First phone with the biggest new camera sensor is coming Monday

First phone with the biggest new camera sensor is coming Monday
Mark your calendars for March 29, folks, as this will be the worldwide debut of Samsung's giant new GN2 camera sensor in a phone, the Mi 11 Ultra. That's not the only intriguing thing about a handset that has all the modern bells and whistles, plus record fast wired and wireless charging to take the crown from the OnePlus 9 Pro, but it's the component with the most added value. 

The phone maker in question, Xiaomi, was also the first to use Samsung's 108MP sensors, so it makes sense that they are expanding the relationship with Samsung's newfangled camera warrior. What's so special about it? Well, take a look at the GN2 sensor's specs:

  • Huge 1/1.12" sensor size with large 1.4 micron physical pixels (vs 1/33" and 0.8 micron for the 108MP sensor in the Galaxy S21 Ultra)
  • 50MP/100MP shots
  • Default 12.5MP mode with binned 2.8 micron pixel giants
  • New Dual Pixel Pro autofocus with both left/right and top/bottom focusing phases
  • Efficient Staggered-HDR and Smart ISO Pro for greatly improved dynamic range
  • 120fps 4K slow-motion video

With Sony's rumored one-inch IMX800 slated to materialize later than previously thought, the Samsung GN2 will likely take and keep the crown for the largest current phone camera sensor this year. It's way bigger than anything that's in a phone right now, and bordering on the largest ever one put in a phone - the 1" 20MP unit of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 - which could, however, be called a camera with Android.

The sheer sensor size presupposes an abundance of captured light in all conditions, yet Samsung didn't stop there when it developed it, as it marks the debut of a new autofocusing technology called Dual Pixel Pro. The genius of Samsung's initial Dual Pixel tech that was later mimicked by all camera sensor and phone makers, was that it uses all of the sensor's pixels for focusing, not just a few scattered throughout, and with two vertically separated photodiodes it is able to capture left and right phases to merge the focus, just like the human eyes do.

This is why Samsung was the first able to introduce true continuous autofocus while recording video, but now with Dual Pixel Pro it takes things to the next level. Instead of separating the two focusing diodes at the base of each pixel vertically, it splits them diagonally, so that not only the left and right focus phases can be merged, but also the top and bottom ones. This would result in a picture that is never out of focus, including moving objects.


This omnidirectional autofocus already made a cameo in the 50MP IMX766 sensors that are in the OnePlus 9 series ultrawide cameras, and the results in terms of focusing speed are rather breathtaking, so we can't wait to see how the giant 1/1.12-inch ISOCELL GN2 has implemented its Dual Pixel Pro equivalent.

In addition, Samsung's new 50MP sensor introduces a technology called Staggered-HDR, a "time-multiplexed HDR technology that uses rolling shutters over the same pixel arrays to capture multiple frames in short, middle, and long exposures."

Not only would this allow the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, where the GN2 will debut for the first time on March 29, to capture trickier dynamic range scenes that have a lot of bright lights and shadows but it is also 24% more energy efficient than the current HDR tech in the S21 series, for instance. As to why would the Mi 11 Ultra have a tiny display in the camera island, that remains to be heard on Monday, though we'd wager to guess that it has something to do with taking selfies by the phone's best camera, rather than the typically average front shooter.

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