Sony reveals a record 247MP camera sensor – and it could one day take medium format cameras to a new level

 Closeup of the Hasselblad X2D 100C sensor.
Closeup of the Hasselblad X2D 100C sensor.

Sony has made a new medium format sensor with best-ever 247MP resolution and 16-bit processing. Its sensor-making department – Sony Semiconductor Solutions, which is responsible for the majority of sensors used in cameras today – unveiled color and monochrome versions of its 'industrial' use IMX811 sensor.

Roughly equivalent in size to the sensors used in Phase One IQ4 digital backs and the Hasselblad H-series, the Type 4.1 back-illuminated CMOS sensor is bigger than the Type 3.4 used in cameras like the Fujifilm GFX100 II and Hasselblad X2D 100C, and it's unclear if the all-new sensor will ever make its way into a consumer camera or digital back, especially given the Hasselblad H series of cameras is now discontinued.

Realistically, we'll only see the IMX811 sensor in the wild in an entirely new camera system. However, we shouldn't entirely rule out getting hands-on time with this exciting sensor, because we have seen a single sensor used in both consumer and industrial applications before, such as the 100MP sensor used in the aforementioned Fujifilm and Hasselblad cameras.

Image detail from a 247MP sensor would blow that of any other sensor before it out of the water. The $50,000 Phase One IQ4 digital back features a 150MP sensor, as does the world's most expensive travel camera, the Phase One XC, while the GFX100 II and X2D 100C cameras are 100MP and boast the best image quality of any professional camera I've ever used.

A closeup of the Phase One XC camera's lens from its promotional video
A closeup of the Phase One XC camera's lens from its promotional video

According to the specifications released by Sony, which we originally saw on Sony Alpha Rumors, you get a 3:2 aspect ratio sensor (rather than a 4:3 aspect like the Phase One IQ4's sensor) with a 19,200 x 12,800-pixel count and 16-bit output up to 5.3fps that can be upped to 12fps by dropping to 12-bit.

Clearly, the new sensor’s extreme resolution has niche applications: think surveillance (like the Phase One drone camera) and for scientific purposes, and detail from the best cameras like the 61MP Sony A7R V is already plenty enough for almost everyone. However, a 247MP in an accessible professional camera is an exciting prospect, especially for the ability to crop into such high-resolution images.

Further to its industrial application, I’d expect a 247MP sensor to be exclusive to well-paid professionals or the gear rental scene if it ever came to market because it will be extremely expensive to manufacture. That cost will be reflected in whatever camera uses it.

We might never report on the IMX811 sensor again if a consumer version isn't forthcoming or if it only features in a Phase One camera, but we hope to be surprised by something new and consequently see what really can be done with such a powerful sensor – its quality would surpass anything we've seen before.

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