This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
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.
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:
Galaxy S11's pixel-binning may merge a record nine pixels into one virtual, producing 12MP photos out of a 108MP sensor
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?