The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the best smartphone Samsung has on offer right now. As you’d expect, it packs some of the best smartphone hardware out there, including top-of-the-line SoCs from Qualcomm and Samsung, a brilliant QHD+ 120Hz AMOLED display with a peak brightness of 1500 nits, up to 16GB of RAM, and an impressive camera setup. The device features a 108MP primary camera, a 12MP ultra-wide-angle camera, two 10MP telephoto cameras (3X and 10X optical zoom), and a 40MP selfie camera. While it may seem like the Galaxy S21 Ultra features the same primary sensor as its predecessor, Samsung has now confirmed that the device packs its latest 108MP ISOCELL HM3 sensor.
The ISOCELL HM3 sensor is the latest addition to Samsung’s 108MP ISOCELL product lineup, which follows the 0.7μm-pixel ISOCELL HM2 sensor from last year. But unlike the ISOCELL HM2, the ISOCELL HM3 has a larger 0.8μm pixel size. The 1/1.33″ sensor packs several new technologies designed to deliver great autofocus performance, dynamic range, and low-light capabilities on the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Here’s a quick rundown of everything new in the latest 108MP sensor from Samsung:
- Super PD Plus: Adds AF-optimized micro-lenses over the phase detection focusing agents to increase the accuracy of the agents by 50%. This enhanced phase detection auto-focusing (PDAF) solution ensures that moving objects remain in focus and the sensor can deliver optimum results in dark environments.
- Smart ISO Pro: For mixed lighting conditions, the ISOCELL HM3 sensor uses a high-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging technology called Smart ISO Pro. The technology uses an intra-scene dual conversion gain (iDCG) solution to simultaneously capture a frame in both high and low ISO. These frames are then merged into a single image in 12-bit color depth and with reduced noise. Since Smart ISO Pro doesn’t capture multiple exposure shots to create a standard HDR image, it can significantly reduce motion artifacts in images. Additionally, a low-noise mode improves light sensitivity by 50-percent to capture brighter and clearer results in low-light environments.
- New pixel layout: The ISOCELL HM3’s pixel layout is arranged in three-bby-three single color structures that are suitable for nine-pixel binning. By binning nine neighboring pixels, the HM3 mimics a 12MP sensor with large 2.4 μm-pixels. This heightens light sensitivity in low-light environments. Thanks to an improved binning hardware IP, the HM3 also supports seamless transitions between the 108MP and 12MP modes.
- ISOCELL HM3’s design has also been optimized to reduce energy usage in the preview mode by 6.5%, offering better power efficiency on the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The ISOCELL HM3 sensor on the Galaxy S21 Ultra supports up to 10fps image capture at full 108MP resolution and up to 90fps at 12MP. For video, the sensor supports 30fps at 8K resolution, 120fps at 4K, and 240fps at 1080p. The sensor also supports RAW8 (using DPCM/PCM compression), RAW10, and RAW12 output formats.
While the new features may sound impressive, it’s worth noting that the ISOCELL HM3 only offers marginal improvements in image sensor functionality over the ISOCELL HM1. Nonetheless, we’re curious to see how these improvements help the Galaxy S21 Ultra deliver better results than its predecessor.