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Who needs 108MP? Samsung reveals 50MP sensor with big pixels

Samsung's latest camera sensor prioritizes low-light performance over marketing-friendly megapixels.

Published onMay 19, 2020

Samsung Isocell GN1

Samsung has upped the megapixel ante in recent times, offering 48MP, 64MP, and 108MP camera sensors. The company has even stated its long-term goal to offer 600MP cameras of some kind down the line.

Now, Samsung has announced the 50MP Isocell GN1 camera sensor, and it sacrifices resolution for bigger pixels. The new camera sensor offers a 1/1.31-inch sensor size and 1.2 micron pixels as opposed to 0.8 micron pixels seen in Samsung’s other high resolution sensors. This alone should mean better low-light performance, as bigger pixels are able to gather more light.

But the Korean brand says the Isocell GN1 also makes use of four-in-one pixel-binning, allowing phones with the sensor to churn out pictures equivalent to a 12.5MP 2.4 micron pixel image. Meanwhile, Samsung’s 48MP sensors take pixel-binned pictures comparable to a 12MP 1.6 micron pixel image. So expect better low-light snaps at full resolution and when pixel-binning in theory.

What else does Isocell GN1 offer?

Samsung says the GN1 also offers dual-pixel autofocus and has a software algorithm capable of churning out 100MP snaps (using light data from each photo-diode). Presumably you’re better off with a 108MP camera if you want 100MP+ images, but we’ll have to wait and see.

You don't need 108MP: Here's why a 12MP camera phone is more than enough.
Pixel 4 rear camera module

Other Samsung GN1 features include Smart ISO tech, real-time HDR, gyro-based image stabilization, 8K/30fps recording, and 400fps video at 1080p without autofocus (240fps with autofocus).

The manufacturer says the Samsung GN1 has started mass production this month, so we’ll likely see this camera sensor land in major phones in the second half of 2020. This doesn’t necessarily mean Samsung is abandoning the megapixel race, but it’s encouraging to see the firm offering a rival to Sony’s IMX689, seen in the OnePlus 8 Pro and OPPO Find X2 Pro.

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