Nexus 5 might not feature a MEMS camera after all, just a Sony IMX179 sensor

Nexus 5 might not feature a MEMS camera after all, just a Sony IMX179 sensor
Sifting through thousands of lines of Android code and making conclusions from the leaked 4.4 KitKat build is ungrateful task, as you have to analyze and make conclusions from cryptic code strings, which as programmers go, can be referring to anything, including Google's Easter eggs tradition.

We were all excited yesterday when the Italians in possession of a test Nexus with KitKat returned an IMX179 reference in the camera app code, and a quick Google search lists it as part of the DigitalOptics' groundbreaking MEMS camera module. This one promises almost instant autofocus speeds and Lytro camera style post-shot refocusing.

The thing is that in the DigitalOptics PDF brochure about the wonders of its MEMS phone camera module, IMX179 is listed as the sensor only, not the whole module, alongside another sensor alternative we are spotting there - OV8835. A quick search returns that under these codenames we get two 8 MP phone camera sensors - OmniVision's OV8835, and Sony's IMX179.

The moral of the story is that the new Nexus handset might just come equipped with a camera bearing the Sony sensor, but not necessarily the MEMS camera that got everyone so worked up. Given that Sony and OmniVision are perhaps the most widely used sensors in smartphones, that's the theory to go with, though we'd love to be proven wrong here. Here are the sensors in question, with the Nexus shots taken from its alleged FCC certification teardown:

Actually, the whole Nexus phone idea last year was to castrate LG's flagship a bit to keep costs in check, and sell it at, or a little below, cost, for Google's own reasons. There's no indication Google will go all-out with some groundbreaking technology so fast, but rather the opposite - that it will again base the Nexus 5 on this year's LG G2 flagship. Putting an expensive MEMS module in the phone, rather than cutting costs with an 8 MP one doesn't seem very logical at this point. On the other hand, Vic Gundotra did promise "insanely great cameras" in Google's phones, so go figure, we hope he didn't mean the Moto X ClearPixel technology only.

Moreover, while the Galaxy S4 and Note 3 use the DigitalOptics FaceTools (face detection and tracking) technology for their cameras, that's on the algorithm side, while the MEMS module itself is said to be ramped for mass production in Q4, and we are expecting the new Nexus phone to land pretty soon.

Furthermore, LG Innotek makes a few smartphone camera units of its own, with which it equips its handsets - among them is an 8 MP one and a 13 MP one, like the piece found in the G2. It did a great job with the G2 this year, so even if the Nexus 5 comes with a regular 8 MP camera by LG, utilizing Sony's IMX179 sensor, we are still keeping our hopes high for its quality. Last year's 13 MP LG Innotek module in the Optimus G was using Sony's IMX135 sensor, and the results were not very good, whereas this year it might have upgraded its camera units to better Sony sensors, like the new IMX179, and the stellar results are evident with the G2.

This same BSI Sony sensor is already in phones like the Meizu MX3, whose camera samples you can see below, so if Google's Nexus phone 2013 edition ends up like that, it's all good, especially if it's priced like last year.

Related phones

Nexus 5
  • Display 5.0" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.3 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2260 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB
  • Battery 2300 mAh(17h talk time)



1. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

Ok, before commenting consider the price of the Nexus phones compared to the price of the various Z1, G2 etc. An 8mp good sensor would be OK for me, for that price.

11. Gigabinzle

Posts: 37; Member since: Aug 30, 2013

i want ois and 50 mega pickles

12. apple4never

Posts: 1064; Member since: May 08, 2013

u like the mega pickles eh

15. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

Then buy a nokia 1020 and a nokia 920 for the additional 9mp!

2. wicpromd

Posts: 266; Member since: Aug 20, 2013

please no Omnivision, we have already seen stupid Omnivision gimmick sensor on Moto X Sony's sensor on G2 just rock

18. techfirst101

Posts: 16; Member since: Sep 14, 2013

the Moto X actually has a very good cam now after they got the recent OTA update out.


Posts: 269; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

Nexus 5 will be a great phone anyway. I respect the nexus line because it's more apple-like as in Google has control over the hardware and software and will never overload it with junk like what samsung has done with touch wiz.

6. kabhijeet.16

Posts: 892; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

Agreed.. If samsung removes touchwiz & sticks to stock android, the specs would make even its midrangers a beast in performance....


Posts: 269; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

Exactly and my galaxy s3 would be running flawlessly. I know people will tell me I can flash cm10.2 but the cm team hardly releases any stable builds. My experience with cm10.1 was beyond terrible. Even after 5 months they never released a stable build.

10. squallz506

Posts: 1075; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Stable c m10.1.3 is available. I run the 10.2 nightly on my T-Mobile s3.

13. McLTE

Posts: 922; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

CM isn't the only ROM out there. In fact, it's far from my favorite. I haven't used CM EVER on my Note 2. As for Touchwiz, Kabhijeet, have you even used the latest iteration? I used to be a die hard pure Andoroid guy until I got used to my Note 2. There are many nice features that are in Touchwiz that aren't in vanilla Android. My ultimate favorite is smart stay - the screen stays on while you are looking at your phone. Get used to that feature and you can't go back!

16. kabhijeet.16

Posts: 892; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

I know there are several awesome/useful features in Touchwiz. But the only issue I have is that it is the heaviest custom skin & consumes lot of RAM.. Because of that I face issues of "Touchwiz lag" lot of times. As soon as I install a custom launcher-APEX, the phone works flawlessly (RAM-520MB). I have tested this on My Galaxy S2 (old touchwiz which was very light & smooth), then updated to new Touchwiz Nature UX on my phone & can see a lot of difference. (the RAM consumption has increased from 365MB/1GB to 590MB/1GB in new touchwiz - just turned on the device). I have seen the same touchwiz issue on my friend's Galaxy S3 & my Boss's Galaxy S4. I do like touchwiz but Samsung ought to make is a bit lighter so that RAM consumption is not more than 450MB/1GB. Bottom line I want my device to work smooth even if I had to lose some of Touchwiz features..

17. kabhijeet.16

Posts: 892; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

If you remember, We used to think HTC Sense is a heavy skin & can cause lags. Now Touchwiz is heaviest & HTC sense has become very light & smooth skin...

4. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

13MP sensors are not expensive there are Chinese phones with the same Sony sensor the s4 has that cost $150-$200. I got a zopo for $250 and it takes better pictures than my nexus 4.

5. _Bone_

Posts: 2155; Member since: Oct 29, 2012

Check out these MX3 samples, the IMX179 matches the iPhone's Sony variant, probably outdoes them in low light. It's an excellent 8MP sensor though much depends on the lens, aperture, the processing chip and post-processing, the Nexus 5 may cut corners there.

7. LionStone

Posts: 1048; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

..."that got everyone so worked up"!? Well, with headlines like, "Nexus 5 to be first smartphone with MEMS camera: fastest on a phone, Lytro like functionality" Jumped the gun there just a little bit PA...

14. McLTE

Posts: 922; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

PA jump the gun??? NO WAY! They neeeeevvvvveeerrrr do that!! (sarcasm) if you're looking for journalistic integrity (verifying stories, unbiased opinion), then you'll have to look elsewhere.

8. Finest

Posts: 90; Member since: Aug 16, 2013

It's no "just" a sony camera It's a Sony camera.

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