Nexus 5 to be first smartphone with MEMS camera: fastest on a phone, Lytro like functionality

Nexus 5 to be first smartphone with MEMS camera: fastest on a phone, Lytro like functionality
We have already seen from the leaked logs that the Nexus 5 will have an 8-megapixel camera, and some will be quick to utter a collective meh. Don’t be so quick to write it off - the latest diggings in logs reveal that it would be an exciting and first of a kind camera called MEMS. 

The cryptic abbreviation is not important - what’s important is that MEMS cameras can focus 7 times faster than current cameras and take multiple images extremely fast. Those extremely quick capture times will allow for a quick succession of shots, and if the object is not moving fast, you'd be able to shoot first and focus later, like on a Lytro camera. Be it daylight or night time, a MEMS camera locks focus in a fraction of a second and multiple times faster than current cameras. The Nexus 5 will likely be the handset that brings the technology to the mainstream.

The secret is hidden in Nexus 5 logs where we see a mention of some component referred to as imx179. Doesn’t ring a bell, does it? Google will quickly reveal however that such a component exists and it is the MEMS camera we just told you about, manufactured by Digital Optics. Altogether, we have the following details about the Nexus 5 camera:

- 8-megapixel unit that is not backside illuminated (not BSI)
- f/2.4 aperture
- sensor size of 1/3.2” (a bit smaller than top shelf smartphones)

So what exactly is a MEMS camera? For the answer, we turn the page back to the future, and that’s our article on the future of smartphone cameras.

MEMS cameras explained

MEMS is short for microelectromechanical technology and the technology differs drastically from the current voice coil motors (VCMs) used in smartphone cameras. It is the same technology that brought us microphone, gyros and barometers in a tiny smartphone. It is extremely precise - made in clean rooms just like all other chips - and is hundreds of times more power efficient.

Voice coil motors are the current technology and they employ technologies that are a bit dated now. Auto-focusing in VCMs happens when a current is sent through a coil causing the moving elements of a camera to move in the direction of a magnet. There are a few set steps for the moving elements and at each one the camera evaluates the focus to determine whether the image is in focus or not (if not it just moves one step further and re-evaluates). It sounds complicated because it is. Plus, with that many steps locking focus could take a whole second. It is also imprecise and noisy.

MEMS technology on the other hand can focus nearly 7 times faster and is much smaller. It uses electrostatic force to draw to solid-state comb-shaped surfaces together, but they never touch and degradation takes much longer. Instead of having multiple moving elements you only have one with extremely quick auto-focus and power consumption of 1mW, hundreds of times less than VCM modules.

All in all, we finally have some clarity on the Nexus 5 camera, one of the latest missing pieces of the puzzle. The Nexus 5 is expected to get officially announced this month, so stay tuned. Right below, you’d find a demonstration of a MEMS camera from MWC 2013.

source: (translated)

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. amats69

Posts: 1527; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

Let the battle of camera phone begin!

7. amats69

Posts: 1527; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

Correct me if im wrong... If im not mistaken this mems camera got a mechanism (precise) inside thats why focusing is very fast unlike the current camera used in smartphones today that is electronic cam...there are some projectors that has mems really interested about this cam technology.Technology nowadays very interesting!

12. Plesman

Posts: 11; Member since: Feb 19, 2013

Are you crazy!? This is going to be a extremely crappy camera: sensor size of 1/3.2” There is no good word for that, it's going to be utter crap!!!​#2

14. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

Do you think the iphone 5/5s camera is crappy? (hint: it has exactly the same number of pixels and sensor size). 8mp on a 1/3.2'' sensor can give very good results (and they actually do on the iphone 5).

19. noler

Posts: 326; Member since: Aug 19, 2013

Nokia 808 1/1.2'' Lumia 1020 1/1.5'' Z1 1/2.3'' Lumia 925/920, iphone 5s 1/3'' iphone 5, Nexus 5 1/3.2'' I have a feeling it will be like Moto x camera.

15. amats69

Posts: 1527; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

You can say it in a good way dude..calling me crazy didnt made u smart.

18. PootisMan

Posts: 266; Member since: Aug 02, 2013

Nexus 5 here I come!

2. Jklaz

Posts: 159; Member since: Jul 01, 2013

Can't wait to see some samples/sample video showing how fast the actual phones camera is


Posts: 269; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

The galaxy nexus had a very camera but took poor photos and thats why speed doesnt matter, I want good pictures. A fast camera is always a plus but the results have to be good. Without that a fast camera is useless.

4. kdealltheway

Posts: 94; Member since: Oct 21, 2012

Sounds to good to bee true...

5. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

Wow, that autofocus is insanely fast.

6. scriptwriter

Posts: 396; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

This sounds extremely technical.....I love it!!!

8. Gsizzle

Posts: 39; Member since: Aug 19, 2013

"Rings any bills"? wutlol?

