Samsung outs ISOCELL phone camera sensor, touts superior low-light abilities
posted by Daniel P. / Sep 24, 2013, 3:20 AM
With every smartphone maker scrambling to put an emphasis on the camera virtues of its flagships, Samsung is not going to be outdone, it seems. The company just announced its new ISOCELL technology, which it says is superior to the back side illumination (BSI) sensors in current handsets.
BSI, Samsung says, has limitations considering the ever-shrinking pixel size in the 13 MP, 20 MP or even 41 MP phones we have today, by increasing cross-talk interference between pixels so close to each other.
With ISOCELL, each individual pixel is isolated, and can grab more photons from the light that pours into the sensor, compared to the diffusion that goes on with the BSI tech. Long story short, this means we should expect much better exposed and blur-free photos in low light, which is the hardest scenario for any camera to make decent photos in.
In fact, Samsung has even calculated that phones and tablets using ISOCELL modules will have 30% better color accuracy just from the sensor itself, as well as 30% better dynamic range capture. Not only that, but the tech allows for much lower modules, which means they can be fit into ever slimmer handsets and slates. As you can see in Samsung's comparison image below, the tech really sports more correct dynamic range and exposure measurements, as well as better color representation than BSI.
Samsung's first sensor to adopt ISOCELL, the S5K4H5YB, is an 8 MP unit with 1.12 micron ISOCELL pixels and a 1/4" format. It is already sampling to customers, and mass production is starting in Q4, so we'll be able to see the results very soon. If some form of this goes into the Galaxy S5, paired with optical image stabilization, and the rumors about a metal body and 64-bit processor pan out, next year's Samsung flagship might be the one to get.
SEOUL, South Korea, Sep 23, 2013 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., a world leader in advanced semiconductor solutions, today announced its new advanced pixel technology for CMOS image sensors, ISOCELL. This new technology substantially increases light sensitivity and effectively controls the absorption of electrons, resulting in higher color fidelity even in poor lighting conditions. ISOCELL improves the image quality and enhances the user experience of premium smartphones and tablets that integrate sensors with this exciting new technology.
“Through advances in pixel and process technology, smartphone and tablet cameras have made it easier than ever for consumers to capture and share beautiful, clear images with the world,” said Taehoon Kim, vice president of System LSI marketing, Samsung Electronics. “ISOCELL technology is yet another innovation that significantly raises the bar in image quality, and demonstrates Samsung’s technology leadership in image sensors for mobile devices.”
The quality of an image sensor is determined by the amount of light that is accurately captured by the individual pixels within the sensor array. With the market pressure to increase camera resolution and image quality, without growing the camera size, the pixels have had to shrink, while improving their performance at the same time – a challenging task.
To meet this challenge, previous sensor technology developments focused on improving the light absorption of each pixel, and have progressed pixel technology from FSI (Front Side Illumination) to BSI (Back Side Illumination) which places photodiode at the top to maximize photoelectric efficiency. While being very effective at the time, this BSI technology also faced limitations in improving image quality as pixel sizes continued to decrease.
Building on these past advances and continuing the push toward higher quality image sensors for mobile devices, Samsung has developed ISOCELL the next generation of pixel technology, which is patent pending. ISOCELL technology forms a physical barrier between neighboring pixels – isolating the pixel. This isolation enables more photons to be collected from the micro-lens and absorbed into the correct pixel’s photodiode minimizing undesired electrical crosstalk between pixels and allowing expanded full well capacity (FWC).
Compared to conventional BSI pixels, the ISOCELL pixels decrease the crosstalk by approximately 30 percent which results in higher color fidelity to reproduce the original color with sharpness and richness, and increase the full well capacity (FWC) by 30 percent which leads to greater dynamic range.
Additionally, an imager designed with ISOCELL can feature a 20 percent wider chief ray angle (CRA), reducing the height of the camera module. This makes it suitable for slim and small form factor mobile devices with challenging low z-height requirements.
As the first Samsung image sensor to adopt this new technology, the S5K4H5YB 8Megapixel imager utilizes a 1.12um ISOCELL pixel and has a 1/4inch optical format. The S5K4H5YB is currently sampling to customers with mass production scheduled for Q4 2013.
According to market research firm Techno System Research, in 2014, approximately 66 percent of smartphones will feature image sensors with 8Mp or higher resolution.
You have to be a bit into photography to see it. They say it also increases dynamic range and that's exactly what you see in the comparison. Left pic is badly overexposed with lack of image information on the high range, the right pic instead preserves the same accuracy on the low range, not losing image information on the high tones.
Ok, I must admit the dynamic range is better on the right picture but as you guys can see it's blown up pretty big for us to notice that. So that said BSI or ISOCELL don't really care what ends up in my phone since difference is marginal.
But what it's touting is "superior low-light abilities" and that's what I wanna see compared to BSI shots. I love my Nokia N8 simply because of the Xenon flash, but sometimes I want shots without flash and N8 is miserable in low-light. I've seen the HTC One and Lumia 1020 low-light shots and those are superb (though OIS played a big part on the test). 80% of that quality and I'm all for ISOCELL.
Samsung haters are going to be very mad their fav manufacturer hasn't done this, shame.
This is excellent! :D I hope this is the end of Samsung using Sony's rather average sensors (despite beating Sony with their own sensors).
Can't wait for the GS5 even more now! :)
It has the best camera thanks to Samsung being able to optimize their software well enough to do a better job than Sony did with their own Sensor. The Xperia Z has the same sensor is quite poor to say the least. Having a Sensor made by Samsung coupled with their excellent software will be brilliant.
I never ignore Sammy's ability in optimizing the software but if the hardware is not capable, how they can optimize it?
and please never try to compare Sammy with Sony in their ability to produce perfect sensors. Sammy is just a beginner in this field.
The fact that near every android company is using Sony's sensor and not Samsungs shows something. You can diss Sony's camera software, thats ok, cause everyone knows its sh!t. But hardware! They are pros. Samsung still have a long way to go
lmfao... heard it all before: first there was Sony making the same claims with its "Xmor RS" sensor, followed by HTC with their "ultra pixels", and finally motorola and its "clearPixel" BS.
Not one of these phones has come even close to matching the low light performance of the Lumia 920/925, let alone the Lumia 1020.
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