Samsung announces 200MP ISOCELL HP3 image sensor with industry’s smallest pixels

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Samsung has announced a new 200MP image sensor, the ISOCELL HP3. The mobile imaging sensor features the industry’s smallest pixels, at 0.56-micrometer (μm), reducing the overall image sensor and camera module size.

‘Samsung has continuously led the image sensor market trend through its technology leadership in high resolution sensors with the smallest pixels,’ said JoonSeo Yim, Executive Vice President of Sensor Business Team at Samsung Electronics. ‘With our latest and upgraded 0.56μm 200MP ISOCELL HP3, Samsung will push on to deliver epic resolutions beyond professional levels for smartphone camera users.’

The ISOCELL HP3 isn’t Samsung’s first 200MP image sensor. The company announced the ISOCELL HP1 last fall, and we recently saw some real-world images captured with that 200MP sensor. The ISOCELL HP3 features 12 percent smaller pixel size than the HP1 in a 1/1.4-inch optical format (roughly 12mm diagonally). Samsung states the reduction in pixel size results in an approximately 20 percent reduction in camera module surface area compared to the HP1, allowing smartphone manufacturers to make smaller, thinner smartphones.

The ISOCELL HP3 includes Super QPD autofocus technology, meaning all the sensor’s pixels include autofocus capabilities. Further, Super QPD uses a single lens over four adjacent pixels, allowing the sensor to detect phase differences in horizontal and vertical directions (cross-type). Samsung promises’ more accurate and quicker’ autofocus performance for smartphone camera users.

As for video, the HP3 records 8K resolution video at up to 30 frames per second and 4K video at up to 120 frames per second. There’s ‘minimal loss’ in the field of view when recording 8K footage, but it’s unclear what precise crop factor will occur.

Like the ISOCELL HP1, to improve low-light image quality, the ISOCELL HP3 can combine four adjacent pixels to turn the 200MP sensor into a 50MP sensor. In this case, the 50MP sensor has 1.12μm pixel size. There’s also the ability to combine 16 pixels into one for a 12.5MP sensor with 2.24μm pixels. The technology, called Tetra 2, allows the sensor to replicate a large-sized pixel sensor to capture higher-quality images in dim light.

The sensor also includes a Smart-ISO Pro feature. Samsung writes, ‘The technology merges image information made from the two conversion gains of Low and High ISO mode to create HDR images. The upgraded version of the technology comes with a triple ISO mode — Low, Mid and High — that further widens the sensor’s dynamic range. In addition, the improved Smart-ISO Pro enables the sensor to express images in over 4 trillion colors (14-bit color depth), 64 times more colors than the predecessor’s 68 billion (12-bit). Furthermore, by supporting staggered HDR along with Smart-ISO Pro, the ISOCELL HP3 can switch between the two solutions depending on the filming environment to produce high-quality HDR images.’

Samsung already has available samples of the ISOCELL HP3 sensor and expects mass production to begin this year. It’s unclear when users should expect the first smartphones equipped with the ISOCELL HP3 to ship.

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