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Sony to ante $1.2 billion, double down on image sensors

With demand rising for smartphone cameras, digital cameras, and camcorders, Sony will put half of the investment toward buying back a chip production line from Toshiba.

As consumer demand for cameras continues to rise, Sony plans to invest $1.2 billion next year to double its production of the image sensors used in smartphones and digital cameras.

Sony's Exmor CMOS sensor.
Sony's Exmor CMOS sensor. Sony

The Japanese electronics giant announced today that part of the investment would go toward buying back a semiconductor production line from Toshiba, a deal estimated to cost around $600 million, according to an industry source cited by Reuters. The company is also planning to convert part of a plant in Nagasaki to make CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) sensors and will purchase wafer processing equipment for CMOS image sensors, Reuters said.

Sony is aiming to bump up its image sensor production to 50,000 wafers per month by March 2012, double from the current 25,000, said the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). The company has been seeing heavy demand from smartphone and digital camera makers for its Exmor and Exmor R sensors, which do well in low light conditions, according to the Journal.

To help raise the cash, Sony will tap into a subsidy from the Japanese government earmarked for environmentally friendly businesses.