Samsung unveils the world’s smallest 50MP image sensor for phones

iQoo Z3
(Image credit: Bodhisatwa Ray)

Samsung has been pumping out a lot of high-resolution image sensors of late, allowing smartphones to reach never-before-seen megapixel counts. But those would often mean having a physically larger sensor, which is not always easy to incorporate into devices. 

Enter Samsung Isocell JN1, a new sensor that implements tiny 0.64μm pixels to achieve a smaller size while retaining the 50MP resolution.

Samsung calls it “the most versatile image sensor” yet, as its small size allows it to be used as the primary camera on slimmer devices, as the selfie camera, or even as a telephoto or ultra-wide lens. With an optical format of 1/2.76-inches and a Z-axis height reduction of about 10% (presumably against high-res sensors with relatively larger pixels), the Isocell JN1 takes up lesser space inside a phone. Moreover, OEMs can easily integrate it into existing designs with a standard 1/2.8-inch slot.

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As mentioned earlier, the Samsung Isocell JN1 has a native pixel size of 0.64μm — which is the industry’s smallest. As per the lighting, the sensor can shift to 1.28μm pixels by combining four adjacent pixels and create 12.5MP shots. 

While smaller sensors and pixels are known to affect the image quality and light sensitivity, Samsung maintains that the Isocell 2.0 technology on the JN1, along with other unspecified enhancements, should be able to make up for that and increase light pick-up by 16%. It basically involves using innovative materials for the barriers between individual pixels to reduce cross-talk (unwanted signal mixing) on high-resolution sensors.

Other Samsung Isocell JN1 features include Smart ISO for better dynamic range in scenarios with high contrast, and Double Super phase detection for better auto-focus performance in darker environments. Video recording capabilities include 4K at 60fps and 1080p at 120fps.

Samsung ISOCELL JN1 (Image credit: Samsung ISOCELL)

The Isocell JN1 is now in mass production, which means it should be seen on devices in the near future. OEM partners were not disclosed, but we expect to see it on mid-range smartphones.

“Samsung’s advanced pixel technologies have once again pushed boundaries with the utmost precision to develop an image sensor with the industry’s smallest pixel size, yet with powerful performance. The new Isocell JN1 at 0.64μm will be able to equip tomorrow’s sleekest smartphones with ultra-high resolution mobile photographs,” said Duckhyun Chang, executive vice president of the sensor business at Samsung Electronics. 

Aakash Jhaveri

Aakash is the engine that keeps TechRadar India running, using his experience and ideas to help consumers get to the right products via reviews, buying guides and explainers. Apart from phones, computers and cameras, he is obsessed with electric vehicles.