Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Kodak chip could improve camera phones

Eastman Kodak said it has developed an image sensor that greatly improves the quality of pictures and video captured by camera phones. The technology could be incorporated in mobile phones and other smaller point-and-shoot cameras as early as next winter.

"Most camera phones - even though there's 700 million or so produced every year - unfortunately still behave like toy cameras," said Fas Mosleh, a marketing director in Kodak's image sensor business. "The pictures usually come out dark and fuzzy, and video clips are full of unwanted noise and blurriness."

The KAC-05020 Image Sensor, the world's first 1.4-micron, 5-megapixel chip, is at least doubly sensitive to light than current devices. It produces crisper images even when light conditions are not ideal - such as at a candlelit birthday party - or when shooting a moving target, Mosleh said.

The innovation is part of Kodak's widening effort to boost profitability by tapping its rich portfolio of imaging patents. Chief Executive Antonio Perez told analysts he expects Kodak to earn between $1 billion and $1.4 billion in patent-licensing royalties by 2011.

In December, Kodak wrapped up a four-year, $3.4 billion overhaul aimed at transforming itself from the world's biggest film manufacturer into a leader in digital photography. It slashed its work force to 26,900 from 64,000. Its stock has tumbled to near 30-year lows, and many Wall Street analysts have expressed unease over whether its transformation can succeed.

Kodak plans to provide samples of its new sensors to camera manufacturers this spring. It expects the chips will begin appearing in upgraded cameras in about a year's time without adding to manufacturers' development costs. They will be sold for around $5 each in quantities of 1 million or more, Mosleh said. (info from The Associated Press)

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