Samsung ISOCELL HP3: a new miniaturized 200 megapixel sensor for tomorrow’s smartphones

Evolution of the HP1, with which it shares the record resolution of 200 Mpix, the HP3 incorporates 12% more compact photodiodes. A miniaturization that promises even more compact camera modules and thus reaches the integration limits in smartphones.

The ISOCELL HP3 pushes the limits of miniaturization even further: While Samsung released a 200 Mpix sensor last year (the HP1), the HP3 benefits from even smaller photodiodes. At just 0.56μm on each side, these photodiodes are 12% smaller than those of the HP1. With the main advantage of reducing the size of the sensor, which goes from a format of 1/1.22 inch to 1/1.4 inch. However, the compactness (and performance) of the optical units depends on the size of the image circle they must create. Designing and manufacturing large optical units for phones is an ongoing challenge, and miniaturization helps limit design constraints. The 20% reduction in area of ​​the entire camera module promised by Samsung is a big advantage here.

As with the HP1, the strength of the ISOCELL HP3 does not lie in the isolation capabilities of the photodiodes, but rather in their number. It is less about 200 Mpix (native resolution) or 50 Mpix (quad) recordings and more about the 12.5 Mpix configuration used automatically by smartphone manufacturers. For this final image definition at the terminal exit, the sensor uses arrays of 16 photodiodes (hexadecapixel configuration), each measuring 2.24 microns. The sensor array then provides enough light but, more importantly, offers greater subtlety of color perception and more latitude for sampling (and therefore reducing) digital noise.

In addition to this size reduction, which could favor integration into more compact terminals, the ISOCELL HP3 (which is expected to have less intrinsic performance than the larger HP1) has an advantage over its predecessor: three native sensitivity levels – low, medium and high. Video sensors often come with two native ISO levels to avoid digital noise increasing too much when you push the gain (the ISOs in photos). With three levels, the HP3 promises a gradual increase in sensitivity. What makes up for the smaller size of the photodiodes? To have.

8/12/14-bit color comparison

Incidentally, these three sensitivity levels also promise an improvement in the dynamic range of the sensor. By combining snapshots at each of these layers a few microseconds apart, the HP3 produces colors sampled in 14 bits instead of the previous 12 bits. If the perception of the theoretical colors could not be as high as simply calculating the number of colors of these two sampling planes (multiplied by 64!), we can nevertheless legitimately expect more subtlety in the differentiation of the tonal tones – particularly greens, colors for which our eyes are most sensitive.

It’s interesting to note that despite this pixel avalanche, the HP3 can shoot 8K30p video without too much loss of field of view (what native crop factor?). It’s also capable of shooting 4K sequences at 120 frames per second, but this time Samsung doesn’t specify which frame is on the natural crop in its press release…

Photographic Image Sensors Market in 2021 / © Strategy Analytics

No smartphone manufacturer has yet announced a terminal that integrates the ISOCELL HP3, but Samsung is not developing its components in the wind, it is certain that the first announcements will arrive by the end of the year or even early 2023 (for now Samsung is only sending test samples to Manufacturer). Samsung’s very frequent announcements of sensor launches illustrate a very important trend in the world of image sensors: the increase in Korean market share, which has grown from 17.5% in 2019 to 26% in 2021. A growth that hurts less Sony , which maintains its position as world number one, with 45% of the total volume in 2021 (slightly less than 2020 when it controlled 47.5%) than other players (Omnivision , onsemi, Galaxycore, STMicro etc.).

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