The ups and downs in the CMOS image sensor market

Article By : Majeed Ahmad

The CMOS image sensor market is on track to suffer its first decline in 13 years amid slowdown in handset shipments and trade bans on China.

CMOS image sensors—the unsung hero of the opto-semiconductor market—are staring at what some technology managers in China call a perfect storm amid a slowdown in smartphone shipments and a pause in the increase of embedded cameras being designed in new handsets. According to IC Insights’ August 3Q Update of The McClean Report, the CMOS image sensor market is on track to suffer its first decline in 13 years, with sales expected to fall 7% to $18.6 billion.

It’s worth mentioning that nearly two-thirds of CMOS image sensors are used in mobile phones. An average handset incorporates three cameras, one on the front, facing the user for selfies, and two main cameras on the backside of the phones. On the other hand, a high-end smartphone could feature five or more cameras.

Another factor, as pointed out by some industry observers, has been the U.S. trade bans on China. As a result, Sony, the market leader in CMOS image sensors, has been struggling to match image-resolution requirements for camera phones produced by the leading Chinese system manufacturers in the first half of 2022. However, according to Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, the market has now stabilized after a bubble caused by CMOS image sensor stockpiling as a consequence of U.S. sanctions against major China-based companies.

Figure 1 CMOS image sensors are expected to slowly regain growth momentum. Source: IC Insights

At the same time, however, both Yole and IC Insights forecast new growth cycles from smartphone upgrades and other markets such as automotive cameras, medical imaging, and intelligent security networks. IC Insights’ August 3Q Update expects CMOS image sensor sales to rise by a CAGR of 6.0% between 2021 and 2026 to reach $26.9 billion in the final year of the forecast.

CMOS image sensor’s quest for new growth venues is apparent from recent announcements. For instance, Sony, which accounted for about 43% of CMOS image sensor sales worldwide in 2021, has recently announced a 1/3-type CMOS image sensor for security cameras with approximately 5.12 megapixels. It simultaneously delivers both full-pixel output of the whole captured image and high-speed output of regions of interest.

Figure 2 The CMOS image sensor for security cameras simultaneously delivers a full-pixel output of captured images and high-speed output of regions of interest. Source: Sony Semiconductor Solutions (SSS)

The new image sensor leverages Dual Speed Streaming technology to output all of the pixels in a captured image at a maximum rate of 40 frames per second while simultaneously outputting specific user-set regions of interest at high speed. As a result, it can provide comprehensive images of scenes and support high-speed recognition of specific objects at a high level of detail.

In the post-Covid design world, even the CMOS image sensor, the ever-trustable growth engine, wasn’t spared from ups and downs. The good news is that it’s now stabilizing while continuing to innovate and seek sockets in new design areas like automotive and security imaging. As Yole puts it, the CMOS image sensor market has bottomed out at 2.8% year-on-year growth in 2021 and is ready to start a new growth cycle in 2022.


This article was originally published on EDN.

Majeed Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of EDN and Planet Analog, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.


Expo booth:

New products & solutions, whitepaper downloads, reference designs, videos

Conference sessions:
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Supply Chain
  • Automotive Electronics
  • Wave of Wireless
3 Rounds Lucky Draw:

Register, join the conference, and visit the booths for a chance to win great prizes.

Leave a comment