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Motorola Moto X new Clear Pixel camera and Aptina Clarity Plus explained

Posted: , by Victor H.

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Motorola Moto X new Clear Pixel camera and Aptina Clarity Plus explained
Motorola’s Moto X is expected to come with a revolutionary new ‘Clear Pixel’ camera that will eliminate motion blur and feature outstanding low-light performance. How is that possible and what is the technology behind it? And what is ‘Clear Pixel’ after all? Optical company Aptina has just officially unveiled its Clarity Plus (Clarity+) technology and chances are the same technology will power the camera in the Moto X. Here is what it’s all about.

To understand the new Clarity Plus, we have to first understand digital cameras. The sensor of a camera consists of pixels that by themselves can only capture the intensity of light, but not its color. That’s why, on top of the sensor, manufacturers place a color filter array. Thus, each pixel is covered with a color-sensitive mosaic, so that the sensor can record that color information.

Bayer RGBG filter array (left) vs Clarity + RCBC mosaic (right)

Bayer RGBG filter array (left) vs Clarity + RCBC mosaic (right)

All smartphones are now using the Bayer RGBG pixel filter where we have red, green (two of them) and blue filters on top of pixels. The Clarity+ is different. Instead of RGBG, it uses an RCBC filter. The C here stands for clear. Unlike red, green and blue filters, the C does not block any light.

So while in traditional Bayer each element of the filter mosaic corresponds to a particular color, in Clarity+ only 50% of the filter elements translate into color directly. That means the other half lets all light in, without filtering it, so we have double the amount of light sensitivity in a Clarity Plus module.

That has huge implications, of course. More light means better images in low-light and faster shutter speeds in good lighting conditions. The difference is dramatic. In practical terms Aptina promises that its 13-megapixel cameras with smaller 1.1µm pixels can match the light sensitivity of 8-megapixel 1.4µm-pixel sensors.

Clarity+ (left) vs Bayer (right) in low-light

Clarity+ (left) vs Bayer (right) in low-light

In reality, this has not been the first time an optical company tries to use a different filter array than Bayer. Aptina however has the right algorithms built inside a powerful ISP that does the heavy lifting to arrive at the right colors. The magic happens as the extra light from the clear pixels is used earlier on to eliminate noise, and then complex algorithms resolve the missing green pixels to convert the RCB color information into RGB.

Good news is that Aptina has already integrated the proprietary ISP in some chips and it is talking with other SoC manufacturers to include the imaging chip in their new designs. If Motorola’s upcoming Moto X indeed uses Aptina’s Clarity Plus technology marketting it as ‘Clear Pixel’ that could be one explanation as to why it uses the slightly dated Snapdragon S4 Pro MSM8960. Integrating the ISP might have simply been only done for it.

Motorola's new device won't have issues with blur

Motorola's new device won't have issues with blur

The Motorola Moto X has already shown up in the hands of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and that’s as close to an official confirmation as it gets. Motorola tweeted a blurry low-light image of a kid obviously teasing that its next cameraphone won’t have that issue. Everything seems to fall together.

The official unveiling of the Moto X is expected for early August with nearly immediate pre-sale availability. The Moto X should arrive on all U.S. carriers and go on sale at their stores at the end of August, and August 23rd in particular for Verizon Wireless

If it has such a ground-breakingly new camera, as all rumors suggest, we're definitely excited.

  • Options

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:07 14

1. _Bone_ (Posts: 2154; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

Motorola could match or beat out the 1020 on a $300 budget phone. :D

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:14 12

3. aayupanday (Posts: 574; Member since: 28 Jun 2012)

Nah! Not possible....

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:33 6

8. neutralguy (Posts: 1152; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)

Yeah dream on again sherlock.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 06:47 15

15. _Bone_ (Posts: 2154; Member since: 29 Oct 2012)

And why would you think only Nokia could pull a good sensor, and not Motorola/Nikon? Fanboyism, dear Watson?

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 09:12

25. zennacko (Posts: 236; Member since: 16 Jun 2013)

Good things come with the flagships, and since the iPhone, flagship phones can't be sold for under $600...

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 09:17

26. neutralguy (Posts: 1152; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)

Actually, no. There are a lot of oems that could use the best of the best sensors, BUT do they have the expertise on such things? Well, not yet. You sir combined motorola and nikon. If nikon makes a smartphone, well I guess nokia will have a run for its money. But nokia vs motorola? Again, dream on sherlock.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 06:44 4

14. roldefol (Posts: 4235; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

Yeah no. They're not competing with the 1020, they're looking to challenge the OIS and low light performance of the One (Ultrapixel) and 92x (Pureview phase 2).

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 15:30 1

29. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

This is the beauty of competition spurring innovation. Nokia takes one approach, while someone else takes another.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:10 6

2. EXkurogane (Posts: 863; Member since: 07 Mar 2013)

I do like the clarity boost and low light performance there.

