OPPO’s SmartSensor pixel-level OIS is poised to shake up mobile imaging

OPPO SmartSensor
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OPPO had no device launches at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016, and yet it had the audience captivated and applauding this morning. Why? It just took wraps off its groundbreaking imaging innovation called SmartSensor, the world’s smallest optical image stabiliser.

The current method of stabilizing images on a smartphone is either via lens-based (hardware) optical image stabilization or digital image stabilization (like Sony’s SteadyShot). Because of the small size of smartphone camera modules, OIS solutions have mostly been lens-based. And having said that, only flagship smartphones like the iPhone 6s Plus, Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 feature this technology.

Well, things are about change.

Shake it up baby

Without sounding too technical, here’s how the OPPO SmartSensor OIS works. The sensor senses and calculates vibrations of three axes – pitch, yaw and roll. This is done in split seconds. It then makes split-second compensations through its comb-shaped, voltage-driven MEMS (microelectromechanical system). So as you’re bouncing around with your smartphone, the sensor addresses shake through its three-axis system, giving you steady, reduced shake footage or images.

In a lens-based system, the OIS works in two axes – pitch and yaw – through the use of the gyroscope. Then a motor shifts the lens to compensate for movements.

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There are several key advantages of the OPPO SmartSensor:

  1. The most common kind of shake in photography and videography takes place on the roll axis. However, lens-based OIS cannot correct this problem. A sensor-based solution like SmartSensor, however, can.
  2. SmartSensor also reacts quicker as compared to lens-based – 15ms as opposed to 50ms.
  3. Traditional lens-based OIS modules are bigger and consume more power (500mW for one photo). SmartSensor uses as low as 10mW, and less prone to heat issues.
  4. SmartSensor OIS is much more precise, 10x more precise than lens-based solutions, in fact.

OPPO SmartSensor
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Initial thoughts

This is a massive announcement, IMHO. While the race for mobile imaging supremacy has always been how much megapixels you can pack into a sensor, in general, this really changes the game.

Why have a a blur 21MP image when you can have a crisp, super sharp 8MP one? (not to say I don’t appreciate a 21MP one).

I rate image stabilisation high on my priority list when it comes to mobile camera specifications, so this is indeed a huge breakthrough. That’s what makes the iPhone 6S Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6/S7/Note5, LG G4/G5 so good. With the exception of Sony’s incredible software-based SteadyShot, it’s really OIS or bust.

Kudos to OPPO for pioneering this. Let’s see when this camera tech rolls into OPPO’s products in the coming future. The flagship Find 9, perhaps?

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