Samsung has announced that it is beginning mass production of what it claims has the smallest pixels in the industry: 0.64μm-pixels. The 50-megapixel sensor is called the ISOCELL JN1 and is equipped with ISOCELL 2.0, Smart-ISO, and “Double Super PDAF.”
Smaller pixels usually means lower image quality and the possibility of introducing more noise, but Samsung specifically chose to push the JN1 down to 0.64μm-pixels so that it could be smaller and therefore see more widespread use in different applications.
As such, the company claims the JN1 is its most versatile sensor yet as it is compatible with existing 1/2.8-inch products and can be used for front-facing, ultra-wide, or telephoto cameras in addition to standard focal lengths. Basically, this one sensor is capable of being employed in any image capture format on modern smartphones. The goal here is to allow users to take 50-megapixel selfies or group pictures as well as high-resolution 4K front-facing video with high-zoom capability, but not limit manufacturers from only using this sensor in that way.
Because the JN1 uses smaller pixels and is, therefore, a smaller sensor overall, Samsung says an added benefit of its design is that it will reduce the size of camera modules by 10 percent. That’s not a huge amount to cut down a camera bump, but in an age where it generally keeps getting bigger, any progress in the other direction is welcome.
The JN1 takes advantage of several Samsung technologies that the company has announced over the last year including its pixel-binning tech, ISOCELL 2.0, Smart-ISO, and Double Super PDAF.
In low light conditions, Samsung’s JN1 utilizes the company’s four-to-one pixel binning technology — Tetrapixel — which merges four adjacent 0.64μm-pixels into one big 1.28μm-pixel to quadruple light sensitivity for brighter 12.5-megapixel photographs.
Samsung detailed ISOCELL 2.0 technology in early March of this year and explains that the ISOCELL Plus technology that lies at its core adds a physical barrier made from a new material (typically this was done with metal) around each pixel that reduces light crossing between them and affecting nearby pixels, which leads to the ability to produce better color.
Smart-ISO is a Samsung HDR technology that allows its sensors to capture both high and low ISO simultaneously, which the company discussed in detail here. While Samsung also developed what it calls Dual Pixel Pro which splits pixels from corner to corner rather than down the center, the JN1 instead uses Double Super PDAF, which the company says features twice the density of pixels used for phase detection (1/16) than its Super Phase Detection (1/32) which supposedly enables the same autofocus performance in up to 60 percent less light.
The JN1 is currently in mass production, so it is possible that it will make an appearance in new smartphones as early as this fall.