Galaxy S23 Ultra's Secret Weapon Could Be This New Samsung Chip - CNET

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With its caller 200-megapixel Isocell HP2 representation sensor, Samsung volition effort to springiness smartphone photographers the champion of some worlds: precocious solution and bully representation prime successful challenging conditions. 

The HP2 is successful wide production. Samsung has neither announced its shipment day nor confirmed which telephone it volition get in. Still, the sensor is expected to powerfulness the main camera connected the company's flagship Galaxy S23 Ultra phone, apt to debut Feb. 1.

Image sensor designers look a tradeoff. Increasing solution means each pixel connected the sensor is smaller, and smaller pixels aren't capable to stitchery airy arsenic well. That means shots taken successful debased airy are marred by sound speckles. They suffer item successful shadowed parts of a scene. And they endure blown-out highlights successful agleam areas similar skies.

The HP2, though, brings caller methods to counteract those problems and marque the astir of each photon of light, Samsung revealed exclusively to CNET. 

The South Korean electronics giant's sensor tin stitchery airy much efficaciously successful the archetypal place, boost precocious dynamic scope (HDR) photos to header amended with scenes with acheronian and agleam elements, the institution said. And erstwhile shooting astatine the afloat 200-megapixel resolution, Samsung uses AI exertion to assistance render the finest details.

It's not yet wide however good the sensor volition execute successful real-world testing. But it's nary astonishment Samsung is focusing connected the technology. Camera improvements are a premier crushed to upgrade phones, with amended photos and videos much noticeable than marginally amended processors, artillery beingness and web technology.

"The afloat 200MP solution particularly shines erstwhile shooting astatine concerts oregon outdoors wherever there's tons of item to beryllium captured," said JoonSeo Yim, enforcement vice president of Samsung Electronics' sensor business. "It whitethorn not beryllium the predominant mounting for astir consumers, but we decidedly spot the request for highly elaborate images."

Apple, Samsung's apical smartphone rival, is likewise investing heavy successful its cameras. Comparatively ample lens elements protrude from the backmost of iPhone 14 Pro models to amusement disconnected camera performance, and Apple has upgraded its sensors for amended high-resolution and low-light shooting.

Better pixel binning options

One of the header techniques for improving smartphone photos is called pixel binning. With it, groups of carnal pixels tin beryllium combined into larger virtual pixels that stitchery much airy erstwhile it's dim, trading disconnected solution for little sound and amended color.

Samsung isn't unsocial successful utilizing pixel binning. You'll spot it successful the Apple iPhone 14 Pro, Google Pixel 7, Xiaomi 12T Pro and different phones, but the HP2 sensor is 1 of the astir advanced. Apple and Google, for example, usage 2x2 pixel binning that crook 4 carnal pixels into 1 virtual pixel. Samsung's flagship Galaxy S22 phones person offered 3x3 pixel binning since 2019, offering 108 megapixel photos successful bully airy and 12-megapixel photos erstwhile it's dim.

Samsung's HP2 tin instrumentality 200-megapixel photos nether bully conditions. When it's dimmer, pixel binning groups pixels into 2x2 chunks for a 50-megapixel image. And erstwhile dimmer yet, Samsung's 4x4 "Tetra2pixel" chunks instrumentality a 12.5-megapixel photo.

The 2 levels of pixel binning were disposable connected the 200-megapixel HP3, announced successful 2022. However, the HP3 uses smaller pixels that, portion minimizing camera bulk, aren't arsenic bully astatine capturing airy successful the archetypal place. The HP1, announced successful 2021, besides had it. But the HP2 adds immoderate different tricks the HP1 lacks.

Pixel binning ups and downs

Pixel binning has immoderate different advantages. Cameras tin harvest successful connected the cardinal information of the representation to zoom into much distant subjects. It's a cardinal instauration to the effort to give smartphones zoom abilities similar accepted camera lenses. Pixel binning besides opens up caller options for precocious solution 4K and 8K video.

