Smartphone photography keeps marching on — and why not. After all, cameras, screens, and battery life are the key distinguishing features of most phones, especially in the Android ecosystem. And that is why we continue to see Android hardware makers — Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, and others try to one-up each other with camera technology and megapixels.
Samsung will soon launch a new Galaxy (23) model featuring a new 200-megapixel camera sensor. The new sensor, the ISOCELL HP2, will pack 200 million 0.6-micrometer pixels in a 1/1.3″ optical format. This isn’t the first 200-megapixel sensor made by Samsung. The higher pixels allow for “pixel binning,” which allows the sensor to perform better. So, for instance, four pixels can be binned together to create 1.2μm size pixels to output 50-megapixel images. Bin 16, and you get to a 12.5-megapixel image, which can lead to a better quality of images. Apple’s iPhone also uses Pixel Binning in the latest iPhone 14 models. Apple uses Sony sensors.
Samsung says it has a new technology –Super QPD that leads to faster and more accurate auto-focusing, especially in low-light environments. In addition, Samsung says the sensor uses a “Dual Vertical Transfer Gate” that leads to better colors, less overexposure, and fewer washed-out colors.
Since Samsung supplies these sensors to others, such as Xiaomi, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see new phone models show up with these sensors. What will distinguish one phone from another is how the software harnesses the capabilities of these new sensors.
Pixels aren’t the only thing, for image quality improves with sensor size. Larger sensors have better dynamic ranges and less noise. But don’t tell that to those who create marketing hype around the notion that “more pixels are better.” It would be cool to see Apple introduce phones with one-inch sensors. It was done before. Leica has collaborated with Sharp to make two such phones that feature a one-inch sensor.
You move, Cupertino!
January 18, 2022. San Francisco
Here is my take on what happens to traditional camera makers in the long run:
The camera industry is going to become an industry of niches. The likes of Leica, Hasselblad, and PhaseOne will have a lucrative, albeit the smaller, higher end of the market made up of brand loyalists and those in need of specialized devices. Others will depend on working professionals — wedding, sports, and event photographers — to keep the home fires burning. And that isn’t that big a market. It will be a bruising battle for the enthusiasts who like landscape, urban, and wildlife photography.