Samsung announces BRITECELL smartphone image sensor

by: Rob TriggsNovember 18, 2015
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samsung galaxy note 5 review aa (9 of 32)

Speaking at its 2015 Investors Forum, Samsung has revealed details about its new BRITECELL camera technology. The technology is expected to appear in future smartphones, possibly even the Galaxy S7.

BRITECELL is designed to improve performance in low light environments, as the name implies, by building on the company’s ISOCELL technology and resulting in less color artifacts. Oddly enough, Samsung says that it can accomplish this with smaller pixel sizes. The pixel size shrinks from 1.12um to 1.0um, resulting in a 17 percent reduction in module height and an increase in density up to 20 megapixels, all while allowing for similar low light sensitivity at 1.12um. With smartphones becoming thinner and lighter, there is an aesthetic need for Samsung to make its camera modules smaller.

Samsung BRITECELL 1

The main improvements to light capture appears to come from changing the pixel arrangements, rather than their size. Samsung intends to do away with the traditional Bayer filter layout, replacing the green pixels with white ones. By removing the filter layer over the green pixels, more light will enter the sensor. Samsung’s ISCOCELL technology prevents light bleed between cells here, but processing will be needed to compensate for the different colors.

Samsung BRITECELL 2

Samsung also has some improved image processing technology heading our way too. Smart WDR is designed to further increase a picture’s dynamic range by using multiple exposures, similar to how HDR software features work in many camera apps. Phase Detection Autofocus also makes an appearance in Samsung’s latest sensor technology, which allows for faster focusing using light detection in some of the sensor’s pixels. We have already seen PDAF appear in a number of new flagship smartphones that are powered by Sony’s latest Exmor RS sensors.

Samsung did not specifically mention any products that would be using its new BRITECELL technology, although it does appear destined for smartphones. Some rumors have already speculated that Samsung will debut this sensor in the Galaxy S7, much like it made use of its own ISOCELL sensors for the Galaxy S5.

Along with its new image sensor, Samsung also announced a ‘Bio Processor’ designed for wearable products. More specifically, the processor is designed around health tracking, packing heart rate, electrocardiogram, skin temperature and other processing components into a single SoC package.

Samsung Bio Processor

As a result of these optimization, the chip fits into an 80 percent smaller space and consumes 50 percent less power, compared with using individual discrete components. Given that wearable product are limited in internal space and battery capacity, this chip could prove popular in future devices. Samsung also reckons that the automotive and gaming industries will also be interested in its Bio Processor, and that the information collected from these sensors could even be used in a security system to identify individuals.

Samsung stated that it is in talks with several companies to make use of its Bio Processor for wearables. We can probably expect to see Samsung’s latest processors and image sensors appear in consumer products next year.

  • Cicero

    R&D of Samsung is fruiting. Nice and useful technologies for next year.

  • Sqube

    They’re going to shrink the pixels AND improve low-light pictures? Wow, I’m really going to need to see this to believe it. It’ll be impressive as anything if they can pull it off in the real world, but they have shown that they are serious about the camera game.

  • coldspring22 .

    Increased light sensitivity would be nice. But why shrink sensor size? For cost reason? Megapixels is nice for bright outdoor shots, but I doubt most people care beyond 16MP, which is already enough resolution for nearly everyone. Samsung should increase the sensor size combined with brightcell technology to trump the low light camera game.

    • DaHitman

      So it doesn’t prelude like the current S6 one

  • Zach Chen

    Very exciting, can’t wait for the S7!

  • Landaree Levee

    I’ll be mightily interested in knowing how Samsung intends to detect the green component of pictures at all, if it removes it from the Bayer filter.

    • anon

      the green can be determined by subtracting the detected red/blue components from the white.

      • anonon

        smh… what a world…

  • Acaa Aca

    shrinking the sensor? wonder how they will make it work. i think nexus 6p/5x did the right thing by bringing in a bigger sensor. they leap frog a lot of smartphones in dxomark with no OIS and an average camera software.

    • DaHitman

      Yet the S6 camera still beats it for quality

      • Acaa Aca

        Yup you are correct. i’m not saying the nexus is the best but keep in mind its sensor is not even the latest sensor around. Imagine if Samsung brought their latest and made the sensor bigger. Pretty sure they will crush the competition. They have the know-how an resources to do it as well. I own an S6 btw and pretty satisfied with its quality.

        • DaHitman

          Samsung’s new sensors only improvement is better pictures in dark light but the next one is supposed to be even better & smaller

  • K4te

    I’d have rather that they kept the current 16mp sensor size, and simply add BRITECELL tech to the large pixels for a really dramatic boost in light sensitivity. Using the new tech to shrink the camera sensor is a boon to compact design, rather than image quality. I’m sure they’re planning on having ‘some’ improvement in low light image quality, but I’d rather have still more image quality and no size shrink.
    I guess it’s all speculative anyway until a phone is actually released though.