Since we launched the VIOFO A139 Pro, our team has also been highlighting (and enjoying) the benefits of its new image sensor, the Sony STARVIS 2. If you check out our new sample footage videos on our YouTube channel, you will see the differences in performance and resolution brought by the STARVIS 2. Check them out here.
Seeing More on the Sony STARVIS 2 Image Sensors
Now, compared to the first generation, Sony STARVIS 2 boasts improved low-light quality and contrast, higher resolution and clarity, and a new feature that enhances battery consumption during parking mode. On the video side, we saw how it worked on the VIOFO A139 Pro, and the Thinkware U3000 which was released right after, being the first premium dash cam to be equipped with IMX678.
One of the questions we get during the hype of the VIOFO A139 Pro and Thinkware U3000 (which are both 4K dash cams) is: “are we also getting a Sony STARVIS dash cam under the 2K segment?” We recently answered that with the launch of the all-new VIOFO A119 Mini 2, which is powered with a Sony STARVIS 2 IMX675. With the VIOFO A119 Mini 2, we can say that the STARVIS 2 was a real upgrade when we compared it to the VIOFO A119 V3. Images are sharper, colours are more vibrant, to the fact that we think that the A119 Mini 2 can compete with other 4K dash cams.
Indeed, Sony STARVIS 2 is a huge help to the new dash cams coming in. Sony STARVIS 2 now shows clearer details of license plates and road signs, which can be useful in car accidents or parking incidents. The larger pixel size of the Sony STARVIS 2 captures more detail, making it easier to identify important information, such as license plate numbers.
Beyond resolution and image quality, given Sony STARVIS 2's improved technology and design, we also expected that it would consume less power than the first generation Sony STARVIS. Sony claims that the larger pixel sizes and advanced image sensor technology allow the dash cam to capture more light, improving low-light performance and reducing power consumption. While current dash cams with this new sensor are impressive, they’ve yet to take full advantage of the energy efficiency of this chip, and reflect that with long-lasting parking mode.
For example, while the U3000 does boast top-tier energy efficiency with its built-in radar sensor for both the front and rear, the current results are on-par with the Thinkware U1000 using its separate radar module. VIOFO units on the other hand for the most part still draw a fair bit of power in parking mode; we’d love to see an energy-efficient parking mode for VIOFO models. We hope that this upgraded image sensor’s energy efficiency can help these systems strive forward further, longer.
Sony STARVIS 2 worked heavily for its Clear HDR technology, focusing on optimizing exposure time, especially during the daytime. Clear HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology, also known as Dual-Gain HDR, is an enhanced version of the standard HDR. The main difference between Clear HDR and standard HDR is how they handle dynamic range and noise reduction. The traditional HDR method requires two exposures, one short and one longer. With Clear HDR, the sensor uses a Dual-Gain architecture, which combines two separate gains for the same pixel, allowing it to capture a broader dynamic range in a single exposure. This approach provides a wider dynamic range compared to standard HDR, allowing the sensor to capture more detail in challenging lighting conditions.
In the context of image sensors and video quality, "noise" refers to unwanted random variations in brightness or colour that can appear in an image or video. It is similar to the static or grainy appearance you might see on old television screens or in low-quality photos. Noise can make an image look less clear, sharp, and vibrant.
In Sony STARVIS 2 image sensors with Clear HDR technology, noise reduction is an important feature contributing to their superior image quality. The sensor applies advanced algorithms to reduce the noise while preserving the essential details and sharpness of the captured footage, even in challenging or dark lighting conditions. Videos produced by image sensors with noise reduction technology appear clearer, crisper, and more visually pleasing to viewers.
However, applying Clear HDR poses two challenges: the first is shutter speed, which when increased to freeze-frame action can cause difficulty with recording certain light sources, such as traffic lights, which may flicker at times. This may impair the dash cam's ability to capture important moments, such as someone running a red light.
While we’ve seen HDR lacking altogether in certain Sony STARVIS 2 models (U3000), basic HDR is still present in other models like the VIOFO A119 Mini 2. There is a very real increase in night footage quality through the inclusion of that basic HDR with Sony STARVIS 2. Still, these models have yet to maximize the benefit of Clear HDR.
Overall, it still does a better job. We appreciate how the Sony STARVIS 2 has evolved video quality, making a huge difference especially when compared to the first generation and other brands like Omnivision. When comparing the VIOFO A139 Pro, the Thinkware U1000 vs. Thinkware U3000, and the VIOFO A119 V3 vs. VIOFO A119 Mini 2, the winners’ names are clear, and they’re no other than those who have the Sony STARVIS 2.
We remain excited to see what the future holds, and future dash cams that make the most of this sensor.