Samsung Galaxy S22 could have a 50MP RGBW camera — here's what that means

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review
(Image credit: Future)

Although all eyes are on the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3, Samsung still has a lot going on behind the scenes for the next big thing. In this case, we have some potential new information on one of the new cameras for next year's Galaxy S22.

Well-known leaker Ice Universe mentioned two bombshells in one tweet. The first is that Samsung's 200MP ISOCELL sensor will be available in September 2021. The other tidbit is that the Korean manufacturer is also working on a 50MP RGBW camera sensor. Another tipster then replied to Ice Universe's tweet, saying that the 50MP sensor will appear in the Galaxy S22.

What RGBW could mean for Galaxy S22

But you might be left asking: What does RGBW mean? Most camera sensors, especially the ones in phones, rely on red, green, and blue (RGB) sub-pixels to reproduce colors for a photograph. This supposed 50MP sensor adds a fourth white sub-pixel, thus RGBW.

That then begs the question: What would a white sub-pixel offer that the traditional RGB ones don't? The answer isn't exactly simple, since the white sub-pixel could have several applications. The one we believe will be most relevant to people who use a phone with that sensor (possibly the Galaxy S22) is that the white will help with highlights in high-contrast scenes. 

Usually, a phone has to compensate for the high-contrast using what it has available in the RGB spectrum, but having a dedicated white sub-pixel could make the final images look more realistic. Those photos could look like something akin to what our eyes see, at least in theory. That doesn't take into consideration Samsung's other post-processing.

That said, having a RGBW sensor could mean a lot for enhanced photos and videos, especially in challenging situations. But the sensor itself is just a piece of the pie and it alone cannot produce "good" pictures. Phones nowadays do a lot of the editing work for us. Some, like the Pixel 5 and iPhone 12, favor more naturalistic color reproduction and others, like the Galaxy S21, prefer a more saturated look. What appeals to you is a personal choice.

We're still a ways out from the Galaxy S22 — likely January or February 2022 — but we're likely to hear more details trickle out before then. In the meantime, we have new foldables to get excited about, as Unpacked is just a week out. So check out our preview hubs for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.