Samsung presents first camera sensor with 0.9 micron pixels

Samsung has announced a small camera sensor with a resolution of 24 megapixels and pixels of 0.9 µm. According to the manufacturer, it is the first sensor to have pixels smaller than 1 µm. By combining four pixels, the sensor should also be able to take good photos in low light.

Samsung calls the sensor the Isocell Slim 2X7. The manufacturer does not disclose the exact size of the sensor module. However, the chip should be suitable for high-end smartphones with a thin design, with a camera that does not protrude.

Small pixels are generally detrimental to image quality. Larger pixels capture more light and are therefore able to take pictures with less noise. Samsung claims that despite the small pixel size, the image quality of the new sensor is good, partly due to improved deep trench isolation. This means that a partition is placed between the individual pixels to prevent light from leaking to nearby pixels; this may result in color errors.

According to Samsung, the Slim 2X7 sensor features Tetracell technology for better photos in low light. Under this heading, Samsung classifies the combination of four adjacent pixels in order to capture more light. In low light, these four pixels merge; that results in a photo with a resolution of six megapixels. If there is enough light, a re-mosaic algorithm is used to use the individual pixels and save a photo at the full 24-megapixel resolution.

Samsung also announces the Isocell Fast 2L9. That is a so-called Dual Pixel sensor with a 12-megapixel resolution. The technique can be used for fast autofocus, but also for creating a depth of field effect with a single camera. The new sensor has 1.28μm pixels, smaller than Samsung’s previous Dual Pixel sensor, with 1.4μm pixels. This makes the module smaller and therefore suitable for smartphones without a ‘camera bump’, according to Samsung.

According to the South Korean manufacturer, both sensors can be used on both the front and back of smartphones. Especially with front cameras, a small module is required. Samsung will probably use the sensors in its own devices, but the company has not yet announced anything about it.