Galaxy S11's camera may break three flagship specs records... may it disappoint, too?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Galaxy S11's camera may break three flagship specs records... may it disappoint, too?
TL;DR

The Galaxy S11 may have the highest main and telephoto camera resolutions, as well as record virtual pixel size, but we've been duped by hyped phone camera expectations before, with virtually all handset makers, could this time be different?


It's now more or less clear what the tech blogosphere's favorite leaking cat Ice Universe meant when they said that the camera set on the Galaxy S11 series will have "never before seen" features. First, we heard that at least the Galaxy S11+ will use a 108MP main camera sensor, a record for high-end phones.

Then we heard that Samsung will use periscope zoom and a hybrid/digital magnification combo to hit the insane 50x -100x zoom levels, depending on whose rumors one chose to believe.

That's again a top-line number but, since the 100x digital zoom levels haven't been corroborated from other sources so far, unlike the 50x zoom number, we won't count the zoom as record since phones like the P30 Pro already have that.


The same source that tipped the crazy Space Zoom (yes, that's the name that Samsung trademarked not long ago) levels, also said that the telephoto camera on the S11 series will come with a whopping 48MP resolution, another record in the realm of flagship phones, if it materializes.

Could Galaxy S11 come with the best phone camera there is?


Now the same leaky cat is reiterating the 48MP telephoto camera notion, and we don't know what kind of periscope, pixel-binning or straight-out cropping trickery will Samsung employ to get to the rumored maximum zoom level, but the amount of detail it will have to play with will be staggering just deducing from the rumored camera sensor specs alone.


In addition, the cat also clarified why the 108MP sensor that Samsung announced in the summer, and detailed further the other day, was still listed as carrying Tetracell pixel-binning technology that merges four adjacent pixels into one virtual, instead of the nine-string binning that Ice Universe claimed the S11+ will use.


He still expects Samsung to use a tailored version of the current 108MP sensor for its spring flagship, dubbed ISOCELL Bright HM1, which will use 3x3 pixel-binning called Nonacell, instead of the 2x2 grid that Samsung's current Tetracell technology uses for its 64MP ISOCELL Bright GW1 and 108MP ISOCELL Bright HMX sensors. 


Thus, this alleged custom-made-for-S11 version of Samsung's 108MP sensor will will up the ante in the pixel-binning aspect, from a 2x2, to a 3x3 grid. Thus, while phone makers that use Sony's ubiquitous 48MP sensor in binning mode for 12MP photos, and those who take Samsung's 64MP one down to 16MP by virtually merging four adjacent pixels, use 4x binning, Samsung will reportedly go for 9x.

Confused yet? Here's a small infographic to hopefully make things a bit clearer, courtesy of Milen Y. who slaved long and hard over the color of the pixel-representing squares:


Where's the third record, you may ask? Well, not in the eventual Nonacell pixel-binning, or whatever Samsung calls it if it materializes, as it is just an expansion of a current technology.

The third Galaxy S11 series camera record, however, lies in the final virtual pixel size of 3 x 0.8 = 2.4 microns. This will allow it to again churn out 12MP photos from the giant 108MP sensor, but with way more detail, and richer color and dynamic range information, as the virtual pixel size will be the record 2.4 micron. 

Compare that to the 1.4 micron physical pixel size in the S10 series, or the current 2 x 0.8 = 1.6 micron from pixel-binned 48MP/64MP/108MP phone cameras, and we are certainly expecting photography improvements all around if all those rumors swirling around the S11 series camera set finally hold water.

Could the first Galaxy S11 picture and video samples ruin the hype?


The bad part? There are already so many expectations set around the S11+ camera because of all these record specification rumors that we might have to prepare to be disappointed, as ultrahigh resolutions and big sensors with tiny pixels come with their own set of challenges.


It has happened many a times before with Apple, Samsung, Google or Huawei touting "unseen" camera technologies during the keynotes, only to deliver evolutionary improvements in real-life pictures and video quality that don't really go against the laws of small optics and sensor physics. 