As for elimination of motion blur? If you put motion blur to good use, especially in the background/backdrop, you can actually get very artistic photos. And yes, it is achievable on a smartphone's camera. But a casual user wont understand it anyway.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:16 2

4. theminolaboy (Posts: 128; Member since: 18 May 2013)

Let's just see if a Moto X will be able to dethrone our beloved Nokia Lumia 1020..

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:21 3

5. livyatan (Posts: 867; Member since: 19 Jun 2013)

Are we on the break of the new revolution in mobile?
It started with processors, continued with screens, and now cameras?

Dang that's wonderful.
Now only the battery and build material revolutions remain, I guess :)

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:26 7

6. Victor.H (Posts: 658; Member since: 27 May 2011)

The Moto X might turn out to be quite the revolution in terms of build materials as well. Don't forget all rumors now agree that you should be able to customize the built material for the Moto X and one of the choices is wood!

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:27

7. Genersis (Posts: 217; Member since: 29 May 2013)

Hmmm. Seems pretty good going by those pictures. I hope this technology works as well in the Moto X.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:36

9. techman001 (Posts: 5; Member since: 14 Feb 2013)

This sounds like the UltraPixel camera on the HTC One.....

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 07:11 2

19. CanYouSeeTheLight (Posts: 1116; Member since: 05 Jul 2012)

This sounds like an idea for HTC to increase the megapixel count on the next year's Ultrapixel (v2?) while maintaining low light performance.

posted on 23 Jul 2013, 12:38

31. konnor (Posts: 30; Member since: 25 Apr 2013)

Not even close. HTC One camera obtains more light with bigger pixels. This achieves it by using a different sub-pixel matrix. That being said, both could use at least a 2/3" sensor, instead of the same old tiny 1/3" sensors.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:49 1

10. wendygarett (unregistered)

Good job moto for filter away the pentile display lol

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 05:57 2

11. gust3r3u (Posts: 84; Member since: 11 Apr 2013)

still waiting for the sony honami , but hey that's just me

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 06:41

12. tech2 (Posts: 3447; Member since: 26 Oct 2012)

me too :) .........but it'll be a long time before it actually hits the market. Probably by the end of the year !

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 06:42 1

13. dexter_jdr (Posts: 1163; Member since: 28 Jun 2012)

oh nice. the nokia lumia 1020 (/808) might have a real challenger for once.

i expect fair comparisons until their launch.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 06:49

16. roldefol (Posts: 4235; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

I really don't think motorola is chasing the camera-centric 1020 in a midrange phone. The 1020 is focused on enormous detail and lossless zoom. I don't see anything in this article suggesting the levels of detail will break new ground.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 07:07

17. dexter_jdr (Posts: 1163; Member since: 28 Jun 2012)

it gave clearer pixels./ lesser noise in a smaller megapixel count.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 07:39

21. roldefol (Posts: 4235; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

Less noise, sure, but that's the Lumia 92x as well. Better low light performance and less motion blur make for a good smartphone camera, but not on the level of the 41 MP 1020.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 07:07 2

18. jroc74 (Posts: 6004; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Interesting....Motorola/Google really did try to address their so so camera issues. I never really cared one way or another...but this should make some ppl happy.

In all honesty...if one values the camera so much that it effects their purchasing decision...they should just get a Nokia phone. I look at the overall package of a phone...and the camera is at the absolute bottom for me as a want/need.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 07:24 1

20. sergiobr (Posts: 705; Member since: 25 Feb 2013)

Repeat with me (fanboys) : - Megapixels don´t result in better photos ! Before you buy your 1020 take a look at those 32 Mpx.http://mobile-review.com/review/nokia-808-en.shtml, full of noise in low light. Save your money !

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 09:09

24. taikucing (unregistered)

taking photos in low light condition will make so much noise. But if you compare the photos in daylight condition in that link, the 808 is unbeatable

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 07:44

22. roldefol (Posts: 4235; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)

I wonder if this explains the somewhat 'cold' color balance of those early Droid Ultra test shots. If the software isn't optimized to factor in the missing green, you'll get a purplish photo and that odd purple haze.

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 09:01 1

23. taikucing (unregistered)

sure, it can't beat nokia lumia 1020. 1020 is in its own league. But this phone looks good. I love motorola for its fast locking gps even without internet connection. I sometime go traveling and rely on GPS much. my first android phone, motorola fire xt, has better spec than entry level samsung. This will probably be my next phone if it comes to my country. Yeah, call me motorola fanboy :P

posted on 18 Jul 2013, 09:47

27. flynfree (Posts: 374; Member since: 09 Jun 2013)


posted on 18 Jul 2013, 11:31

28. Android-Boxer (Posts: 13; Member since: 15 Aug 2012)

Amazing algorithm to cut off the noise! Bring it on yeah! (Y)

posted on 19 Jul 2013, 11:07

30. SmokeNMirrors (Posts: 1; Member since: 26 Aug 2011)

It's "DSP" not "ISP"! smh...

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