Nexus 5 leaks have been flying at us left, right, and center, offering all sorts of last-minute tidbits as we get into what really feels like the home stretch before the handset’s launch. During one of these recent leaks, some info about the phone’s eight-megapixel camera slipped out, and today it’s causing a bit of a stir: it looks like the Nexus 5 could have a camera with MEMS – microelectromechanical – components. Exactly what does that mean for the phone, and is it quite as exciting as some people are making it out to be?
The camera itself appears to be Digital Optics’ IMX179, and luckily for us there’s a nice little data sheet available on the component. So how does this MEMS bit fit into the camera’s design? Here, it’s going to replace the traditional electromagnetic autofocus assembly to allow for much faster focus times while also consuming far less power.
You may have heard more than one site talking about this camera in terms of plenoptic light-field cameras like the Lytro – the sort of shoot-first-focus-later tech that Nokia’s been looking into. But let’s be crystal clear here: that is not the sort of feat the IMX179 can pull off.
Instead, the IMX179’s super-fast focus control lets it cheat, pulling off a fake Lytro-like effect. So, instead of one light-field image, it would snap dozens of pics of the same scene, all with the focal length set a little differently, and let you browse through them all after the fact. That’s nothing new at all, and we’ve seen apps like Refocus on Windows Phone doing it for a while now. Sure, the Nexus 5 may be able to do it faster than the other kids, but let’s all keep our heads on about what it’s really capable of.
In non-camera-related Nexus 5 news, the latest availability rumors have looked to the phone possibly shipping the last week of October.
Update: Reader Bone suggests that the sensor on the Nexus 5 might not even include these MEMS enhancements, further taking the air out of this news.