Smartphones have revolutionized photography, making it vastly easier than ever before to capture and share great images. And on the other side of the coin, camera advances are probably responsible for a lot of smartphone sales these days; phones have been more than good enough in most areas for many years now, and a terrific new camera provides a compelling reason to upgrade where a processing boost or RAM upgrade might not move the needle.
And they do keep getting better, thanks to a number of creative software and hardware developments that keep pushing super-compact imaging to new heights. Most people don’t know or care how they’re getting better; they don’t need to understand. But the technically-minded will find some interest in something like the new Samsung Isocell GN2 sensor, currently in mass production, which pushes forward the state of the art with some clever ideas.
At the most basic level, it’s a smartphone camera sensor with a monster 50-megapixel (8,160 x 6,144) resolution, far beyond what most of us will ever need unless we’re cropping way in to look at fine details. Likewise, it can shoot video in massive 8K resolution, despite there not being all that many 8K screens to play it back on. Switch to 1080p HD, and it’s so fast it can give you super-slow motion recorded at 480 fps, stretching time by a factor of 20 if you’re watching it back at a cinematic 24 fps.
If 50 megapixels isn’t enough for you, it can super-resolve the image “using an intelligent re-mosaic algorithm, creating three individual layers of 50Mp frames in green, red and blue. These frames are then up-scaled and merged to produce a single ultra-high 100Mp resolution photograph.” It can perform this operation at an astonishing rate: 10 times per second. May your storage drives rest in peace.
In low light situations, it pretends to be a lower-resolution sensor with larger pixels, combining every four pixels into a single “bin” to soak up as much light as possible without introducing extra noise by jacking up the ISO sensitivity.
And from there, things get really fun.