Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108MP sensor captures twice as much light by grouping 3x3 pixels

Peter, 12 February 2020

The first 108MP images sensor, the Samsung Bright HMX, was used by Xiaomi (that’s what the “X” after “HM” stands for). Now Samsung has its own 108MP flagship and those use the HM1 sensor instead, which features some substantial changes.

The large 1/1.33” sensor found inside the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra uses Nonacell technology, the followup to 2017’s Tetracell. Don’t worry if you slept through Latin and Greek, these basically mean 9-cell and 4-cell and are Samsung’s trademarks for different Bayer filters.

Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108MP sensor captures twice as much light by grouping 3x3 pixels

Nonacell merges 9 neighboring pixels (from a 3x3 square) into one large 2.4µm effective pixel. This doubles the sensor’s light absorption capabilities compared to Tetracell (2x2) sensors. But this also magnifies color interference between pixels, which is why such sensors didn’t exist until now – Samsung claims its ISOCELL Plus (which creates barriers between pixels) is able to keep such crosstalk to a minimum.

The company also loaded the ISOCELL Bright HM1 sensor with some serious hardware processing. It’s able to control the ISO of different groups of pixels, enabling one-shot HDR (this also makes image previews much more accurate).

Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108MP sensor captures twice as much light by grouping 3x3 pixels

The on-chip hardware is also able to to do up to 3x lossless zoom – starting with 108 megapixels, it can create 12MP photos at 3x magnification without upscaling (all of this happens before the image data even leaves the sensor for the ISP). That can help bridge the gap to cameras with true telephoto lenses.

In terms of video capabilities, the HM1 can record 8K footage at 24 fps. It supports gyro-based Electronic Image Stabilization for smoother handheld video.

We’ll get a better feel of HM1’s true capabilities when we review the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Its siblings, the S20 and S20+ have a very different camera setup.

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Reader comments

  • AnonD-754814

Okay.

Just stating about how many pixels behind each color.

  • Anonymous

It has 12mp output in pixel binned mode and 108mp in non pixel binned mode. The 108mp images are usable in daylight. At night, it's better to use pixel binned 12mp mode. You are the only one that is confused. Quad Bayer, Nona Bayer all can functi...

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