Smartphone cameras get a major revamp with new PowerVR V2500 imaging processor from Imagination

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MWC 2014 marks the introduction of the first Series2 Raptor imaging processor core, the PowerVR V2500. V2500 is ideal for low-power products such as mobile devices and wearables, but can seamlessly scale to provide the performance needed for Ultra HD video, multi-megapixel photography and higher pixel depth sensors required in other embedded markets like automotive, medical imaging and professional cameras.

Since MWC has always been ground zero for the mobile ecosystem, we will be focusing on how PowerVR V2500 can benefit the next generation of smartphones.

The imaging processor gets centre stage

Whenever a new device is launched, the media and consumers focus on key specifications like CPU or GPU configurations but often enough ignore the imaging processor (ISP) – a vital part responsible for capturing all of our images and videos.

The imaging processor is a dedicated piece of hardware that takes the raw input from a megapixel CMOS sensor, applies a Bayer pattern colour filter on it, and produces an uncompressed RGB digital image. In addition to demosaicing raw images, the ISP controls the 3A engine (Autofocus, Auto white balance, Auto exposure), lens correction (geometric and chromatic correction), noise reduction, LED flash level decision and oversees other aspects related to capturing images or video. Traditionally, the ISP has been a discrete component, packaged with the CMOS sensor, but recent trends in hardware integration have pushed it on-board the SoC, together with the CPU, GPU, VPU and other processing units.

PowerVR V2500 on SoC

In a recent article for TNW, Nick Summers cleverly predicts that the Android smartphone war in 2014 will be won with one weapon: a great camera. Therefore the importance of having a world-class ISP for multimedia processing couldn’t be more crucial than it is now. Although the mobile user experience has improved significantly in recent years, truly amazing cameras are still hard to find among flagship devices – a reality faced by many tablet users.

PowerVR V2500 enhances the mobile experience

The first step in having a great multimedia platform is equipping it with a megapixel sensor for high-resolution images coupled with an equally impressive ISP that provides the quality and features that can match a prosumer digital camera.

PowerVR V2500 imaging processor ISP core

The PowerVR V2500 imaging processor core has four key advantages over existing solutions:

–          high performance at low power

The PowerVR V2500 ISP features advanced, low-noise processing pipelines (1D and 2D, image enhancement, display and encoder) optimized to deliver the best high-performance computational photography solution. The V2500 core consumes only milliwatts of power and can be easily integrated on-chip using the same process node as other SoC processors.

–          high configurability

The PowerVR V2500 core and other Raptor ISPs fully support all major CMOS sensors and can switch between multiple stereo cameras at once; furthermore, the V2500 can be configured according to sensor resolution, reducing area and power consumption.

–          low area

Thanks to the Raptor architecture, SoC architects no longer require multiple ISPs to support volumetric imaging. The PowerVR V2500 ISP accommodates stereo, multi-cam, and vision array cameras for volumetric imaging in a small, single core solution.

–          high quality

PowerVR V2500 implements innovative algorithms that correct aberrations to deliver the best possible image quality, thus avoiding unnatural colours, artifacts, moire or other unwanted sharpening kernels.

Building the complete PowerVR vision platform

The second step in creating a successful multimedia platform is optimising every processing element, from capture to display. Imagination is the only IP vendor that offers every piece of the computational photography pipeline puzzle: the ISP (PowerVR V2500 and other Series2 Raptor cores), the video encoder and decoder (PowerVR Series5), the GPU (PowerVR Series6/Series6XE/Series6XT Rogue), and the CPU (MIPS Series5 Warrior).

Imagination vision system platform

We have made several architectural enhancements to all PowerVR visual cores that enable our licensees to preserve Deep Colour image quality and high resolution throughout the processing pipeline while consuming less power and lowering bandwidth usage. The ISP includes a full local tone mapper that allows an enhanced dynamic range to be maintained from sensor to screen & encoder. The V2500 core is able to transmit image statistics and metadata to the PowerVR video encoder which improves quality and lowers bitrate requirements. Another advantage of the PowerVR vision platform is its ability to stream frames directly from the ISP core to the PowerVR GPU, where various real-time, Instagram-like filters can be applied using GPU compute APIs such as OpenCL or Renderscript.

PowerVR Video and Vision - mobile use cases

To further improve overall system performance and the user experience, we’re also introducing PowerVR E5010, a dedicated companion JPEG encoding core. PowerVR E5010 can take input directly from the V2500 ISP and produce a final JPEG image without accessing any external memory. This Zero Memory™ mode ensures zero shutter lag in camera apps and minimizes system power consumption.

If you want to find out more about the PowerVR V2500 core and other members of the Series2 Raptor architecture, make sure you regularly come back to our blog for articles covering other market applications for our ISP cores. For other news and announcements for PowerVR visual IP, follow us on Twitter (@ImaginationTech and @PowerVRInsider).

Alex Voica

Alex Voica

Before deciding to pursue his dream of working in technology marketing, Alexandru held various engineering roles at leading semiconductor companies in Europe. His background also includes research in computer graphics and VR at the School of Advanced Studies Sant'Anna in Pisa. You can follow him on Twitter @alexvoica.

8 thoughts on “Smartphone cameras get a major revamp with new PowerVR V2500 imaging processor from Imagination”

  1. when do you think ISP will be able to process 10 bit image format
    preferably in H265 Image format.
    H265 suppose to have 10 bit and 12 bit image support.
    You guys had a blog post about Rec 2020 support for 4K but
    no mention applying that kind of wide gamut to photography.
    Or is this still 8-bit jpeg.

  2. when do you think ISP will be able to process 10 bit image format
    preferably in H265 Image format.
    H265 suppose to have 10 bit and 12 bit image support.
    You guys had a blog post about Rec 2020 support for 4K but
    no mention applying that kind of wide gamut to photography.
    Or is this still 8-bit jpeg.

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