Samsung has unveiled a powerful new smartphone camera sensor with new technology and an incredibly high image resolution, but you are unlikely to see it in a Galaxy smartphone any time soon.
Matching the huge 200-megapixels of Samsung’s existing high-resolution champ, the Isocell HP1, the new Isocell HP3 delivers the same pixel resolution in a 20% smaller package. This has been achieved by shrinking the already tiny 0.64μm pixels of the Isocell HP1 down to just 0.56μm — the smallest in the industry according to Samsung.
This may come as a surprise to many as smaller sensors generally deliver worse quality than larger ones. However, Samsung has packed in some new technologies which it hopes will deliver superior quality despite its reduced size.
Note that while Ice Universe refers to a second-gen Isocell HP2 sensor, Samsung doesn’t list such a sensor in its product list. The tweet is possibly referring to the original Isocell HP1.
A 200-megapixel camera is a radical proposition for a smartphone, even the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 108-megapixel camera already seems mind-bogglingly high-res for a smartphone. Perhaps this is why neither the Isocell HP1 nor the Isocell HP3 has yet appeared in any smartphone camera, although the original Isocell HP1 is expected to make its debut in a Motorola handset this year.
As is typically the case for ultra-high-resolution components like the Isocell HP3, the sensor won’t be routinely used to create massive 200-megapixel photos. The camera will instead use an advanced form of “pixel binning’ that combines groups of adjacent pixels together to form much larger superpixels.
This technique allows the sensor to combine groups of four pixels to achieve a 50-megapixel mode or groups of sixteen pixels to shoot at 12.5-megapixels.
The smaller dimensions of Isocell HP3 actually put it at a disadvantage compared to the larger HP1 as its lower surface area cuts down on the amount of light it can capture, however, the new component comes with an upgraded “Smart-ISO Pro” feature than enables the sensor to capture images at three different sensitivity settings simultaneously. According to Samsung, this enables Isocell HP3 to capture up to 4 trillion colors (64-times more than its predecessor) while capturing a wider dynamic range for HDR images.
The Isocell HP3 also comes with an all-pixel autofocus system Samsung is calling “Super QPD”. With every pixel able to assist in autofocus, there’s no need for dedicated focus pixels and such a system should help avoid any autofocus problems such as those that plagued the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Super QPD places a single lens over each block of four adjacent pixels, using phase differences between the individual pixel outputs to calculate focus. Having such a huge number of pixels to start with will also help in this area.
Perhaps more exciting than the Isocell HP3 itself is the prospect of what camera technology Samsung might have in store for the Galaxy S23 Ultra. If not the Isocell HP3, then Samsung fans could be forgiven for expecting something even better from next year’s flagship. Only time will tell.
The Isocell HP3 goes into mass production this year, and read full details in Samsung’s Newsroom.
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