In 2020, however, we might reportedly have the combination of an alleged breathtaking Galaxy S11 camera hardware, and the powerful image-centric Snapdragon 865 processor that supports up to 200MP sensor resolutions and 8K video. 

This time around, it might be different, and the crazy rumor buildup could climax in jaw-dropping footage indeed, so we needn't set our expectations bar low just because we don't want to end up disappointed by the hype for the umpteenth time. What do you think?

What's your prediction for the Galaxy S11 series camera?

We'll see evolutionary picture and video improvements
52.53%
It will be a revolutionary phone camera
47.47%

Related phones

Galaxy S20 (S11e)
  • Display 6.2" 1440 x 3200 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 10 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 128GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 4000 mAh

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28 Comments

1. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1185; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

I do believe that Samsung is going to make some major improvements in the camera department. I mean they have been making great cameras even with a three year older sensor and no change in the hardware, so it's only logical that they can drastically improve the camera with a newer sensor/technology. That being said, it never hurts to keep your expectations realistic. I'd be happy with a 15-20 % improvement over this years flagships (iPhone, Mate, Pixel and everything else) in terms of camera quality. Anything over and above that would be a delight. Can't wait for the Note 11+.

3. User123456789

Posts: 1361; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Since 2014, Samsung has changed sensor every year. Also the ISP of newer CPUs do their parts, not 100% software. You can give same software to older devices, results wont be same. Pretty clear when you compare Pixel , Pixel 2 and Pixel 3.

8. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1185; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

If I'm not mistaken, Samsung hasn't changed anything significant in the hardware since S8. While ISP of the newer CPUs and software do matter, they can't compensate for everything. You can give the same software to older devices, and while it may improve the camera performance slightly, it's not gonna bring them at the same level as newer devices.

9. Z3PHYR

Posts: 4; Member since: Jul 02, 2015

S7, S8 and note 8 have the same camera.

10. User123456789

Posts: 1361; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

I did not find the sensor of s10. These below are the exmor that come with snapdragon. Each has a counterpart Isocell used with exynos variants. S6 = imx 240 S7 = imx260 S8 = imx320 S9 = imx345

21. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 655; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

Its a different camera in each device but Samsung have been using the same sizes for their sensors they havent really used bigger or smaller sized sensors till now

23. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1185; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

That's the same sensor size.

25. QuantumRazer

Posts: 216; Member since: Apr 27, 2019

They all had the same sensor size though.

4. Takeharu

Posts: 295; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

How many times do we need to keep saying this? More megapixels does not create a better image! 12MP is the sweet spot for mobile sensors

7. Papa_Ji

Posts: 912; Member since: Jun 27, 2016

until.... Tim Cook finds a new one.

16. Takeharu

Posts: 295; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

It's just physics, phone sensors are too small to handle that amount of megapixels just take a look at M4/3 or APS-C sensors and how they have their limits in MP count.

18. voywin

Posts: 2; Member since: Dec 19, 2019

I'd agree that 12 MP is a sweet spot. But... "phone sensors are too small to handle that amount of megapixels" - that's why there's this binning, right? 108 Mpix wide lens with nonacell to make 12 MPix photos with 2.4 nm pixel size. 48 Mpix periscope lens possibly with tetracell to make 12 MPix photos with 1.6 nm pixel size. Average cheaper DSLRs with APS-C sensors have 3.8 nm pixel size. It's coming closer, isn't it?

11. User123456789

Posts: 1361; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

More MP = more details Then phones dont need to overshapen photos. Pretty common from those 12MP phones.

15. androiduser

Posts: 557; Member since: Jun 18, 2014

Meanwhile I'm here with the setting in my camera at medium quality.

