Electronics makers are always trying to miniaturize components whenever they can, and with its new Isocell JN1 sensor, Samsung claims it has created an image sensor with the world’s smallest photo pixels yet.
While sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate advances in sensor tech, the ability for Samsung to cram a 50-MP sensor with photo pixels measuring just 0.64 micrometers into a tiny 1/2.76-inch format is pretty impressive, as it allows devices makers to support higher-resolution photos without taking up additional space inside the phone. And not only does the JN1's dimensions make the sensor suited for use on either the front or back of a phone, but it’s also 10% thinner.
Samsung says its JN1 sensor also comes with Isocell 2.0 tech, which the company claims improves light sensitivity by around 16%, along with Double Super PD autofocus that features special oval-shaped micro-lenses fitted onto pairs of nearby pixels to quickly detect changes in phases. Samsung says this allows the JN1 to deliver the same speedy autofocus performance compared to previous-gen sensors with 60% less light.
Now when it comes to low-light photography, smaller photo pixels typically aren’t a good thing, as a smaller sensor/pixel catches less light often resulting in lower quality and grainer images. However, by using quad pixel-binning on the JN1, Samsung can combine four nearby 0.64 micrometer pixels into one large 1.28-micrometer pixel in low-light to help increase overall light sensitivity. That said, like other sensors that use pixel-binning in low light, this process does result in a lower resolution 12.5-MP photos, down from its usual 50-MP shots.
On top of that, Samsung’s says the JN1 also has Smart-ISO tech—which can adjust the sensor’s conversion gain depending on the environment. In bright light, the Low ISO mode helps preserve highlights and details in bright spots. In darker environments, the High ISO mode reduces noise and improves general low-light performance.
But perhaps the most promising thing about the JN1 is that Samsung says it’s already in mass production, which means we might see Samsung’s tiny 50-MP image sensor appear on retail devices before the end of the year.