Sony Develops New 247-Megapixel Medium Format Sensor

Sony sensor
This Sony image sensor is not the new IMX811. There are no images of the new sensor available yet. | Sony

Sony Semiconductor Solutions (SSS) announced a new 247-megapixel medium-format image sensor roughly the same size as the 100- and 150-megapixel sensors in the Phase One IQ4 digital backs and the Hasselblad H6D series.

As spotted by Sony Alpha Rumors, SSS has added two new sensors to its large-format CMOS sensor catalog, the IMX811-AAMR and IMX811-AAQR. The 247-megapixel Type 4.1 image sensors come in color and monochrome variants and are currently listed for “industrial” use.

However, before photographers get too deflated, Sony Semiconductor has “industrial” versions of sensors used in consumer photographic cameras, including the slightly smaller IMX461 sensor used in the Fujifilm GFX 100 and Hasselblad X series cameras.

Sony sensor catalog
The new IMX811 pushes Sony’s sensor catalog well past the 150-megapixel mark, nearly hitting 250 megapixels. | Sony

Assuming that the IMX811 could be used for a typical camera, its specifications are remarkable. The rolling shutter image sensor incorporates 24 dB PGA circuitry and a 16-bit A/D converter with full 16-bit digital output. Even at 16-bit output, the sensor promises to record 247-megapixel photos at 5.3 frames per second. By dropping the A/D converter into a 14-bit or 12-bit mode, as seen in some other medium-format cameras, speeds can be increased to 10.5 and 12.4 fps, respectively.

To contextualize the sheer pixel count, the 247-megapixel image is 19,200 pixels wide and 12,800 pixels tall. Another 3:2 sensor, the 60-megapixel CMOS in the Sony a7R V, captures images that are 9,504 by 6,336 pixels.

Sony catalog

The 150-megapixel Sony sensor used in the Phase One IQ4 digital back is a 4:3 sensor, like the smaller sensors used in the Fujifilm GFX cameras. So a version of the IMX811 chip for a hypothetical Phase One back would need to be cut differently, or it would just use a different active pixel area, which would change its resolution.

Will this new 247-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS image sensor soon find its way into a new medium-format camera or digital back? Only time will tell. However, given how other “industrial” sensors have been used before, there is reason for optimism. The combination of high bit-depth processing, remarkable resolution, and speed is extremely appealing.

Sony catalog

One minor note to consider is that the IMX811’s plus-24 dB gain setting is different than the plus-36 dB gain setting on the IMX411 (150-megapixel Type 4.2) sensor in the Phase One system and the IMX461 (100-megapixel Type 3.4) sensor in the GFX and Hasselblad X cameras. That could signal a relatively lower sensitivity in the new 247-megapixel sensor, although, without more details, it is impossible to say for sure.

As is always the case with new sensors in Sony’s catalog, they may never make their way into a camera that PetaPixel readers care about. This sensor may be reserved for scientific, industrial, or surveillance purposes. Nonetheless, improving image sensor technology and nearly hitting the 250-megapixel mark is well worth watching.

Image credits: Sony