17. Guaire

Posts: 897; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

Those new 48MP, 64MP and 108MP sensors with binned pixels actually came with larger sensors than previous crop of 12MP flagship sensors. And most of the time people are using them at 12MP, 16MP and 27MP modes in order. All other things being same, image quality of 27MP photo from a 108MP sensor will totally crush the 12MP one from previous Samsung flagships. Do you know why? Because just like you said below "it's just physics". Regardless of how many pixels gonna be binned at that sensor, it will be a huge improvement over the S10 and probably rest of the smartphones of other brands. In that case of 2x2 binning, per pixel the sensor it will be 30% more light sensitive AND at the same time more than 2 times sharper. And if it has 3x3 binning capability, besides of being nearly 3 times more light sensitive it will be on YOUR "sweet spot" so what you are actually complaining here? Same story is also true for the alleged 48MP telephoto cam. Today telephoto cams are coming without any exceptions with such tiny sensors and tiny pixels (much smaller than main smartphone sensors). 48MP sensor means 2x2 binning and it means 12MP at 1.6 micron pixel size. Again it's on your "sweet spot". Again it's MUCH more light sensitive. Actually about the 2.5 time more sensitive than current crop of 12MP telephoto cams.

19. voywin

Posts: 2; Member since: Dec 19, 2019

Your comment is excellent, Sir. Thank you.

22. ShadowSnypa786

Posts: 655; Member since: Jan 06, 2017

AMAZING Guaire need more people like you. Dont know why people complaining are about this, soon Apple, Huawei, LG and Sony will all be doing this. Its the future :D

27. QuantumRazer

Posts: 216; Member since: Apr 27, 2019

I definitely hope not, for the reason I explained in #26.

26. QuantumRazer

Posts: 216; Member since: Apr 27, 2019

To be fair, a 108MP sensor with 3x3 binning capability won't be able to make an image any sharper than a 12MP sensor that Samsung has been using for years. It will be 3x larger = 3x more light sensitive, so there will be an improvement in textures because strong noise reduction will be no longer necessary to sweep noises away, but the extra resolution won't be the actual reason. And If anything the equally sized 2x2 Bayer sensor could produce sharper photo than 3x3 one as technically the former could be configured to take full resolution 27MP image without demosaicing, by combining adjacent RGGB pixels. Take a look at the middle image to see what I mean.https://eskerahn.dk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/IMX586.png

29. QuantumRazer

Posts: 216; Member since: Apr 27, 2019

And IMO 16MP should be the next sweet spot for phone cameras. No more 10 or 12MP!

5. Tizo101

Posts: 644; Member since: Jun 05, 2015

They already have the best camera in the game in the note 10 plus (no one excluded)... I don't see them going any higher to be honest, maybe over time

12. User123456789

Posts: 1361; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Plastic texture is the best?

28. QuantumRazer

Posts: 216; Member since: Apr 27, 2019

The best camera if you don't zoom in at all.

6. JMartin22

Posts: 2415; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

All this amazing technology behind it and I bet it’s going to look like every single high end phone that’s come before and after it. Unless you’re a true photography aficionado, it’s going to seem almost entirely inconsequential. What will matter the most going forward is low-light photography.

13. MsPooks

Posts: 311; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

It's bound to be better than the current configuration, and certainly better than the iPhone 11 and its lens flare issue.

14. AlienKiss

Posts: 324; Member since: May 21, 2019

Even though I always buy only high-end flagships, the camera quality is the last thing I care about. I almost never use it. The CPU, the GPU, battery mAh and other features like SD card slot availability or the possibility to root the device are the things that interest me in a phone.

20. Knownhost

Posts: 116; Member since: Nov 13, 2017

I coach and used my camera on the still great Note 9 to take pictures for my senior athletes' poster-sized banners in the gym entrance. The printer couldn't believe that pictures from a smartphone camera came out so crisp bright, and detailed. Considering the quality I already enjoy, I can't wait to see what the new sensors and tech bring.

24. hazard1

Posts: 242; Member since: Feb 11, 2017

It will disappoint, only because the expectations will be unreasonably high, not because the camera is subpar.

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