Samsung ISOCELL HP3: a new miniaturized 200-megapixel sensor for the smartphones of tomorrow

Evolution of the HP1 with which it shares the record definition of 200 Mpix, the HP3 incorporates 12% more compact photodiodes. A miniaturization that promises even more compact camera modules, thus meeting the integration limits in smartphones.

The ISOCELL HP3 pushes the limits of miniaturization even further: if Samsung already released a 200 Mpix sensor last year (the HP1), the HP3 benefits from even smaller photodiodes. Measuring only 0.56 μm on each side, these photodiodes are 12% smaller than those of the HP1. With the primary benefit of reducing the size of the sensor, which goes from a 1/1.22” format to 1/1.4”. However, the compactness (and the performance) of the optical units are a function of the size of the image circle that they must produce. Developing and producing large optical units for telephones is a constant challenge and downsizing helps to limit development constraints. The 20% reduction in area of ​​the overall camera module promised by Samsung is a major advantage here.

Samsung Galaxy S20 rear camera modules

As for the HP1, the strength of the ISOCELL HP3 is not in the isolated skills of the photodiodes, but in the number. It is less the shoots at 200 Mpix (native definition), or 50 Mpix (quad) than the configuration of 12.5 Mpix which will be used automatically by smartphone manufacturers. For this last image definition at the terminal output, the sensor uses groups of 16 photodiodes (hexadecapixel configuration) which each measure 2.24 microns. The sensor group then provides enough light but, more importantly, offers greater color perception finesse as well as more latitude for sampling (and therefore reducing) digital noise.

In addition to this reduction in size which could favor its integration into more compact terminals, the ISOCELL HP3 (whose intrinsic performance could be expected to be lower than the larger HP1) has an advantage over its predecessor: three native sensitivity levels – low, medium and high. Video sensors are often equipped with two native ISO levels in order to avoid too high a rise in digital noise when you push the gain (the ISOs in photos). With three levels, the HP3 promises a more gradual increase in sensitivity. What counterbalances the smaller size of the photodiodes? Have.

8/12/14 bit color comparison

These three levels of sensitivity also incidentally promise an improvement in the dynamic range of the sensor. By combining snapshots at each of these levels taken a few microseconds apart, the HP3 produces colors sampled in 14 bits instead of the previous 12 bits. If the perception of the theoretical colors could not be as high as the simple calculation of the number of colors of these two levels of sampling (multiplied by 64!), we are all the same entitled to expect more subtlety in the differentiation of the key tones – especially greens, colors to which our eyes are most sensitive.

It’s interesting to note that despite this avalanche of pixels, the HP3 can shoot 8K30p video without too much loss of field of view (what native crop factor?). It is also able to shoot 4K sequences at 120 frames per second, but this time Samsung does not specify in its press release which image is on the natural crop…

Photographic image sensors market in 2021 / © Strategy Analytics

No smartphone manufacturer has yet announced a terminal integrating the ISOCELL HP3 but Samsung is not developing its components in the wind, it’s a safe bet that the first announcements will arrive by the end of the year. , or even early 2023 (for now, Samsung only sends test samples to manufacturers). The very frequent announcements of sensor launches from Samsung illustrate a very important trend in the world of image sensors: the increase in Korean market share, which increased from 17.5% in 2019 to 26% in 2021. Growth that is less to the detriment of Sony, which retains its position as world number one, with 45% of total volume in 2021 (down slightly from 2020, when it controlled 47.5%) than other players (Omnivision , onsemi, Galaxycore, STMicro, etc.).

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