Samsung’s new phone sensor promises faster and more accurate autofocus

Samsung has introduced its latest smartphone camera sensor with a new feature called Dual Pixel Pro that promises faster and more accurate autofocus. The 50 megapixel ISOCELL GN2 sensor will likely make its way to Samsung’s next-gen Galaxy smartphones and other devices.

With Dual Pixel phase detection technology, used by both Samsung and Canon, each pixel on the sensor is divided vertically into two photodiodes. Since they receive light from slightly different angles, focus is quickly and directly calculated based on offset. Every pixel on the sensor is used for autofocus, increasing AF speeds without affecting sensor performance. That differs from normal phase detection sensors, which use far fewer AF pixels spread around the sensor negatively impacting sensor performance.

Samsung’s Dual Pixel Pro sensors divide pixels diagonally rather than vertically. By doing so, each pixel can compare incoming light from top to bottom, as well as left to right as before. That allows the system to calculate autofocus more quickly in certain cases, like when you rotate your smartphone, for example. (According to a recent patent, Canon would divide the pixels into four to achieve the same.)

Another new feature of the GN2 sensor is something Samsung calls tiered HDR technology. If you are shooting high-contrast scenes such as sunsets, you can capture multiple frames in short, medium, and long exposures. That means you may need to keep the camera still to capture a shot, although it supposedly uses 24 percent less power compared to Samsung’s real-time HDR mode.

The GN2 also uses a new feature called Smart ISO. That effectively uses multiple ISO settings in a single photo to “create high dynamic range images with fewer motion artifacts,” according to Samsung. In extremely low light conditions, you can quickly shoot and process multiple high ISO frames, increasing light sensitivity to nearly 1 million ISO and reducing noise.

Lastly, the GN2 can produce 100 megapixel images with an intelligent mosaic algorithm that fuses three individual 50 megapixel layers in red, green and blue. “These frames are scaled and merged to produce a single 100 megapixel ultra-high resolution photo,” according to Samsung. As before, you can also combine four pixels into one to improve low-light sensitivity, at the cost of lower resolution.

The GN2 sensor is already in production, which means it is likely to appear on upcoming Samsung Galaxy smartphones. That could be a future Galaxy Note device or Samsung’s next-gen Galaxy phones (the S22?) Coming out next year.

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