Toshiba to launch 20-megapixel image chip for digital cameras

The Tokyo-based firm says the new CMOS chip will be the highest resolution on the market when it launches in January

Toshiba is preparing a 20-megapixel image sensor for digital cameras that it says will be the highest resolution of its kind.

The Tokyo-based firm said the new chips will be able to support capturing 30 frames per second at full resolution. They will also be able to shoot video at 60 frames per second at 1080P or 100 frames at 720P.

Toshiba said it will begin shipping samples of the new CMOS chips from next month, with mass production to begin in August of 300,000 units monthly. Toshiba is best known in components for its NAND flash memory, which it develops with partner SanDisk, but is also a major manufacturer of LSI and other semiconductors.

Digital point-and-shoot cameras are steadily falling in price, squeezed between brutal competition among manufacturers and the increasing threat of smartphones and mobile devices. While the number of pixels a camera can capture is not always a direct measure of the overall quality of its images, it is a key selling point to consumers.

The image resolution of top-end smartphones now often meets or exceed that of digital cameras. The Nokia 808 PureView launched earlier this year has a 41-megapixel image sensor.

The Japanese manufacturer said it has increased the amount of information pixels in the new chip can store compared to its previous generation of CMOS, producing better overall images. It has also reduces the size of pixels - the new 20-megapixel version has individual pixels that measure 1.2 micrometers, down from 1.34 micrometers in its 16-megapixel product.

CMOS, or complementary metal-oxide semiconductor, sensors contain rows of electronic pixels that convert light into digital signals, as well as on-chip processing technology that can enhance images or speed transfers.

Toshiba says its goal is to achieve a 30 percent market share in CMOS sensors for digital cameras in the fiscal that ends in March of 2016.

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