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" 720 x 1280 pixels
  • Camera 10 MP / 2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, Dual-core, 1700 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB
  • Battery 2200 mAh(13h talk time)

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31 Comments

1. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

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

3. aayupanday

Posts: 582; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

Nah! Not possible....

8. neutralguy

Posts: 1152; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Yeah dream on again sherlock.

15. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

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

25. zennacko unregistered

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

26. neutralguy

Posts: 1152; Member since: Apr 30, 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.

14. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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).

29. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

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

2. EXkurogane

Posts: 863; Member since: Mar 07, 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.

4. theminolaboy

Posts: 128; Member since: May 18, 2013

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

5. livyatan

Posts: 867; Member since: Jun 19, 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 :)

6. Victor.H

Posts: 1056; Member since: May 27, 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!

7. Genersis

Posts: 219; Member since: May 29, 2013

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

9. techman001

Posts: 5; Member since: Feb 14, 2013

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

19. CanYouSeeTheLight

Posts: 1122; Member since: Jul 05, 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.

31. konnor

Posts: 30; Member since: Apr 25, 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.

10. wendygarett unregistered

Good job moto for filter away the pentile display lol

11. gust3r3u

Posts: 84; Member since: Apr 11, 2013

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

12. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

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

13. dexter_jdr

Posts: 1163; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

oh nice. the nokia lumia 1020 (/808) might have a real challenger for once. i expect fair comparisons until their launch.

16. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

17. dexter_jdr

Posts: 1163; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

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

21. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

18. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 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.

20. sergiobr

Posts: 718; Member since: Feb 25, 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 !

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

22. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 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.

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

27. flynfree

Posts: 374; Member since: Jun 09, 2013

Waiting!

28. Android-Boxer

Posts: 13; Member since: Aug 15, 2012

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

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