related news, Sony is also seeking gamers to help beta test their next system software update. In a separate post, John Koller, vice president of the PlayStation brand for SCEA, said the beta program will begin in March. Those that get selected will receive an e-mail with instructions on how to download the system software.

All that’s needed to participate is a PlayStation 4 with an Internet connection and a master account. Koller said users can roll back to the previous system software at anytime, implying that the beta software isn’t a permanent commitment.

Sony announces trio of Xperia X smartphones at MWC 2016

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Sony has announced three new Xperia phones at MWC 2016 that are set to compete in the all important mid-range segment. Launched as part of the new Xperia X family, the Xperia X, Xperia XA and Xperia X Performance all feature the same premium-feeling construction and rounded glass fronts, with different spec variations under the hood to accommodate for different budgets.

The cheapest of the bunch is the XA with a MediaTek MT6755 processor, 5-inch 720p display, 2,300 mAh battery and 16GB of internal storage. You do get 2GB RAM and 13MP/8MP cameras, though, along a near bezel free design.

The standard Xperia X gets bumped to a Snapdragon 650 processor with 3GB of RAM, 1080 display, 2,700 mAh battery and 32GB of storage, while the X Performance uses Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 820 instead.

The latter two also feature several camera upgrades, including a 13-megapixel front-facing camera and the same 23-megapixel rear camera as in the Z5. But the most interesting new camera feature is something called Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, which Sony claims will be able to track moving objects and predict where they will go, adjusting the focus on the fly to capture fast movement without any blur.

The phones will launch in four colors including white, black, gold and rose gold this summer. Sony did not mention release dates or prices during the event.