Samsung announces a 64MP ISOCELL image sensor for smartphones
This year, we are seeing high resolution cameras become more and more popular in the smartphone market. The Huawei P20 Pro, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Huawei P30, and the Huawei P30 Pro all feature 40MP sensors. 48MP sensors are being used even in budget and mid-range phones, led by Sony’s IMX586 sensor and Samsung’s ISOCELL Bright GM1. The Honor View20, Xiaomi Mi 9, Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro, ZTE Axon 10 Pro, OPPO F11 Pro, Vivo V15 Pro, and others all feature 48MP primary cameras. Now, Samsung has gone one step further by announcing a world-first high-resolution 64MP ISOCELL Bright GW1 image sensor, along with a 48MP ISOCELL Bright GM2 that seems to be the successor of the GM1 that was announced in October.
With the 64MP ISOCELL Bright GW1 and the 48MP ISOCELL Bright GM1, Samsung expands its 0.8μm image sensor lineup. The company notes that the 0.8μm is the smallest pixel size currently available on the market. Previously, such small pixel sizes were unfeasible because of the immense deficit they represented in low light imaging, as a smaller pixel size represents decreased light sensitivity. However, with the advent of effective 4-in-1 pixel binning, cameras can deliver high resolution photos in daylight, and pixel binned lower resolution photos in low light that benefit from better noise reduction, dynamic range, and per-pixel detail.
The ISOCELL Bright GW1 is a 64MP image sensor that has the highest resolution in Samsung’s 0.8μm pixel image sensor lineup. Naturally, it features pixel-merging Tetracell technology just like other high-resolution ISOCELL sensors as well as Samsung’s remosaic algorithm. Tetracell enables 4-in-1 pixel binning that merges four pixels into a single pixel to mitigate the pixel size deficit in challenging light situations. Samsung states that with Tetracell, the GW1 can produce bright 16MP images in low light environments and “highly detailed” 64MP photos in brighter settings.
Samsung also says that the GW1 supports real-time HDR (high dynamic range) of up to 100-decibels. According to the company, the dynamic range of a conventional image sensor is at around 60dB, while the human eye is typically considered to be around 120dB. If these claims play out in practice, we could see a phone using the GW1 establish itself as the new dynamic range leader.
The ISOCELL Bright GW1 features a Dual Conversion Gain (DCG) that converts the received light into an electric signal according to the illumination of the environment, according to Samsung. This is said to allow the sensor to optimize its full well capacity (FWC) by using collected light more efficiently especially in bright settings. The sensor also features Super PD, which is said to be a “high-performance” phase detection auto focus technology (PDAF), and it can record slow motion video in 1080p at 480fps.
The ISOCELL Bright GM2, on the other hand, is a 48MP sensor that also adopts Tetracell technology in low lighting as well as a remosaic algorithm in well-lit settings, and it’s said to bring “highly detailed” photos with “natural and vivid colors.” The GM2 adopts DCG for added performance and Super PD for fast autofocus just like the GW1.
The Samsung ISOCELL Bright GW1 and the GM2 are currently sampling and are expected to be in mass production in the second half of this year, according to Samsung. This means that they could show up in Samsung’s upper mid-range Galaxy A-series phones or even the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 10. Notably, the Galaxy S10 series opted to forego Samsung’s existing 48MP GM1 sensor in favor of a 1.4μm 12MP ISOCELL SLSI_SAK2L4 sensor with a dual f/2.4-f/1.5 adjustable aperture. If the Galaxy Note 10 does end up going with a 48MP sensor, Samsung has two choices to choose from now, in the form of Sony’s IMX586 and its own ISOCELL Bright GM2.