Sony sensor division expected to grow, but faces competition

by Liam McCabe

posted Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 11:29 AM EST


There’s a pretty good chance that one of your cameras has a Sony sensor, especially if you count smartphones. The sensor division is so successful, in fact, that Sony is counting on its continued growth to offset big losses elsewhere in the company, according to a Reuters profile published yesterday.

The Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone now shoots 4K video, or 120fps video at 720p resolution.

Crack open a Samsung Galaxy S4 or an iPhone 5S, and you’ll find a Sony sensor behind the lens. As more Chinese manufacturers aim at the top end of the market, they’re also calling on Sony’s chips for their phones. Higher-quality front-facing cameras are also now in demand, driving up sales of Sony modules. Though the figures are small shakes next to smartphones, system cameras from Olympus, Nikon, and Pentax use Sony-made sensors, and the company has moved in on the medium-format segment as well. Sony expects a 16 percent jump in sensor sales this year. It’s one of the few divisions within the corporation that's turning a profit, thanks to huge volumes and estimated margins of about 10 to 15 percent, according to Reuters.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 includes Samsung's own camera modules rather than Sony's as in the previous model, the Galaxy S4.

But one of Sony’s biggest customers—and chief rivals—is starting to bring production back in house. Starting with the Galaxy S5, Samsung is making its own camera modules. "The fact that Samsung makes their own products on their own line with their own technology, that's a threat,” said Yutaka Okamoto, the president of Sony’s sensor division, in the interview with Reuters. It's a trend that could continue as more big names in the mobile space work on proprietary camera components.

Check out the report at Reuters, and let us know what you think. Does Sony have a firm grasp on the category? Or will there be big changes in the near future?