Understanding Samsung’s upcoming ISOCELL smartphone camera technology

In April this year i wrote about HTC’s Ultra Pixel Camera technology and what its actually meant. This was only done because HTC threw a lot of hype during its launch. It’s a public secret that i love taking pictures especially with camera phones; and being an owner of an HTC One am always disappointed with the low image resolution but impressed with its low light shoots. HTC was able to achieve this by making the pixels bigger hence allow in more light into the sensor.¬† But Samsung thinks otherwise, as it has introduced a new pixel technology for CMOS image sensors called ISOCELL. The
Korean tech giant claims this new tech can produce higher color fidelity in poor lighting conditions by increasing light sensitivity and controlling the absorption of electrons.

Okay lets try and understand this bit by bit, the quality of an image sensor is determined by the amount of light that is accurately captured by the individual pixels within the sensor array. Imagine HTC’s ultra Pixel technology implemented with a 13 or 8 Megapixel sensor instead of the 4 Megapixel that was used, that means ergonomically the camera bulge will be enormous with the current technology. So with the ongoing desire to keep, smartphones within a specific form factor size, they can’t have physically large image sensors. In current smartphone implementations in order to increase the resolution and image quality, camera sensor providers have been locked into shrinking pixels instead of making sensors bigger while improving performance at the same time.

isocell chips

Technology yet to be patented Patented

The first image sensor from Samsung to adopt this technology will be the S5K4H5YB 8MP imager that will go into mass production by the end of the year. According to Samsung:

To meet this challenge, previous sensor technology developments focused on improving the light absorption of each pixel, and have progressed pixel technology from FSI (Front Side Illumination) to BSI (Back Side Illumination) which places photodiode at the top to maximize
photoelectric efficiency, While being very effective at the time, this BSI technology also faced limitations in improving image quality as pixel sizes continued to decrease.

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Samsung’s next-generation ISOCELL pixel technology, is yet to be patented . This tech actually forms a physical barrier around each pixel so that more photons can be collected from the micro-lens and absorbed into the correct pixel’s photodiode. This pixel isolation will minimize electrical crosstalk between the pixels and allow expanded full well capacity (FWC), or the amount of charge an individual pixel can hold before saturating.


Samsung claims that when compared to conventional BSI pixels, ISOCELL pixels decrease the crosstalk by around 30 percent for a higher color fidelity, and increases the FWC by 30 percent, leading to a greater dynamic range. Even more, an image sensor using the tech can feature a 20 percent wider chief ray angle, thus reducing the actual camera module’s height. This is ideal for form factors with “challenging” low z-height requirements.


Frankly am sure we all agree that with the picture above its hard to sport the difference but Samsung insists that with the advances in pixel and process technology, we expect smartphone and tablet cameras¬† to capture and share beautiful, clear images. Am still reactant to call ISOCELL an innovation until i give it as spin. As per now we smartphone camera buffs have to wait until we actually use it. So far Samsung’s S5K4H5YB 8MP imager is currently being sampled to some few lucky
customers, and will go into mass production in later this year.