Samsung has unveiled a powerful new smartphone camera sensor with new technology and an incredibly high image resolution, but you’re unlikely to see it in a Galaxy smartphone any time soon.
The new Isocell HP3 matches the massive 200 megapixels of Samsung’s existing high-resolution champion, the Isocell HP1, delivering the same pixel resolution in a 20% smaller package. This has been achieved by reducing the already tiny 0.64 m pixels of the Isocell HP1 to just 0.56 µm – the smallest in the industry according to Samsung.
This may come as a surprise to many, as smaller sensors generally deliver poorer quality than larger ones. However, Samsung has packed in some new technologies that it hopes will deliver superior quality despite its smaller size.
Despite its impressive specs, perpetual leaker, ice universesays the new sensor will not be used in Galaxy S23 Ultra†
Note that although Ice Universe refers to a second-generation Isocell HP2 sensor, Samsung does not list such a sensor in its product list. The tweet may refer to the original Isocell HP1.
A 200 megapixel camera is a radical proposition for a smartphone, even the 108 megapixel camera of the Galaxy S22 Ultra seems astonishingly high resolution for a smartphone. Perhaps this is why neither the Isocell HP1 nor the Isocell HP3 have appeared in a smartphone camera so far, although the original Isocell HP1 is expected to make its debut in a Motorola handset this year.
As is typically the case with ultra-high-resolution components like the Isocell HP3, the sensor won’t be routinely used to capture huge 200-megapixel photos. The camera instead uses an advanced form of “pixel binning‘ which joins groups of adjacent pixels to form much larger super pixels.
This technique allows the sensor to combine groups of four pixels to achieve a 50-megapixel mode or groups of sixteen pixels to shoot 12.5 megapixels.
The smaller size of Isocell HP3 actually puts it at a disadvantage compared to the larger HP1, as the lower surface reduces the amount of light it can capture, but the new part comes with an improved “Smart-ISO Pro” feature then allows the sensor to simultaneously capture images with three different sensitivity settings. According to Samsung, this Isocell HP3 is capable of capturing 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 that Samsung calls “Super QPD”. Because any pixel can help with autofocus, no special focus pixels are needed, and such a system should help avoid autofocus problems, such as those where teased 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 help in this area as well.
Perhaps more exciting than the Isocell HP3 itself is the prospect of camera technology Samsung has in store for the Galaxy S23 Ultra. If it’s not the Isocell HP3, Samsung fans could be forgiven for expecting something even better from next year’s flagship. Time will tell.
The Isocell HP3 goes into mass production this year and read all the details in Samsung’s newsroom†
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