Samsung ISOCELL JN1 shrinks a 50MP sensor down to 0.64 micropixels

As smartphone cameras start boasting more and more pixels, they've also started to become bigger and bigger. Just like with processors, the challenge for imaging sensors is to cram as many photodiodes on a small surface without enlarging the size of that surface. That's the achievement that Samsung is boasting about with its new ISOCELL JN1 that is able to cram 50 million pixels in the size of a 1/2.76-inch format sensor. Whether it's able to take better or similar quality photos as Samsung's larger 50MP sensors, however, remains to be tested.

There are some analogies between the problems that imaging sensors and processors face when cramming more photodiodes or resistors in the same or smaller amount of space. For digital camera sensors, that means some light cross-talk between diodes, reducing the quality of the resulting image. Samsung addresses this with its next-gen ISOCELL 2.0 technology that also improves the amount of light those sensors gather.

That new technology will be critical in the success of its new ISOCELL JN1 CMOS sensor because of its use of 0.64 μm-pixels (micropixels). Cross-talk is even more likely with such small pixels but so is the likelihood of reduced light absorption, where is ISOCELL 2.0 comes in. Samsung also boasts of the sensor's Smart ISO feature, shifting between low or high ISO levels depending on brightness settings.

Apart from those, the ISOCELL JN1 also comes with Samsung's new Double Super PD that uses oval-shaped micro-lenses to improve phase-detect autofocus. The sensor is capable of 4K recording at 60 fps but also 240fps slow-mo but only at FHD resolutions. The sensor utilizes four-to-one Tetrapixel binning to shoot bright 12.5MP images even in low light, effectively turning the 0.64 micropixel into a 12.5MP 1.28 micropixel sensor.

Samsung says that the ISOCELL JN1 is currently in mass production already, so phones bearing the sensor shouldn't be that far behind. The 1/2.76-inch sensor is compatible with 1/2.8-inch products so the sensor can be used almost in any function, from ultra-wide to telephoto cameras to even high-quality front-facing cameras.