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This new image sensor is here to save your smartphone photos from bad white balance

This new image sensor is here to save your smartphone photos from bad white balance


Spectricity’s new S1 module uses information outside of the visible light spectrum to help smartphone cameras reproduce colors and skin tones more faithfully.

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Person taking a photo of someone sitting on steps at an outdoor plaza with a smartphone.
Even high-end smartphone cameras are notoriously bad at capturing accurate skin tones.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

A Belgium-based company is looking beyond the visible light spectrum to put an end to a common problem for smartphone cameras: bad color reproduction. Spectricity is debuting its new S1 multispectral sensor at CES 2023, and it could be headed to smartphones on store shelves sooner than later.

Standard camera sensors are limited to using certain bands of the visible spectrum — red, green, and blue. The S1, which is designed to complement the main camera system, can gather much more data, including in the near-infrared range. The company says this results in better color reproduction and more accurate skin tones, and it has big aspirations for this technology: CEO Vincent Mouret says he expects all smartphones to incorporate it “within the coming years.”

Grid of photos comparing poor color reproduction to more accurate color with an image of rubber ducks.
Spectricity’s technology would be particularly useful under tricky indoor lighting as in the examples here.
Image: Spectricity

Even the most advanced smartphone cameras struggle to reproduce color and skin tones faithfully under challenging lighting conditions. Think of all the iPhone photos you’ve taken where your friends look orange like Oompa Loompas. Or look no further than MKBHD’s blind smartphone camera test. It’s something Google is trying to solve with the Real Tone image processing technology incorporated into its latest Pixel phones. But that’s largely a software solution to the problem, and Spectricity is focused on the hardware.

The company says its technology is currently being evaluated by “major smartphone makers” for inclusion in upcoming devices. This is a good time to try and sell phone makers on an extra camera sensor — main cameras are starting to do double duty as short telephoto lenses, which could free up some real estate for another sensor. We shouldn’t have to wait too long to find out if that comes to pass: Spectricity says the first phones with its tech should arrive in 2024.