Samsung's new camera sensor promises better focus and photos on mobile
To create a great smartphone camera, first you need a great mobile camera sensor, and Samsung just unveiled a new 50-megapixel, 1/1.31-inch Isocell GN1 sensor – a component that should find its way into future Samsung phones before too long.
The sensor has two key features, covering autofocus and low-light photography respectively. The first is Samsung's Dual Pixel technology, where two light-converting photodiodes are packed into a single pixel: that means light can be captured from more angles, and should mean the subjects of your photos snap into focus sooner.
Secondly, Samsung's Tetracell technique is also built into this sensor, which uses pixel binning – a way of combining light captured from several pixels into one. It effectively increases the (already large) pixel size of 1.2 μm to 2.4 μm, which should ensure more light gets captured, even in the darkest of scenes.
We'll need to see the Isocell GN1 inside a phone to find out for sure whether it fulfills its promise, but Samsung seems confident that the sensor is going to improve mobile photography even further. The autofocus speeds should be comparable with a professional DSLR, apparently.
"We will continue to introduce image sensor solutions at the cutting-edge that will lead the next trends in mobile photography," said Yongin Park, executive vice president of sensor business at Samsung Electronics, in a press statement.
As is the norm on high-end phone sensors nowadays, Samsung has applied some smart algorithms to the hardware as well, which it claims can match the detail and quality of photographs taken on a 100-megapixel sensor. Sometimes it's not all about the megapixels (though Samsung has a 108 MP sensor too, as found in the Galaxy S20 Ultra).
Also on board the new sensor we have support for real time HDR processing, electronic image stabilization, and a smart ISO feature that automatically selects the right light sensitivity for the scene at hand. Video recording at a resolution of up to 8K at 30 frames per second is also possible with the Isocell GN1, as well as 4K at 60 fps.
Mass production of the Isocell GN1 is now underway, so there's a chance we might see it in several Samsung phones before the end of the year – though perhaps not in the soon-to-be-launched Note 20, which will probably keep the same camera sensors as the Galaxy S20 flagships.