After CPU clock cycles, the mobile numbers game has seemingly shifted to pixel counts. While it has been repeatedly proven that higher doesn’t always mean better, that hasn’t stopped manufacturers from flaunting large figures, especially in marketing materials. It doesn’t really hurt if you have dozens or even hundreds of megapixels if you can cram that many in a sensor, but Samsung might be taking things to the extreme in a few years. Not satisfied with its recently announced 200MP sensor, it apparently wants to have more than twice that much by 2025.
Those pixels are pretty much what captures light information, particularly colors, so you would presume that the more you have, the better the resulting image. Unfortunately, there are other factors to consider in producing a digital image, like lenses, color accuracy, exposure, white balance, and more. Apple and later Google proved how even 12MP sensors could outperform larger cameras, especially with some computational magic involved.
There are also consequences in trying to cram so many pixels in a sensor that needs to fit inside a smartphone. One of the biggest drawbacks is the cross-talk between tightly-packed pixels, something that Samsung’s ISOCELL technology was designed to counteract. Further increasing the number of pixels inside the same sensor size, however, presents even more manufacturing and engineering challenges to keep those pixels well isolated.
Of course, that won’t stop Samsung from dreaming, and company SVP & Head of Automotive Sensors Haechang Lee revealed that they are envisioning a 576MP mobile image sensor by 2025. Using its newly announced “ChameloenCell” pixel binning technology, that could translate to 36MP images under certain conditions and settings. That is still a lot of pixels, though, perhaps far too many to imagine using today’s current manufacturing and engineering technologies.
Four years is still far away, and mobile photography trends might drastically change by then. Samsung’s current performance in that area hasn’t actually been consistently good anyway, and perhaps the company might be better served by focusing on improving its current photography technologies before boasting about innovations few other phone makers will want to use.