Samsung has published technical details on the 108MP ISOCELL Bright HM1 ‘Nonacell’ image sensor found in its newly launched Galaxy S20 Ultra smartphone. The image sensor features 108-million 0.8μm pixels and a 1/1.33in size, as well as Smart-ISO and Nonacell technologies to produce what Samsung claims are ‘crystal-clear’ and ‘vivid’ 8K videos and high-resolution images.
Nonacell builds upon the Tetracell technology Samsung unveiled in 2017; rather than featuring a 2×2 array like the older tech, the Nonacell features a 3×3 arrays of the same color filter. This allows chunks of nine 0.8μm pixels to be merged into what is essentially a single 2.4μm pixel. This results in more than double the light absorption offered by the Tetracell tech, according to the company.
The downside is that there is a larger gap between pixels recording different colors, meaning that the ‘re-mosaic’ algorithm, that tries to reconstruct what a conventional 1×1 Bayer sensor would have captured, faces a more difficult challenge. So you won’t ever get the lever of color resolution that a conventional 108MP sensor would give.
Other ‘advanced pixel technologies’ like Smart-ISO help produce what Samsung calls ‘ultimate results under any lighting condition,’ including particularly challenging mixed-light environments. The camera’s HDR tech involves assigning exposure lengths to each and every pixel for multiple simultaneous exposures, enabling real-time HDR previews.
Rather than using a mobile processor, Samsung says its sensor directly converts pixels via ‘an embedded hardware IP.’ Other features include electronic image stabilization that uses gyroscope hardware, Super-PD phase-detection tech and up to 3x lossless 12MP zoom that doesn’t require upscaling.
The use of ISOCELL Plus tech, meanwhile, deals with the color interference that would otherwise arise from the Nonacell system, according to Samsung:
As the number of adjoined cells increase, so does color interference, making pixel-binning technologies more challenging, While such difficulties had limited Nonacell to a theory, the HM1 was able to realize the method by adopting Samsung’s ISOCELL Plus technology, which dramatically reduces crosstalk and minimizes optical loss as well as light reflection.
In addition to the 108MP sensor, the Galaxy S20 Ultra model features a 12MP wide-angle camera and a 48MP telephoto camera, 10x Hybrid Optic Zoom and ‘Super Resolution Zoom’ that uses AI for up to 100x zoom. The model’s ‘selfie’ camera, meanwhile, features a 40MP sensor with the ability to ‘shift’ to 10MP with larger pixels for higher quality images captured in low-light settings.
The S20 and S20+ models feature lesser specs with 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras, as well as a 64MP telephoto camera. A full breakdown of the camera hardware found in these three smartphone models is available on Samsung’s website.