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19 January 2009 Mobile Imaging: the big challenge of the small pixel
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Proceedings Volume 7250, Digital Photography V; 72500K (2009)
Event: IS&T/SPIE Electronic Imaging, 2009, San Jose, California, United States
As the number of imaging pixels in camera phones increases, users expect camera phone image quality to be comparable to digital still cameras. The mobile imaging industry is aware, however, that simply packing more pixels into the very limited camera module size need not improve image quality. When the size of a sensor array is fixed, increasing the number of imaging pixels decreases pixel size and thus photon count. Attempts to compensate for the reduction in light sensitivity by increasing exposure durations increase the amount of handheld camera motion blur which effectively reduces spatial resolution. Perversely, what started as an attempt to increase spatial resolution by increasing the number of imaging pixels, may result in a reduction of effective spatial resolution. In this paper, we evaluate how the performance of mobile imaging systems changes with shrinking pixel size, and we propose to replace the widely misused "physical pixel count" with a new metric that we refer to as the "effective pixel count" (EPC). We use this new metric to analyze design tradeoffs for four different pixel sizes (2.8um, 2.2um, 1.75um and 1.4um) and two different imaging arrays (1/3.2 and 1/8 inch). We show that optical diffraction and camera motion make 1.4 um pixels less perceptually effective than larger pixels and that this problem is exacerbated by the introduction of zoom optics. Image stabilization optics can increase the effective pixel count and are, therefore, important features to include in a mobile imaging system.
© (2009) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Feng Xiao, Joyce E. Farrell, Peter B. Catrysse, and Brian Wandell "Mobile Imaging: the big challenge of the small pixel", Proc. SPIE 7250, Digital Photography V, 72500K (19 January 2009);


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