A slimmer 50MP sensor, but is it better?

Samsung is one of three main players in the smartphone camera sensor space (along with Sony and Omnivision), and it’s been upping the ante in recent times thanks to 50MP and 108MP sensors.

Now, the company has announced the 50MP Isocell JN1 sensor. And at first glance, it looks like the firm is prioritizing a thin design over image quality. The new image sensor delivers a 1/2.76-inch sensor size combined with 0.64-micron pixels, making for a step down in size from Samsung’s previous 50MP sensors (e.g. the Isocell GN1 and GN2).

In addition to its use as a main camera, Samsung says the smaller sensor size makes it suitable for use as a telephoto, ultra-wide, or selfie camera. The new camera sensor can also reduce the height of a camera module by ~10% according to Samsung (it’s unclear what the point of comparison is here though), reducing the camera bump and enabling thinner designs.

More than just a slim design?

The smaller sensor and pixel size should result in reduced image quality (particularly in low light) compared to the aforementioned 50MP sensors and conventional 12MP sensors. But Samsung says the Isocell JN1 is equipped with Isocell 2.0 tech that it first unveiled earlier this year. This is an upgraded version of its Isocell and Isocell Plus tech that reduces cross-talk and improves light gathering capabilities. In fact, Samsung reckons this new tech along with “added enhancements” improves light sensitivity by 16% on the JN1.

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The new sensor also makes use of four-in-one pixel binning, combining data from four 0.64-micron pixels into one pixel to produce images comparable to those taken with a 12.5MP 1.28-micron sensor. Taken together with the Isocell 2.0 tech, it suggests that low-light results might not be a huge step down from Samsung’s other 50MP sensors. But we’ll have to try out the first phones with this tech to figure out if that’s indeed the case.

Other notable Samsung Isocell JN1 features include Smart ISO tech for better dynamic range, double super phase detection autofocus, 4K/60fps video recording, and 240fps video recording at FHD resolution.

Samsung’s new camera sensor is currently in mass production, so we likely won’t have long to wait to see the first phones with these parts.

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