samsung isocell camera sensor

Samsung announced today Isocell, a new type of camera sensor that should, in theory, result in images that are clearer and more color accurate.

One problem with modern camera sensors is the ever shrinking size of pixels, caused when manufacturers increase the resolution of the sensor without increasing its physical size. A major problem with smaller sensor pixels is the fact that they can capture less light, which is especially problematic in low lighting conditions. Moreover, smaller sensors get saturated with light faster, causing excess light to bleed over to other pixels, causing noise and blurriness.

HTC and, to a smaller extent, Apple mitigate these problems by having larger pixels, at the expense of resolution.

Samsung chose a different approach – instead of increasing the size of the pixels, the company found a way to isolate them and thus to limit the amount of light that can hit each pixel without “overflowing” to neighboring pixels, a phenomenon called “crosstalk”.

According to Samsung, Isocell sensors “substantially increases light sensitivity and effectively controls the absorption of electrons, resulting in higher color fidelity even in poor lighting conditions”.

Compared to conventional BSI (backside illumination) sensors, Isocell should reduce the incidence of haze and noise, as shown in the comparison shot at the top of this post.

samsung isocell camera sensor 2

Samsung says Isocell decreases crosstalk by 30 percent and increases the full well capacity of pixels (the total amount of light absorbed) by 30 percent.

The first Isocell sensor is an 8MP model with 1.12 microns pixels and an optical format of 1/4inch. The S5K4H5YB sensor is now sampling and mass production is scheduled for the end of the year.

Samsung says the new technology will find its way to “premium” smartphones, though we can only speculate on the first device to come with an Isocell sensor.

We’ll wait for some actual hands-on samples taken with an Isocell-equipped device before we sing Samsung’s praises, but it’s encouraging to see the company focusing on improving the quality of its cameras, not just their resolution.