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Pixel War: Why the Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108MP camera draws so much …

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Pixel War: Why the Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108MP camera draws so much ...

The new Galaxy S20 trio was announced yesterday (11/02) during the Galaxy Unpacked and one of the specifications that most caught the public's attention is the main camera of the Ultra model. The highlight is deserved, since this is the second smartphone to hit the market with a main camera of 108 megapixels – highest count available so far on mobile devices.

However, the question that remains is why is this feature so interesting ?. In this article, I intend to answer the question in the best possible way:

The Pixel War summarized

In 2019, we saw smartphone makers re-enter a race to see who reached the "end" with the most megapixels in their cameras. Huawei came out first this time with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro 40MP Quad Bayer sensors, both launched in 2018 and offering very interesting results in photographs in poor light situations.

A few months later, Quad Bayer gained the mainstream market through 48MP sensors (Sony IMX586, Samsung GM1 and GM2) and 64MP sensors (Isocell GW1 and Sony IMX686). And finally, Xiaomi took it a step further and launched the Mi Note 10 (CC9 Pro in China) in November last year with five rear cameras – including a 108MP Isocell Bright HMX sensor produced by Samsung.

Now, the Galaxy S20 Ultra also features a 108MP main camera, but it does not use the same sensor as the Mi Note 10. It is equipped with an Isocell HM1 – slightly improved version of the Isocell HMX that brings a little different operation than we saw last year. We will explore this topic below.

Binning 4-in-1, 9-in-1?

The big difference between the 108MP sensors of the Mi Note 10 and the Galaxy S20 Ultra is that the second moves away from the 4-in-1 binning traditionally used to risk in the 9-in-1. Samsung called this technology "Ninth binning" and it is also the first to use a 3 × 3 pixel bin instead of 2 × 2 (I'll talk more about that in a moment).

Binning, basically, is to join several pixels into one

Didn't understand what the paragraph above means? So let's go slowly. The idea of ​​binning, basically, is to join several pixels in just one "square". Quad Bayer sensors, despite offering a lower effective color resolution, are still in cell phones today, as they are the only option for the manufacturer that wants to bet on a higher number of megapixels. In this way, they use the 4-in-1 binning system, that is, it combines four pixels into one on the sensor to reduce noise, improve dynamic range and details per pixel.

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Another point is that Samsung's Ninth binning produces 12MP images, but the Galaxy S20 Ultra can dynamically switch between this mode and the 108MP high-resolution mode. This becomes interesting because of the size of the pixels. The rule is simple: when the pixel size is reduced, the image quality in low light is compromised. While the first 40MP Quad Bayer sensors had 1.0 micron pixels, the current 108MP sensors drop this to 0.8 micron. The second size mentioned results in a sensor of about 1.3 inches, which, despite what we can imagine, remains considerably large for smarthphones

The ideal situation, then, would be to use a larger pixel, with 12MP sensors that adjust to the 1.4 micron pixel size. However, the binning system theoretically circumvents this rule. The Xiaomi Mi Note 10, for example, uses the 4-in-1 system for 27MP photos by default, with an effective pixel size of 1.6 microns – making it much more competitive compared to night or low light photos .

The smaller the pixel size, the worse the photo gets in poorly lit or poorly lit places

Photos with a Xiaomi Mi Note 10. Source: The Verge

Pixel War: Why the Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108MP camera draws so much ...Pixel War: Why the Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108MP camera draws so much ...

So, the conclusion here is: the new sensor of the Galaxy S20 Ultra should, yes, allow an improvement in relation to images captured in poorly lit places. However, the real advantage of high resolution will appear in broad daylight.

The Ninth Binning 3×3 of the Galaxy S20 Ultra

In addition to the 9-in-1 system I already mentioned (nine pixels in one to improve images), the Ninth binning is the first sensor to use the 3×3 combination. Until then, companies used the 2×2 combination to add 4 pixels, which allows doubling the pixel size. That is, from 0.8 microns to 1.6 microns.

The S20 Ultra is the first phone to feature a 2.4 micron pixel camera

With the 3×3 combination to add 9 pixels, Samsung is able to offer 12MP images with an effective pixel size of 2.4 microns – something unprecedented in smartphones. I remember here again: the bigger the pixel, the better the resulting image in poorly lit environments.

Pixel War: Why the Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108MP camera draws so much ...

The only product that could be compared to this novelty is the OmniVison 48MP OV48C sensor. It has 1.2 micron pixels and uses close pixel binning to obtain 12 MP photos with a 2.4 micron pixel size. However, it has not yet reached consumers.

Conclusion

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In short, Samsung is betting on a "showy" and innovative sensor for its new premium device, and promises image improvements that we cannot yet imagine. For the price that was announced, it is good that the Galaxy S20 Ultra brings improvements and notable news, since the South Korean giant is risking raising its prices on scales very similar to Apple, for example. This device will reach the US market for US $ 1,399 (approximately R $ 6,085 excluding taxes on direct conversion) and can be purchased from March 6th.

Via: XDA Developers, The Verge
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