A 200-megapixel sensor, what’s that for?

A 200-megapixel sensor, Super HDR video, Super Quad Pixel technology… we help you understand the photo and video technologies of the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra camera // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

As expected, Samsung did indeed unveil its new lineup of smartphones, the Galaxy S23, S23 Plus, and S23 Ultra, during Unpacked on Wednesday, February 1. But the Korean manufacturer emphasized the photo capabilities of its model more than in previous years.Ultra“. Only 32 minutes of the one-hour conference were dedicated to smartphones, including 27 minutes to the photo and video performance of the Galaxy S23.

Suffice to say, for Samsung, photos and videos are now at the center of communication around its smartphones. But you still need to know how to decipher these innovations. Among the 200-megapixel sensor “two focus AF“Video Stabilization”OIS+VDIS” or 12-bit dynamic range, we’ll tell you what to remember about the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s photo and video performance.

200 megapixel sensor for 50 or 12.5 megapixel photos

As expected, Samsung chose to equip the main camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra with a 200-megapixel sensor. It’s actually the Samsung Isocell HP2 sensor, a 1/1.3-inch photo sensor introduced by the firm in mid-January.

In fact, to be more precise, we will mainly be talking about a sensor with 200 million photosites. In a photo or video sensor, each pixel is actually marked by a photosite, a cell that will focus on turning what it sees into a point of light. However, if it is possible to take 200-megapixel images on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, it is not a standard option.

Samsung Isocell HP2 sensor
Samsung Isocell HP2 sensor // Source: Samsung

The Galaxy S23 Ultra will indeed use this ultra-defined sensor to group pixels depending on the light conditions. When there is a dark scene, 16 adjacent photosites will be grouped together to form one pixel. Thus, we will have a photo of 12.5 megapixels. In more favorable light conditions, photosites will be grouped up to 4 for 50 megapixel shots.

The idea behind this technology is twofold: to provide more accurate images and higher dynamic range when there is enough light, and more light and less digital noise when there is too little light.

Galaxy S23 Ultra photo module
Photo module of Galaxy S23 Ultra // Source: Frandroid screenshot

In the first case, remember that conventional camera sensors exceeding 100 million pixels are rare. Only medium format photo sensors such as the Fujifilm GFX 100S reach this limit. On full-frame bodies, the most specified models reach 61 million pixels – as in the Sony A7R V – while APS-C cameras are limited to 40 million pixels, as in the Fujifilm X-H2. In this line of thought, the wider the sensor, the more defined it will be. Very high resolution on a very small sensor will actually increase the density and reduce the size of the photosites. However, the Galaxy S23 Ultra will let you shoot at 50MP by default or 200MP via a custom option for people who want to crop their photos in post-production. This high resolution will also allow this main sensor to be used as part of a hybrid zoom with telephoto sensors.

In the second case, we will have the right to pixel binning, that is, combining photosites between them. By grouping them together in groups of 4 or 16 to create a single pixel, we’ll create larger virtual photo sites. What allows for two advantages: first, by grouping pixels together, we reduce the risk of digital noise – color grain – associated with an increase in ISO sensitivity. Next, we increase the dynamics of these virtual photosites so that they will be wider and therefore can more easily capture very bright elements than dark ones. So if each photosite measures 0.6 μm on a side, we’ll have photosites that are 1.2 μm on a side in 50 megapixel mode and 2.4 μm on a side in 12.5 megapixel mode.

By comparison, the iPhone 14 Pro, which uses the same technology as a sensor with 48 million photosites for 12-megapixel shots, will combine four 1.22 μm photosites to create 2.44 μm virtual photosites.

Autofocus based on groups of four pixels

However, the photo announcements surrounding the Galaxy S23 Ultra were not limited to the sole definition of the main sensor. “Samsung” also highlighted the “autofocus” technology.Super Quad PixelSpecifically, it is a phase detection autofocus technology that will use different photosites used to create a single pixel by distinguishing the difference in focus between each.

