Samsung Develops 200 Mpixel Sensor for Mobile Devices
Samsung has announced a new camera sensor aimed at mobile applications that can support the recording of 8K/30p video. The ISOCELL HP1 is the industry’s first 200MP resolution sensor based on 0.64 µm-pixels and new pixel-binning technology called ChameleonCell. A companion ISOCELL GN5 is the first image sensor to adopt all-directional focusing Dual Pixel Pro technology with two photodiodes in a single 1.0μm pixel.
The all-new ChameleonCell technology is a pixel-binning technology that uses a two-by-two, four-by-four or full pixel layout depending on the environment. In a low-lit environment, the HP1 transforms into a 12.5MP image sensor with large 2.56μm pixels by merging 16 neighboring pixels to increase light absorption and sensitivity, producing brighter and clearer photos in dim environments. In bright outdoor environments, the sensor’s 200-million pixels can capture ultra-high-definition photography or 8K video at 30 fps on mobile devices. 200MP-image capture is also possible for high-resolution photography with no pixel binning.
The ISOCELL HP1 can take 8K videos with minimum loss in the field of view. The HP1 merges four neighboring pixels to bring the resolution down to 50MP or 8,192 x 6,144 to take 8K (7,680 x 4,320) videos without the need to crop or scale down the full image resolution.
Pixel binning is not a new technique but what does appear to be new is the ability to change the binning ratios. Note that this is also a Bayer pixel pattern so at some point a de-Bayering algorithm must be applied to create RGB pixels.
The HP1 is sampling now so could show up in mobile devices, like the Galaxy line of Samsung phones, in the near future. It’s worth noting that Samsung’s Exynos 2100 already supports image sensors up to 200-megapixels.
But 200 MP is not the end of the journey for Samsung. At the 2021 SEMI Europe Summit, which took place just before this announcement, Samsung’s Senior Vice President and Head of Automotive Sensors, Haechang Lee, presented a slide showing the history of the company’s image sensor technology. By 2025 the company plans to develop a smartphone sensor with 576MP. That will be close to what the human eye can resolve.
It seems likely that pixel binning will be used on this sensor and the full resolution will only be possible in very bright environments. That’s because the sensors will be so small that they will only be able to collect enough photons in such conditions. Having so many sensor pixels also raises the issue of the data interface and processing power needed to manage the image. Both will need to advance but don’t be surprised if that comes to pass as well.