Samsung Intros World's Smallest Image Sensor Coming To Android Phones

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Samsung unveiled a new image sensor designed for the selfie cameras of full-screen smartphones. This sensor is called "ISOCELL Slim 3T2", and Samsung claims that it is industry's most compact image sensor to date. This sensor has a resolution of 20 megapixels, pixel size of 0.8μm, and a sensor size of 1/3.4 inches (5.1mm diagonally).

When compared to Samsung's 1/3-inch 20-megapixel image sensor, the ISOCELL Slim 3T2 imaging module also reduces the height of the camera module by around 7-percent. Despite the small size and thin profile of the sensor, it offers 60-percent higher effective resolution at 10x digital zoom when compared to 13-megapixel imaging modules.

Companies may also use the image sensor for both the front-facing and rear cameras of a smartphone, however, the small size of the imaging module makes it a suitable sensor for the selfie shooters of handsets with display holes or notches, both of which require small imaging modules that fit in the limited space allocated by OEMs… besides, this sensor cannot compete with some larger, more expensive modules which are used for rear-facing cameras.

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The ISOCELL Slim 3T2 uses a variety of technologies that improve quality of images captured by the sensor. Among these technologies is the ISOCELL Plus, which uses new materials that allow the imaging module to gather as much light as possible. This technology replaces the metal grids that separate the sensor's photodiodes (used in previous ISOCELL products), with a new material that reflects less incoming light. This modification reduces image noise and improves color fidelity on sensor which use it, like the ISOCELL Slim 3T2.

The ISOCELL Slim 3T2 also has a small pixel size, which could result in poor low-light performance… however, Samsung aims to resolve this concern by incorporating the Tetracell technology into the imaging module. This technology improves light sensitivity of the sensor by merging together four adjacent pixels into one unit and then using a re-mosaic technology to produce a full resolution image. Just in case a device maker uses the sensor for telephoto rear cameras, the ISOCELL Slim 3T2 will not feature the Tetracell technology, and it will instead include the RGB Color Filter Array.

Samsung launched its ISOCELL brand of image sensors back in 2017, and this brand includes four sensor lineups, which are the ISOCELL Slim, ISOCELL Fast, ISOCELL Bright, and ISOCELL Dual. The ISOCELL Slim series caters primarily to device makers that need thin and small sensors for devices with limited internal space, while ISOCELL Fast features faster autofocus. Meanwhile, ISOCELL Bright aims to offer color-accurate images in low-light conditions and the ISOCELL Dual is designed for handsets with multiple camera setups. Aside from the ISOCELL Slim 3T2, the South Korean tech giant also recently launched the ISOCELL Slim 2X7 imaging module, which offers a resolution of 24 megapixels and a pixel size of 0.9μm. This sensor also uses Tetracell technology and deep-trench isolation.

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As more device makers adapt notch designs and display cutouts, the space available for the camera components becomes more and more limited. Samsung responds to the manufacturer's needs by releasing the ISOCELL Slim 3T2. Once it enters mass production in the first quarter of 2019, it is likely that Samsung will incorporate this imaging sensor into the company's mid-range smartphones, and the company may also supply its rival device makers with the sensor.