To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Sony Xperia Z4 looks set to get 21-megapixel, 192-point autofocus camera sensor

With support for 4K video as well as a digital SLR-rivalling 192-point autofocus, Sony's next camera sensor looks beastly

Sony has officially announced its latest smartphone camera sensor, and it’s seriously powerful. The Exmor RS IMX230 is a 21-megapixel sensor equipped for shooting 4K video and, more importantly, has more autofocus points than many full-size digital SLR cameras.

The sensor, which was announced earlier this week by Sony’s imaging division, uses a stacked image plane phase detection autofocus system – a first for a smartphone. The technology is already used by mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, and will mean the first smartphone to use it will include a whopping 192 autofocus points. That should make it ideal for capturing fast motion and blur-free tracking when shooting video.

The 1/2.4in sensor is slightly smaller than the 1/2.3in sensor last seen in the Xperia Z3, but hopefully Sony has managed to improve image quality despite the size reduction. It will shoot full resolution 4K (4096 x 2160) video at 24p, but can film in 60fps or even 120fps slow motion if you drop the resolution.

Other welcome improvements over the old sensor found in the Xperia Z3 include the ability to shoot real-time HDR images. Currently Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 are some of the only smartphones capable of showing the effects of high dynamic range onscreen before you press the shutter button, but Sony’s next flagship smartphone looks set to join that exclusive group. As before, it will still be able to shoot HDR video, bringing out the detail in darker areas and toning down brighter areas for a more even exposure.

According to Sony’s specification it can even shoot in RAW, although we’ll have to wait for the sensor to appear in a smartphone to put that claim to the test.

The most likely candidate is the Xperia Z4, a flagship smartphone to replace the Xperia Z3. Sony has released a new flagship every six months for the past few years, meaning CES in January is looking likey for a possible launch. However, Sony says this new sensor won’t be going into production until April, meaning it may miss the boat unless the company switches from its current release cycle.

Read more