11. Victor.H

Posts: 1079; Member since: May 27, 2011

Hah! Hilarious typo, I've fixed it now, thanks!

9. hmd74

Posts: 540; Member since: Jan 31, 2013

Just release it google ...

10. mayur007

Posts: 593; Member since: Apr 10, 2012

Awesome A real Innovation will be added .. wow 2013 top list 1 nexus mems camera 2 nokia 1020 41 mp 3 lg's audio zoom and camera 4 sony z1s camera 5 iphone 64 bit(gimmik though)processor though still pushed other companies to think for the future of processors nice apple 6 Samsung = galaxy zoom Innovation to me is adding a new thing either its good or not ref 2 galaxy zoom phone Correct me if I am wrong

21. sniper1087

Posts: 537; Member since: Dec 31, 2011

the only thing I say no is to number 3, the audio is terrible, the speakers dont give you great sound quality, in comparison the nexus mems camera, really doesnt mean much, since focusing faster doesnt give you a better picture, and nexus sacrifice always something to make the device cheaper. I wonder if they will implement LTE

26. NexusPhan

Posts: 632; Member since: Jul 11, 2013

Of course it's LTE. The Nexus 4 has LTE (if you know how to enable it). The FCC documents all show LTE. There is little to no cost savings at this point by excluding LTE. Look at the Nexus 7.

28. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

I would say the most innovation in phones/computers hardware has been graphics power. The new R9-290x is over 5 teraflops and half the price of nvidias titan.

29. Berzerk000

Posts: 4275; Member since: Jun 26, 2011

Apple announcing a 64 bit chip definitely didn't make other companies think for the future. The A7 is an ARM based chip, ARM had already announced it's 64 bit processors well before the unveiling on the iPhone 5S, that's when manufacturers started developing 64 bit chips, not when Apple announced the A7. All Apple did was release it first, in no way did they push companies to do something.

13. wrm2013

Posts: 237; Member since: Mar 28, 2013

Another gimmick. having a fast camera means nothing if the picture looks no different then your phone from two years ago. Google being cheap. Nothing more.

16. Charlie_boy

Posts: 71; Member since: Jan 04, 2013

not necessarily a gimmick... it's not telling us that we're gonna smap better quality pics. Just more pics per battery charge since it's faster and more power efficient. I think it's still in line with google's aim to make android more resource efficient.

20. dragonscourgex

Posts: 307; Member since: Jan 16, 2012

If I read the write up correctly, it should also give the ability to refocus after the picture has been taken. This is a nice feature I think .

35. rabaker07

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 02, 2013

This is a "nice" feature I "think"? First off, I "think" half of these comments are fake and just here to try and boost seo, with a terrible grasp of the english language to boot. Did you even read the article or know anything about these subjects? Or just an seo robot, cluttering up the internet with nonsense and misinformation? Get a life and a real job you bottom-feeders. Now back to the subject, having this post-focus feature is a truly amazing innovation and will change the way we take photos and will drastically improve the quality of our shots across the board. This should be incorporated into every camera and if Nexus get this first, I will be shocked and immediately digging into my pocket.

22. LetsBeHonest

Posts: 1548; Member since: Jun 04, 2013

Why not just wait for camera samples ??? think positive...

27. buccob

Posts: 2975; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

correct... but even the newest iPhone 5s do not match my two years old Xperia Acro S... check this comparison extracted from original GSMArena reviews... all iPhone cameras have been wildly overrated... and to be fair the new Z1 is not that good either... I think the best camera today is the Galaxy S4... zoom this file to compare the picture

33. Trex95

Posts: 2383; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

Best Android camera goes to LG G2 in still and 1080P except 1080P at night looks bad on G2, IPhone 5s camera improved over the IPhone 5 camera specially at low light. PS. if you want to know the best camera performance watch it in big screen 20 inch at least i watched the whole phone camera on big screen and to be honest no phone beat Nokia PV 808 in 1080P period.

31. rabaker07

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 02, 2013

I guess you don't know much about photography. A focused photo is crucial. This is why the most advanced canon lenses are either image stabilized or designed to be used on a tripod with a remote shutter trigger. MEMS is more than just "fast", it has to do with the focus and it actually takes multiple photos in a short timeframe, focusing on all components in the frame. Then you select where you wanted to focus after the fact. When you see this in action, you'll know how amazing this technology really is and how much it will change point-and-shoot and even pro photography.

17. aditya.k

Posts: 496; Member since: Mar 10, 2013

That explains the kinda ugly looking camera! :)

23. flibblesan

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 02, 2013

IMX179 refers to the Sony CMOS sensor that DigitalOptics use in the mems camera they have made but the sensor itself can be found in other devices such as the Meizu MX3. The Nexus 5 will just have a normal 8MP camera.

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