Forward-looking: Samsung wants to push the smartphone industry into a new era of high-resolution photography. To that end, the company has made a camera sensor that is good enough to capture high-quality pictures for giant billboards. That, and the ability to zoom in or crop a photo with minimal quality loss.
Last year, Samsung reignited the smartphone camera megapixel war with a new sensor boasting a resolution of 200 megapixels. The company calls it Isocell HP1, and it will supposedly debut in an upcoming Motorola flagship phone codenamed "Frontier" before making its way into Samsung's Galaxy S23 series phones.
Today, the company wanted to provide an update on the Isocell HP1, which is still in development. The engineers working on the new sensor wanted to test the limits of what can be achieved with such an advanced capture solution, so they set out to print a cat image on a 28-meter-wide, 22-meter-high billboard. For scale, that's about half the size of a basketball court.
The picture was captured using a prototype kit that integrates the new 200-megapixel sensor but is not yet fully optimized for capturing moving subjects. The engineers even used a custom adapter that allowed them to test various DSLR camera lenses, but they eventually gave up this approach as it wouldn't produce results indicative of the Isocell HP1 module's actual performance as a smartphone camera.
After taking a series of pictures, the engineers chose one to print on a dozen 2.3-meter-long pieces of fabric which they then stitched together to form the complete canvas. Minhyuk Lee, who is one of the engineers from Samsung's Sensor Solutions team, believes the main benefits of the Isocell HP1's sensor are the ability to "capture an image that can be zoomed in and cropped without compromising on image quality," as well as the potential to enable 8K video recording at 30 frames per second.
However, by far the biggest advantage of the new 200-megapixel sensor is the ability to group four or 16 pixels into a single, larger pixel to produce a higher quality image with less noise in low-light scenarios.
Meanwhile, companies like Canon are taking a different approach when it comes to improving the sensitivity of camera sensors. The resolution is still modest by modern standards, but a new batch of so-called SPAD sensors looks promising for more than just low-light photography. Everything from mixed-reality glasses to surveillance systems and self-driving cars could benefit from this technology.