Super Quad Pixel autofocus on the Galaxy S23 Ultra
Super Quad Pixel autofocus on the Galaxy S23 Ultra // Source: Samsung

During the Galaxy Unpacked conference, Samsung social media manager Jaclyn Wyatt explained:We’ve simplified autofocus with a Super Quad Pixel that uses each of 200 million photosites to focus on your subjects with ease. Using four adjacent photosites to detect differences between left and right, up and down, it allows the camera to focus faster as it has more reference points.“.

This technology is not new in the field of smartphone photography. For years, Google has been using an autofocus system calledDual Pixelthanks to stereoscopy, each photosite is divided into two parts to better distinguish the perspective difference. A three-dimensional view is enough to distinguish depth and therefore attention. Use thisSuper Quad Pixelused to measure depth in autofocus, it can also be used well for portrait mode photos, as well as measuring the depth of a scene to create background blur.

More advanced video features

Samsung has also focused on the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s video performance, and ambitions are high here as well. True, the manufacturer does not bet on shooting in RAW format, as Apple has been offering it on the iPhone Pro for a year and a half, but Samsung nevertheless, “Super HDR” in the video.

Photo module of Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Photo module of Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra // Source: Frandroid

Specifically, this function reminds of the HDR modes already offered in photos. Recall that the principle for a smartphone is to take several photos at the same time with different exposures. By grouping them, the smartphone will then allow you to retain details in both dark areas and the brightest areas.

Specifically, in video, it is the same technology that is implemented by shooting the scene at several different exposures. According to Samsung, 12 bits is enough to make plans with dynamic range. While classic video sequences are limited to 8-bit dynamic range, for 256 brightness values, 12-bit dynamic range will allow up to 4096 exposure values. In other words, videographers will be able to enjoy a more detailed image.

In the video, the Galaxy S23 Ultra's Super HDR mode will achieve 12-bit dynamic range
Galaxy S23 Ultra’s Super HDR mode in video will achieve 12-bit dynamic range // Source: Frandroid screenshot

Also in the video field, Samsung announced new stabilization technology “OIS+VDISSpecifically, this means that the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s sensor stabilizes both mechanically—by moving to compensate for movements—and digitally. “helps to reduce the level of blur or distortion that may occur” and this stabilization works by increasing the sensitivity and shutter speed to produce the smoothest image possible.

Features for photo and video professionals

Finally, as has been the fashion for several years, Samsung also wanted to appeal to professionals in photo or video imaging. In addition to the participation of directors Ridley Scott and Na Hong-jin, the Korean firm also focused on the photo and pro video modes of the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

As with previous models, these modes will allow you to capture snapshots through manual settings. It is enough to change not only the shutter speed manually, but also the ISO sensitivity, white balance or manual focus distance. For this last point, Samsung also “focus peakit will be able to attract videographers by highlighting the elements in focus in the image thanks to the green border visible only during shooting. This feature, which has been available in mirrorless cameras for years, allows you to ensure that the focus is as accurate as possible.

Another feature that is sure to appeal to budding videographers: “Clean preview on HDMI displaysIn the Camera Assistant app. Specifically, this feature will allow professional or semi-professional videographers to display the image return directly on the HDMI screen without any interface elements. It should also allow connecting the Galaxy S23 to an HDMI access switch on a computer to turn it into a webcam, if this use will be logically limited given the several uses it offers.

“Clean preview on HDMI screens” function // Source: Frandroid screenshot

Finally, still aiming to target imaging professionals, Samsung has partnered with Adobe to immediately offer Lightroom as the default photo editing app on the Galaxy S23, in addition to Samsung’s Expert RAW app. This will allow photographers who are used to the Adobe package to maintain the habit of making RAW files.

It’s clear that Samsung’s collection of features for the Galaxy S23 Ultra will only be used by a few people. First of all, we are still far from the capabilities, formats or optical quality offered by mirrorless cameras or professional cameras. The fact is that, like Apple before it, Samsung relies more and more on the image, and some functions that are not visible to neophytes should still allow you to make the most of the photo module of Samsung’s high-end smartphone.

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