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

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.

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.

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.

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.


Related phones

Moto X
  • Display 4.7 inches
    1280 x 720 pixels
  • Camera 10 MP (Single camera)
    2 MP front
  • Hardware Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
    2GB RAM
  • Storage 16GB,
  • Battery 2200 mAh
  • OS Android 5.1 Lollipop

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