Sony has revealed a new Exmor RS image sensor for smartphones that improves on earlier models in virtually every category.

The new sensor, which Sony is calling IMX318, is a type 1/2.6 stacked CMOS image sensor that outputs images at 22.5 megapixels. Sony says the sensor offers higher performance and greater image quality while boasting a more compact size, attributes that'll certainly make it attractive for smartphone makers looking to churn out increasingly thinner handsets.

Interestingly enough, the sensor uses a hybrid autofocus system that combines phase detection and contrast detection autofocus technology. While this has been done before, Sony says it required a separate application processor. With the IMX318, hybrid autofocus has been built directly into the sensor's internal signal processor which is said to help it lock focus in just 0.03 seconds (in high light conditions) and 0.017 seconds when shooting video at 60fps.

It doesn't stop there, however, as Sony has also managed to cram a 3-axis (pitch, yaw and roll) electronic image stabilization system into the internal signal processor that also corrects lens distortion. Processing within the hardware of the image sensor also reduces power consumption as an external application processor isn't needed.

Sony said it plans to sample the new image sensor in May which means we could see it show up in select smartphones by the end of the year.