Positioned as the market leader, Samsung can afford to practice double standards in the mobile phone camera sensor segment, delivering (slightly) cheaper but slightly inferior performance to the competition, while the most advanced solutions remain reserved for the Galaxy S23 and flagship phones from manufacturers willing to pay the “price” demanded by the South Koreans.
Available since last year, the first 200MP smartphone photo sensor has only made its way into devices shipped by other manufacturers, with Samsung developing a new 200MP sensor for the Galaxy S23 Ultra with much improved performance.
As with Samsung’s first 108MP sensor, the photo results achieved with the ISOCELL HP1, Samsung’s first 200MP sensor, are not quite up to par, with the extremely small pixels capturing enough light to deliver the promised detail only in ideal lighting conditions under clear summer skies. The rest of the time, cameras with fewer megapixels prove more capable of delivering good quality images. Attempts to compensate for this shortcoming using technologies such as Pixel Binning and software optimisations can’t completely solve the hardware limitations either.
Revealed on rumor trail, the Samsung sensor developed for the Galaxy S23 Ultra uses 0.6 μm pixel size and includes a low-light mode that delivers high-quality 12.5MP resolution photos, simulating a pixel size of 2.56 μm, with greatly increased light sensitivity. With an effective size of 1/1.3″, it would be coupled with an f/1.7 aperture lens group, optimised to maximise the amount of light captured.
At the same time, the new Samsung sensor would also pick up other Samsung technologies such as ChameleonCell, a configurable pixel-binning implementation, supporting 2×2, 4×4 or native resolution modes, depending on ambient lighting conditions. Thus, in the most “low” mode, the S23 Ultra’s camera will be able to group 16 adjacent pixels to facilitate taking pictures under artificial light, or even at night. As for shooting modes, 8K/30fps resolution is the minimum benchmark (60fps is more like it).
Meanwhile, Samsung has also released the ISOCELL HP3, a 200MP sensor with even smaller physical dimensions, optimized more for cost savings than for noticeable improvements on the image quality side.
Referred to as the “real” 200MP photo sensor, Samsung’s ISOCELL HP2 would end up mostly in the South Korean company’s products, with up to 70% of production reserved for future Galaxy phone models in advance, while 30% would go to privileged OEM partners willing to pay the South Korean manufacturer’s asking price.
According to rumors so far the Galaxy S23 Ultra will also have a periscope camera in its “arsenal” capable of delivering 10x optical zoom photos at 10MP resolution. Other rumors also talk about a 5000mAh battery, but this is basically standard equipment for flagship Android phones.