We’ve already talked about how important the camera will be on the Samsung Galaxy S9. Samsung seems keen to make us remember, and perhaps salivate as MWC (and the official launch of the Galaxy S9 and S9+) draws ever closer…
In our article (linked above) that predicted the key features of the Galaxy S9, we mentioned Samsung’s proprietary ISOCELL stacked sensor was at the centre of its strategy for their new phones.
Between the three video advertisements, Samsung teases the abilities of the upcoming phone, without ever showing the actual phone. It’s obvious that Samsung is trying to hint at the abilities of the camera on the Galaxy S9, as seen with the motif of the round hole in the “9” at the end of each video resembling the view through a round lens. What do you think?
Everything’s pretty fast, so we’re assuming its got to do with how fast the Galaxy S9 can acquire focus and how responsive the phone’s shutter is. Or maybe it’s hinting at a real telephoto option as a second lens. Now, that would be cool.
Mobile cameras have faced hardware constraints limiting them to contrast detection. Sensors detect the muddled colours at the edges of the out-of-focus subject in question and adjust the lens elements to ensure a sharp, instant transition between the colours at the edge. This poses a problem in low light, where colours are more difficult to differentiate. It also is an issue in certain scenarios like when background and foreground colours are the same. ISOCELL’s phase detection autofocus pixels promise professional-level autofocus speed and reliability in low-light and difficult situations.
Obviously hinting at the Galaxy S9’s low-light performance. See how the deer in the middle of the “9” lights up right at the end?
With current sensor technology, the low-light performance on phones is limited by the small sensor size due to ever-shrinking chassis dimensions. A quick word on camera technology: pictures are made by an aperture (the opening of the lens), the shutter speed (how long the sensor “sees” the scene) and ISO (how “sensitive” the sensor is).
I’ve worked extensively in the photography scene, and ISO is a touchy issue. Bump up the sensitivity, and you’re bound to pick up some ‘noise’. A sensor trying to take a picture of a dark scene is like a microphone trying to pick up a tiny noise – there’s bound to be some stray noise picked up. Even if the room is dead quiet, the sound of the electronics alone makes a “shhhh” noise.
Bigger cameras with bigger sensors can bump their sensitivities up with fewer consequences as the information is not sampled over a tiny area. Image stabilisation (electronic and optical) is now a staple on mobile flagships like the Galaxy S9, so longer shutter speeds like 1/2 could already be pretty sharp.
That leaves us with aperture. Many phones have pretty wide apertures of f1.8 or f1.7. Samsung’s little-known luxury clamshell smartphone, the W2018, sports the world’s widest aperture on a smartphone at f1.5, and a variable-aperture mechanism with a second setting at f2.4 in sufficient light for greater depth of field. It would be little issue to port that variable-aperture technology on to the Galaxy S9.