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Samsung details the Nonacell Technology behind its 108MP sensor

Posted February 13, 2020 | Mobile | News


It’s been barely a couple of days since the release of the Galaxy S20 series and the S20 Ultra is still the talk of the town. And with good reason. The maxed-out S20 is by far the most exciting device announced at the Unpacked event, overshadowing even the foldable Galaxy Z Flip.

Two things grabbed people’s attention, the 108MP sensor of the main camera and that 100X Space Zoom. To cater to our interest and, you know, for marketing purposes, Samsung’s latest press-release gives us more details about the structure and function of the 108MP ISOCELL Bright HM1 sensor.

You might be wondering, why is it exactly 108MP and not 100MP, for example? Well, it’s because 12 x 9 equals 108. And 9 is important because it’s the next square number after 4. Still confused? Here’s a pic to make it clear:

Each of the 108 million pixels is a square with a side of 0.8μm (1μm = 0.000001m, for reference, a very thin human hair is 17μm). And while that’s big enough when there’s plenty of light coming into the sensor, at low light you need bigger pixels to capture a proper image.

That’s where the Nonacell technology comes in. Nona comes from Latin and means nine. Which is how many pixels the sensor combines to create one with a side of 2.4μm. This way, the phone can still produce high-resolution low-light images that have greater detail than if a 48MP sensor was used.

But there’s more than that going on inside the new sensor. The ISOCELL technology detailed earlier “dramatically reduces crosstalk and minimizes optical loss as well as light reflection”.

Additionally, the sensor uses real-time HDR technology to select the right exposure length for each individual pixel and combines multiple exposures for the best possible end result. To keep things from looking blurry, gyro-based electronic image stabilization and Samsung’s Super-PD phase detection are working together.

Even without the periscope lens, the Galaxy S20 Ultra would have had better zoom capabilities than most phones. The 108MP sensor allows for up to 3x lossless zoom. “This is made possible by the sensor directly converting the pixels using an embedded hardware IP, rather than having the task delegated to the mobile processor.”

So, it seems, 108 is the new 48 when it comes to pixel binning and impressive-sounding numbers. Quite a big leap and we’re sure as the technology gets refined, we’ll see some amazing results.



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