For the folks at Samsung Semiconductor, the mighty megapixel reigns supreme. Not content to rest on the laurels of the 108-megapixel sensor it co-developed with Xiaomi in 2019, the company launched the record 200-megapixel ISOCELL HP1 sensor at the end of last year. In the process, it set a new benchmark for smartphone camera resolution.
As the ISOCELL HP1 As the sensor nears retail – it’s rumored to land next month in a new Motorola handset – its maker is looking at ways to emphasize the level of quality available from the chip. And as everyone knows, if you want to get the attention of the Internet, it usually helps to stick a cat there somewhere. Samsung’s marketing team did just that, using an early copy of the new sensor to capture a feline photo of exceptional resolution. They then turned it into an absolutely epic banner and wrapped it around a Korean high-rise building.
Capture the shot and create the impression
Of course, since the ISOCELL HP1 has yet to hit the market, Samsung couldn’t use it in an actual phone as none have been officially revealed. Therefore, he used a camera module containing the new sensor mounted on a development board instead. Multiple engineers were needed to handle framing, exposure, focus, and chat wrangling.
Initially the company claims to have used various SLR camera lenses in front of the sensor, and indeed the video shows an unidentified lens in use, although it oddly appears to expose the lens built into the module of the camera, rather than a bare sensor. Anyway, the company says the final image was taken without using an accessory lens.
The creation of the banner was nonetheless an ordeal. With dimensions of approximately 92 feet wide by 72 feet high, it’s about the same length as a basketball court and a bit wider to boot. (Total area is approximately 6,630 square feet.) Obviously, it couldn’t be printed all at once. Instead, Samsung printed a dozen strips, each containing a 7.5-foot-wide slice of the final image. These then had to be stitched together to create the final result, and a crane was needed to lift the finished banner into place ahead of the big reveal.
Impressive resolution, but having to see from afar helps
There’s no denying that the amount of detail in the image is impressive, and it seems to stand up to scrutiny even from a relatively close distance. That said, Samsung is also taking advantage of the fact that it’s impossible to get really close to printing. With a sensor resolution of 16384 x 12288 pixels and assuming no cropping, the final output resolution would be around 14-15 pixels per inch, making each pixel large enough to easily visible at close range.
Yet this would be true regardless of the capture device. A 200-megapixel sensor resolution goes far beyond any DSLR or mirrorless camera, which would have required multiple shots to achieve the same output resolution without additional interpolation. Of course, most of the time this resolution will be overdone. There’s not much appeal for basketball-court-sized prints from the general public, and you might be wondering what the point of it all is.
You generally won’t use the full 200 megapixel resolution directly.
One of the main advantages of such a high-resolution sensor is the ability to use pixel binning to improve light-gathering ability. Pixel clustering combines information from groups of adjacent pixels so that they act as one much larger pixel. This in turn allows them to gather more light than they otherwise could individually. More light = better image quality. This process has the advantage of reducing the resolution of the output image to a more manageable size.
The 200-megapixel resolution further allows for higher quality “zooming” by cropping the image, then down-sampling slightly less for the final shot. This zoom can operate completely silently, which makes it ideal not only for photos but also for video. The extra resolution also provides finer data on which focus, exposure, and AI algorithms can potentially operate as needed.
Future product plans have yet to be revealed
So where can we expect to see this device appear first? Some sources predict that Lenovo-owned Motorola will likely be the first to use the ISOCELL HP1, with the Motorola Frontier launching next month. It’s also almost certain that the chip will make it into one of Samsung’s phones, just like we saw for the previous generation chip. Assuming these rumors aren’t too far off the mark, watch this space for more news in the not-too-distant future!