If you thought Samsung's recently revealed 200MP smartphone camera sensor was lacking in pixels, how does a 576MP camera sound?
This is something that Haechang Lee, senior vice president and head of automotive sensors at Samsung, suggested during a talk at SEMI Europe (via Image Sensors World (opens in new tab) and Notebookcheck (opens in new tab)). Samsung already offers some of the highest resolution camera sensors around, and the company could meet or beat the human eye within the next few years.
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In his presentation "The Image Sensor Journey - To the Human Eye and Beyond", Lee discussed the history of Samsung's camera technology and the company's future plans. Citing the human eye's resolution, commonly estimated at around 576MP, Lee suggested that this is what Samsung would be aiming to match by 2025.
Samsung has previously talked about this goal, including in this 2020 blog post (opens in new tab), although a camera of the full 576MP resolution probably wouldn't be used on a smartphone. As the blog mentions, Samsung's looking at developing specialized sensors for developing autonomous vehicles, drones and IoT markets.
In terms of phones, having absurd numbers of pixels is arguably more versatile than having a regular amount of pixels. It gives you the freedom to use either the full resolution of the camera or to "pixel-bin" — combining the information from adjacent pixels together to create a virtual super-pixel — to make lower resolution images with better brightness. On the other hand, how often are users going to need to take 576MP images?
It's not even that larger sensors are automatically better. Two of the best camera phones around right now — the Google Pixel 5 and the iPhone 12 series — use 12MP sensors. As for Samsung's phones, while its highly regarded Galaxy S21 Ultra does use a 108MP main camera, the things holding it back from the top spot have nothing to do with the hardware and more to do with Samsung's post-processing and computational photography.
It's possible that the new ISOCELL HP1 200MP camera that Samsung recently showed off could be used on the Samsung Galaxy S22, particularly on the S22 Ultra model. However, more recent rumors suggest that Samsung's 108MP camera will make another appearance on the S22 Ultra.
It's exciting to see Samsung push the envelope on camera sensors, but it looks like we're going to have to be patient to reap the benefits.