OmniVision Announces 4K Video Sensor for Phones

I did not see this coming. Rather, I didn't see this coming so quickly.OmniVision has announced a 16-Megapixel sensors that they claim are capable of capturing 4608 x 3456 at 30 fps or 4K2K (3840 x 2160) at 60 fps (!) for use in still and video cameras as well as high end mobile phones. So far, we haven't heard any news of the chip being incorporated into any specific device, but the fact that it's possible is staggering. This means that in the very near future, the average person can shoot video from their phone that will have enough resolution to be projected onto the big screen without up-scaling! Even if you ignore the idea that 4K will come to phones, this technology has amazing implications about the future of consumer camcorders. Currently, in order to break into 4K, you can expect to spend a few thousand dollars.

The JVC GYHMQ10 that we saw at CES 2012, for example, is retailing for about $5000. To our knowledge, that's currently as inexpensive as it gets right now for 4K camcorders. Could 4K leapfrog consumer and prosumer camcorders and go straight to mobile phones? I doubt it. What it will do is light a fire underneath the big camera manufacturers to make sure their new releases are 4k capable. That brings us to another issue, however. How do you view 4K video? Certainly not on your phone. Modern super-phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X only (ha!) have 1280 x 720 screens. Even the much praised Retina Display on the iPhone 4S is only 960 x 640. Compare that to the 4608 x 3456 images that this new sensor can reportedly capture and you can see the issue.

Rumors are circulating that there are new MacBook Pros coming out with 2560 x 1600 displays, but that's still not enough. Full 4K monitors are on their way, but man, what a gap we're seeing between capture and display! So while you may be able to shot 4K video very soon, whether it's from your phone or camcorder, really embracing a 4K workflow from start to finish is a ways off. 4K Monitors and TVs will be the tipping point, but until then, let's just enjoy the ride.

Mike Wilhelm
Mike Wilhelm
Mike is the Editor-in-Chief of Videomaker and Creator Handbook

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