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Samsung Electronics markets 64-megapixel image sensor

May 10,2019
Samsung Electronics introduced the world’s first 64-megapixel image sensor for smartphones Thursday.

Image sensors are essential components in digital cameras. The more the pixels, the higher the resolution.

At the moment, 48 megapixels is the highest resolution offered by high-end smartphones. Samsung plans to start mass production of the new chips in the second half of the year.

The company unveiled two 0.8-micrometer image sensors on Thursday - the 64-megapixel Isocell Bright GW1 and the 48-megapixel Isocell Bright GM2. The “0.8-micrometer” designation is the size of pixels, which is the smallest available in the market, according to Samsung.

“A full screen covering the entire front of the phone and multiple cameras equipped into one device are the latest trends in mobile,” said Park Yong-in, Samsung’s executive vice president of the sensor business.

When smaller pixels are utilized, the possibility increases of “noisy” photos, a phenomenon in which graininess increases. Isocell is the name of Samsung’s technology that prevents this by structurally isolating the pixels.

Thursday’s latest releases add 64-megapixel products to Samsung’s existing Isocell lineup of 20-, 32- and 48-megapixel sensors.

The GM2 is a general upgrade of the existing 48-megapixel GM1.

Tetracell technology is also used. It allows sensors to take brighter photos in the dark by merging four pixels to work as one. During the daytime, all pixels work individually to create full resolution images.

Image sensors are one of Samsung’s main products in the non-memory chip business. The company ranked second in the global image-sensor market last year with around a 20-percent share. The industry leader is Sony, which controls half of the market.

Park said he is confident that Samsung will grab the No. 1 spot in the near future.

“One-third of the global population is using our mobile image sensors. By this year’s second half, most high-end smartphone makers will be using 64-megapixel camera phones,” he said.

“We don’t think it’ll take that long for us to reach our goal.”

He also added that apart from smartphones, image sensors will be incorporated into many products and technologies, including cars, artificial intelligence and 5G-related services. He anticipates the market to “grow into the size of the entire semiconductor market today by 2023.”

Samsung’s push for image sensors is also in line with the company’s goal to develop its non-memory business division, which, until now, had been relatively weak compared to its DRAM and NAND chip business. It released a plan last month to invest 133 trillion won ($112 billion) into foundry development and the System LSI division, which designs and produces non-memory chips.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]