Samsung's new phone sensor promises faster and more accurate autofocus

"Dual Pixel Pro" can compare focus from top to bottom as well as side to side.


Samsung has unveiled its latest smartphone camera sensor with a new feature called Dual Pixel Pro that promises faster and more accurate autofocus. The 50-megapixel ISOCELL GN2 sensor will likely come to Samsung's next-generation Galaxy smartphones and other devices.

With Dual Pixel phase-detect technology, used both by Samsung and Canon, every sensor pixel is split vertically into two photodiodes. Since they receive the light from slightly different angles, focus is calculated quickly and directly based on the offset. Every pixel on the sensor is used for autofocus, boosting AF speeds without affecting sensor performance. That differs from regular phase-detect sensors, which use far fewer AF pixels distributed around the sensor that negatively impact sensor performance.

Samsung's Dual Pixel Pro sensors split the pixels diagonally rather than vertically. By doing so, each pixel can compare the light coming in from top to bottom, as well as from left to right as before. That allows the system to calculate autofocus more quickly in certain cases, like when you rotate your smartphone, for example. (According to a recent patent, Canon would split the pixels into four to accomplish the same thing.)

Another new feature on the GN2 sensor is something Samsung calls staggered HDR technology. If you're shooting high-contrast scenes like sunsets, it can capture multiple frames in short, middle and long exposures. That means you might have to hold the camera still to capture a shot, though it supposedly uses 24 percent less energy compared to Samsung's real-time HDR mode.

The GN2 also uses a new feature called Smart ISO. That effectively uses multiple ISO settings in a single photo to "create high dynamic range images with less motion-artifacts," according to Samsung. In extremely low light, it can quickly take and process multiple frames in high ISO, boosting the light sensitivity to nearly 1 million ISO while reducing noise.

Finally, the GN2 can produce 100-megapixel images an intelligent re-mosaic algorithm, merging three individual 50-megapixel layers in red, green and blue. "These frames are then up-scaled and merged to produce a single ultra-high 100-megapixle resolution photograph," according to Samsung. As before, it can also combine four pixels into one for improved low-light sensitivity, at the cost of lower resolution.

The GN2 sensor is now in production, meaning it's likely to appear in upcoming Samsung Galaxy smartphones. That could be either a future Galaxy Note device or Samsung's next-gen Galaxy phones (the S22?) due out next year.