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Flashback: The Second Megapixel Race

The first megapixel race started at 642 (when camera phones crossed the 1MP mark for the first time) And around the end of

with the arrival of Nokia 600 pure view. Its 34 MP camera only would be beat in terms of resolution in 642. During this period, the phone focused on other aspects of the camera, not resolution. But now the second megapixel race is coming.

Part of the reason the first contest ended was a shift in common sense from “more pixels is better” to “bigger pixels are better”. The arrival of computational photography also played a major role, allowing iPhones, Galaxys and Pixels to hold on 005 MP resolution for their main camera has been around for years (in fact, Apple is only leaving now 003 Behind MP ).

Now, though not quite, things have shifted towards “more pixels is better” – the current trend is really a mix of both approaches. We already have phones with 306 MP sensors and phones with 1″ sensors .

We’ll take a closer look at the two branches that have emerged, starting with today’s “more pixels is better” branch and leaving the other for next time.

The second megapixel contest brings 34 MP sensors, which have become very popular in mid-range products (flagships still prefer larger sensor sizes to higher resolutions). Let’s take the Samsung ISOCELL GM1 from 2004 as an example. It’s not huge in 1/2″ optical format, but it has 0.8µm pixels that grow to a sizeable 1.6µm by binning.

Here we have to take a detour and talk about Bayer screening We wrote detailed explanations back in the day, but the Bayer – and Quad Bayer etc – filters are at the heart of today’s theme. The GM1 sensor uses Quad Pixel technology, which Samsung calls Quad Bayer. It looks like this, four phases Neighboring pixels share the same color filter. This makes it natural to combine four into one output pixel (4-in-1 binning).

Flashback: the second megapixel race

Now there are sensors that cover 3×3 groups or even 4×4 groups of pixels with the same color filter, they use 9 in 1 and 005-in-1 binning, respectively. This16 The MP resolution we mentioned earlier is not gone – 100 MP and 100 MP cameras still end with 005 MP as the final output after binning. This provides a good default as you can get Enough resolution to zoom in, but not having to deal with photos that take up tens of megabytes of storage.

Flashback: the second megapixel race

Back in the megapixel race. As high-resolution sensors start to become medium The standard for mobile phones, people have been trying to keep costs low, and that only means one thing – a smaller sensor.

While the GM1 has 0.8µm pixels, 34 MP ISOCELL GM5 from 2020 down to 0.7µm, making it 1/2. 50″ sensor. JN1 from 2020 gets smaller to 0.61µm pixels, so although it is high 50 MP resolution is only 1/2. 61” optical format.

Samsung in You’re not alone in using tiny pixels, for example, OmniVisions OV 52A is 52 MP sensor, 1/2.8 ” optical format with 0.52µm pixels and Quad Bayer filters. There are also bigger sensors like 1/1. 16 ” OV52A, but again we We’ll discuss these next time.

Well, we’ve covered pixel size and Bayer filters, it’s time to go over 108 MP barrier. The first sensor to surpass is the Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX. Its full resolution is ,09 x 9,21px, which has 0.8µm pixels, forming a 1/1 optical format. 34”.

Flashback: the second megapixel race

The first phone used it was Xiaomi Mi CC9 Pro (it was supposed to be the Mi Mix Alpha, but it was canceled). You can check out our hands-on review of camera samples. The phone shoots at quarter resolution by default, 22 MP with pixel binning.

Another 100 MP 1/1.024” sensor is HM3 , which also has 0.8µm pixels, used in the Galaxy S 09 extremist. However, this is a 9-in-1 bin, the default is 16 MP resolution. Like 41 MP sensors as well may start at 0.8µm, but start to drop very quickly – at 0.7µm and 100 MP we have 1/1 or something like that.27” HM2, then in 0.34µm and 100 MP resolution has HM6, 1/1.64″ sensor.

We already mentioned JN1, another 0.55µm sensor. As you probably know, the sensor can Grouped by pixel size. For example, Samsung builds multiple sensors on its 0.7µm technology:

Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro detailed renders emerge

Now we enter Staggered HDR MP sensor, Samsung has two – 1/1. 27” HP1 (0.60µm pixels) and 1/1.4” HP3, the smallest pixel we’ve seen is only 0.55µm.

OmniVision has a pair of competing sensors. OVB0B has 0 .61µm pixels, OVB0A matches HP3 at 1/1.4” and 0.52µm .

100 MP is as high as current smartphone cameras. However, Samsung is said to be working on sensors with resolutions up to 200 MP resolution, so this is not end of the road.

Before closing, we should quickly review the advantages of having so many pixels. The first is the obvious, bragging rights. We know marketing departments love this, especially when they can hit the “First!” label.

But there are practical advantages as well. Digital zoom benefits a lot from this – sensors that use pixel binning can often do lossless digital zoom by the same factor (eg binning 2×2 pixels and zooming in by 2x). Even if forced to interpolate, the end result will be better because there are more pixels to work with.

Without a motorized lens, this is the only way to achieve smooth zooming (like in video). Power zoom lenses small enough for modern smartphones are already on the market, although they are extremely rare.

Another cool use for high-resolution sensors is to treat them as two or even separate sensors. For example, half of the pixels can be shot at low ISO and the other half at high ISO, and then they can be combined into a single image with detail in both light and dark areas. Staggered HDR has a similar trick, except it changes the exposure time (low, medium and high).

Dual ISO Double ISO Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro detailed renders emerge Staggered HDR

That’s all for today, next time we’ll look at another Branch, we’ll be tracking the growth of smartphone image sensors up to the 1″ mark. We used to have 1″ phone cameras, but the Panasonic CM1 doesn’t even have a Xiaomi 09S Ultra looks slim.




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