Sony IMX378 is the new camera sensor in Xiaomi Mi5S and HTC Google Pixel
Officially announced today, Xiaomi will be using the Sony IMX378 sensor, which is the update to last year’s Sony IMX377 which was featured in the Google Nexus 6P.
Sony IMX378 1/2.6″ sensor – Size matters
When it comes to cameras, many parts need to come together to make an excellent whole. But generally when judging cameras, the first thing we consider is the sensor.
In the Sony IMX378 and IMX377, the sensor is 1/2.3″. That’s the same size as what’s in a typical consumer compact.
|Sony IMX378 MegaPixels
|1/2.6" (7.81mm diagonal)
The reason size matters is because photography is all about light, and how much we can capture in a given instant. Given all else equal, a smaller sensor may be able to produce as good photos at ISO 125 (ISO=sensitivity) as a larger sensor at ISO 800, but the difference is that the shutter must be kept open for longer with the ISO 125 image. This hampers versatility and usability.
One example of an issue with slower shutter speeds is that movement of the subject or your hands may cause image blur. This is especially important in lower light photography, where we need to be able to capture as much light as possible as quickly as possible at the lowest sensitivity possible to avoid image noise, yet still come out with a good looking shot.
The Xiaomi Mi5S Sony IMX378 picture sample gallery
Xiaomi has been gracious enough to leak some picture samples. At full 4000×3000 size, they tend to get a bit mushy, but this is due to Xiaomi’s jpg cleaning algorithms which remove noise from the image. Remember, while the IMX378 camera sensor is bigger than most other sensors in phones, this is still a relatively small sensor in the wide world of photography.
With that knowledge, we can look at these images, even at full size and be impressed that this sort of image quality (IQ) is coming from a sensor exponentially smaller than what’s in dSLR and APS-C cameras.
If you would like to download these images at their full 8MP and 12MP sizes, you can click here. Note, it’s an 86MB download.
Sony IMX378 “only 12MP”?
While we’re seeing sensors in cameras up to 21MP these days, megapixels doesn’t necessarily equate to quality. Given everything else equal, e.g. sensor size, lens quality and software algorithms, yes the higher MP camera would be more desirable, but still the difference will likely never be noticed, especially in the current world of digital sharing.
Assuming a quality lens and proper jpg engines, sensor size is king when it comes to lower light images.
If not very often shooting in lower light or indoors without flash, and making big crops and/or printing big (by big, we mean bigger than 11×14″) from their camera phones, then yes, megapixels still matters, but it’s just a guess users in these situations are few and far between.