Samsung unveils 50-megapixel low light smartphone image sensor

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Samsung's ISOCELL GN1 image sensor.
Image: Samsung

On Tuesday, Samsung unveiled a new 50-megapixel image sensor designed to optimize low-light smartphone photography called the ISOCELL GN1. The chip features a large 2.4μm pixel, a 1/1.3” optical format, and proprietary binning technology to maximize its light sensitivity.

Strategy Analytics predicts the component will come equipped in handsets released in the second half of 2020.

Samsung ISOCELL GN1 Details

In a press release, Samsung noted the GN1 is its first semiconductor to benefit from both its Dual Pixel and Tetracell innovations.

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The firm’s Dual Pixel technology puts two photodiodes next to one another within a single pixel, which lets it receive light from multiple angles. That feature allows the GN1 to identify and automatically focus on a moving or still object instantly, even in dimly-lit conditions. After capturing visual input, the chip merges the photodiode data to create an image with resolution comparable to 100 megapixels.

In addition, GN1 harnesses the Tetracell algorithm to enhance its ability to capture light. The groundbreaking technique bins four pixel signals into one, which effectively doubles the component’s pixel size. It also quadruples the sensor’s light sensitivity, making it possible to capture 12.5-megapixel photographs in unilluminated surroundings.

Samsung’s latest smartphone image chip also has Smart-ISO capability that allows for optimum, real-time high-dynamic-range (HDR) photography. Besides, the sensor boasts gyroscopic-based electronic image stabilization and can record 8K video at 30 frames per second.

Yongin Park, Samsung’s executive vice president of sensor business, said the GN1 is a product of Samsung’s “commitment to deliver stunning images to consumers in any environment.”

The Next Big Thing?

In its unveiling announcement, Samsung said the GN1 would enter mass production later this month. However, the corporation did not mention any phones that will come equipped with the powerful image sensor. Strategy Analytics believes the South Korean conglomerate will likely install the ship in its forthcoming premium smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy Note S20.

The business intelligence firm predicts Samsung clients Oppo, Realme, Vivo, and Xiaomi will deploy the chip in their upcoming handsets.

Given its impressive attributes, the GN1 could become a major selling point for new mobile devices. Indeed, a GlobalWebIndex survey found poor camera quality is a major frustration point for smartphone buyers. Also, the iPhone 11 enjoyed brisk sales upon release due to the appeal of its Sony-made image sensor.

As such, Samsung’s new high-megapixel, low-light optimizing handset component could become the next big thing in smartphone photography.

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