The hegemony of phone sensors has been the purview of Sony with their Exmor sensors for many years but now Samsung has started making inroads in the space with their ISOCELL chips. The latest is currently mass-produced and shipping in handsets already which is not a paper launch, but a real thing. The chip is capable of massive low light improvement compared to other sensors because it is essentially a near 1″ sensor with 1/1.12-inch measurements. This is close to what Sony RX cameras use as a main sensor, and a first for a phone.
As to how they are able to fit this sensor on phones, it is a dance between a protruding camera bump that is a little larger than usual and also a lens system that creates a full imaging circle from a minute distance. The GN2 is capable of recording 480fps in HD 720p, 4k 120fps, 30fps in 12.5MP windowed size and 10fps in 100MP mode which uses a clever algorithm and three RGB exposures to derive a 100MP image from the 50MP source.
Slow Motion Contender But Just The Start!
- 480fps in HD 720p
- 120fps in 4k UHD
The slow motion characteristics of the sensor are competitive but not class-leading. They do match Sony and other phone implementations in 4k for allowing 120fps which looks very good in Sony’s Xperia phones. If Samsung is able to show the same quality with GN2 or better then they should have a winner on their hands.
The 480fps mode is only HD 720p which is very 2017 and it really would be ideal to see 1080p at that speed instead of the now obsolete 720p format. Even then, what we have seen from the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (Which uses ISOCELL GN2) in super slow motion mode, looks aliased and lower resolution like those of other phones which destroy the sensor resolution before saving the files. The age of clean frame rates in slow motion for phones is still not here and the GN2 will probably not change that. Aliasing and line loss will continue to be the norm.
We will have to see what phones do with these sensors, but one thing is for certain, Samsung has really punched hard with their ISOCELL technology. This is just v2.0 of their chip and this is just the start considering their aggressive roadmap. We can expect more 8k centered sensors and probably higher quality slow motion frame rates by GN3 and GN4. If they are releasing a new generation every year, we can expect 240fps 4k some time in 2024 or 2025 which seems on par with what Sony Exmor is doing. More information about the GN2 below– HSC
Full Press Release by Samsung below:
Dual Pixel Pro technology utilizes 100-million phase-detecting photodiodes that perceive phases both vertically and horizontally for faster and more accurate auto-focusing
Staggered HDR solution brings richer detail and more vibrant colors than real-time HDR, while reducing energy consumption by up to 24-percent
Samsung Electronics, a world leader in advanced semiconductor technology, today introduced Samsung ISOCELL GN2, a new 50-megapixel (Mp) image sensor with large 1.4-micrometer (μm)-sized pixels. With enhancements to its predecessor, the ISOCELL GN1, the GN2 offers up to 100Mp imaging, improved auto-focusing through Dual Pixel Pro technology, powerful staggered HDR, and vivid results through Smart ISO Pro, regardless of the lighting environment.
“ISOCELL image sensors and its technologies have made vast improvements to deliver the quality and performance one would expect from top-tier prograde cameras,” said Duckhyun Chang, executive vice president of sensor business at Samsung Electronics. “Our new ISOCELL GN2 features Dual Pixel Pro, an innovative all-direction auto-focusing solution that elevates the agility to capture moments as they unfold. Adding on Smart ISO Pro and a variety of advanced pixel technologies, pictures from GN2 are more true-to-life than ever.”
The 1/1.12-inch ISOCELL GN2 is a highly versatile image sensor when it comes to image resolutions. With 50 million 1.4μm-sized pixels on hand, the GN2 offers exceptionally detailed photographs in regular settings. In low-lit environments such as indoors, the sensor can simulate a larger 2.8μm-pixel with four-pixel-binning technology to absorb more light, delivering brighter and sharper images.
For those who appreciate more detail in photographs or are prone to post-processing such as image cropping, the GN2 offers an option to take pictures in 100Mp resolutions. In 100Mp mode, the GN2 meticulously re-arranges the color pixels using an intelligent re-mosaic algorithm, creating three individual layers of 50Mp frames in green, red and blue. These frames are then up-scaled and merged to produce a single ultra-high 100Mp resolution photograph.
The ISOCELL GN2 is Samsung’s first image sensor to offer Dual Pixel Pro, the company’s most advanced phase-detection auto-focus solution yet. By employing two photodiodes within every pixel of the image sensor, Dual Pixel Pro makes use of one hundred million phase detecting agents for ultra-fast auto-focusing. In addition, the solution also offers all-direction focusing by splitting the pixels not only vertically, as with Dual Pixel, but also diagonally. This diagonal cut allows the focusing agents to better recognize the top and bottom of the frame, allowing the sensor to get in focus quickly even when there are no pattern changes in a horizontal direction. Low-light focusing and tracking of moving objects are improved as well, as every pixel of the sensor works as focusing agents.
For taking pictures in mixed-light environments, such as sunsets or indoors with daylight coming through a window, the GN2 increases its dynamic range with a staggered-HDR feature, a time-multiplexed HDR technology that uses rolling shutters over the same pixel arrays to capture multiple frames in short, middle, and long exposures. By maximizing the dynamic range, staggered-HDR ensures rich detail and vivid color in highlights and dark shadows within the scene, making it an ideal solution for shooting high-contrast sights. Staggered-HDR is able to reduce the energy consumption of a sensor by up to 24-percent when compared to the predecessor’s real-time HDR mode, contributing to improved energy efficiency of the overall system.
The GN2 also comes with Smart ISO and Smart ISO Pro. Smart ISO intelligently sets the sensor’s conversion gain, allowing the picture to be taken using an optimal ISO; low ISO for brighter outdoors or high for dimmer indoors. Unlike Smart ISO, which uses readouts from a single ISO per picture, Smart ISO Pro, which uses an intra-scene dual conversion gain (iDCG) solution, takes readouts from both high and low ISO to instantly create high dynamic range images with less motion-artifacts. In addition, in extreme low-light, Smart ISO Pro quickly takes and processes multiple frames in high ISO, raising the light sensitivity close to one-million ISOs and taking mobile night photography to greater heights.
Camera experiences can be more fun and creative with the GN2, where precious moments can be captured more dramatically and everyday events can be turned into short videos. The GN2 supports full-HD videos at 480 frames-per-second (fps) or 4K at 120fps, enabling wider possibilities for mobile video-shooting.
Samsung ISOCELL GN2 is currently in mass production.