Pixel binning has downsides, though. It takes a batch of artillery powerfulness to process each those pixels, and storing high-resolution photos gobbles up a batch of retention space. And high-resolution sensors, portion bully successful principle, don't execute apical representation prime unless they're paired with high-quality lenses.

"The afloat 200MP mode does necessitate much RAM and power," Yim said, which is wherefore specified precocious solution sensors are lone recovered connected high-end smartphones.

One complication with the HP2 is figuring retired colour erstwhile shooting 200 megapixel photos. Digital cameras seizure either red, greenish oregon bluish airy for each pixel, but the Tetra2pixel plan means each 4x4 pixel radical captures lone 1 of those colors. To assistance capable successful the colour item needed wrong those 16-pixel groups, Samsung uses an artificial quality algorithm, the institution said.

Photography enthusiasts -- a colonisation apt to beryllium precise funny successful the sensor's precocious solution -- tin sprout earthy images astatine 200 megapixels, Samsung said. Raw images are larger but connection higher representation prime and amended editing flexibility than accepted JPEG oregon HEIC photos.

Samsung HP2's representation prime improvements

The sensor has different tricks to boost representation quality, peculiarly with precocious dynamic scope scenes with some agleam and acheronian details. Here are a few:

  • A exertion called Dual Voltage Transfer Gate (D-VTG) gives each pixel a 33% amended quality to stitchery light, which should amended representation prime successful dim scenes and chopped backmost connected washed-out achromatic patches successful agleam skies.
  • Samsung's Dual Slope Gain (DSG) diagnostic improves HDR photos by digitizing each pixel's vulnerability information astatine 2 antithetic scales to stitchery agleam and acheronian information erstwhile shooting successful 50-megapixel mode. The abundant pixels connected the sensor mean immoderate pixel quartets are tuned for agleam airy and others for dimmer light.
  • A related diagnostic called Smart-ISO Pro is simply a abstracted HDR exertion that adapts to antithetic scenes, employing antithetic combinations of sensitivity settings due for the antithetic frames utilized to physique the HDR photo.

Another caller diagnostic successful the HP2 is an improved autofocus with a exertion called Super QPD. It tin spot either horizontal and vertical lines crossed 2x2 pixel groups, helping the camera fastener onto details similar horizons oregon histrion trunks adjacent erstwhile it's dim, Samsung said.

Each HP2 pixel is 0.6 microns, oregon 6 millionths of a meter, wide. That's a shadiness narrower than the 0.64 microns of the HP1, which means the HP2 is simply a somewhat smaller representation sensor astatine 11.3x8.4mm. For comparison, a quality hairsbreadth is thing similar 75 microns across. Combined into a 2x2 array for 50-megapixel photos, the pixel width increases to 1.2 microns, and successful 4x4, to 2.4 microns.

"We expect that high-resolution representation sensors volition go a modular diagnostic successful aboriginal flagship smartphones," Yim said. "Because of that, we deliberation it's important to proceed our efforts, from precocious pixel processes beneath 0.5 microns to pixel show and algorithms."

Larger sizes are amended astatine gathering light. The Samsung pixel sizes are beauteous akin to the iPhone 14 Pro's main camera sensor, which uses 2.44 micron pixels successful 12-megapixel mode and 1.22 microns successful 48-megapixel mode.

When it comes to video, the HP2 has galore options. It tin sprout 8K video astatine 30 frames per 2nd by utilizing the sensor successful its 50-megapixel mode. It tin sprout 4K video astatine 120fps, or, if Smart-ISO is engaged, astatine 60fps. For 1080p video, the sensor volition sprout astatine 480fps without autofocus and 240fps with autofocus.

Correction, 2:48 p.m.: This communicative misstated the pixel size connected the Samsung Isocell HP1 representation sensor. Each pixel is 0.64 microns across.