Samsung has announced a new advanced pixel technology for CMOS image sensors called ISOCELL that it promises will get higher color fidelity in poor lighting conditions. This new technology has currently been developed for use in an 8MP camera, and it's scheduled to enter mass production in Q4 2013. We can reasonably expect this advancement to appear in future Galaxy products down the road.

Samsung

The flower on the right shows more yellows than the one on the left, a detail that makes more of a difference once you pan out to view the entire image (an option we unfortunately don't have with the one picture Samsung provided). The photo obviously doesn't capture all of the flower's details, but it highlights the industry's steady march in that direction.

The competition here is tough, and the various contestants are quickly making progress. While the Nokia Lumia 1020 is packing enough to win in any megapixel-measuring contest, most phones would rather make the trade off for smaller cameras. The new iPhone 5S has the same number of megapixels as its predecessor (eight), but Apple improved the quality of each pixel in order to create a better camera. Before that, HTC put the ruler down and decided it wasn't going to push megapixels at all, instead releasing an image sensor that took lower-resolution images capable of pulling in more light. The Galaxy S4 has a 13MP camera, but it looks like the next model could also move in the opposite direction.

For all the details, here's the press release in full:

Samsung Launches ISOCELL: Innovative Image Sensor Technology for Premium Mobile Devices

September 24, 2013 | 2 Comments | Tomorrow Works

Samsung Electronics announced its new advanced pixel technology for CMOS image sensors, ISOCELL. This new technology substantially increases light sensitivity and effectively controls the absorption of electrons, resulting in higher color fidelity even in poor lighting conditions. ISOCELL improves the image quality and enhances the user experience of premium smartphones and tablets that integrate sensors with this exciting new technology.

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. With the market pressure to increase camera resolution and image quality, without growing the camera size, the pixels have had to shrink, while improving their performance at the same time – a challenging task.

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.

Building on these past advances and continuing the push toward higher quality image sensors for mobile devices, Samsung has developed ISOCELL the next generation of pixel technology, which is patent pending. ISOCELL technology forms a physical barrier between neighboring pixels – isolating the pixel. This isolation enables more photons to be collected from the micro-lens and absorbed into the correct pixel’s photodiode minimizing undesired electrical crosstalk between pixels and allowing expanded full well capacity (FWC). 

Compared to conventional BSI pixels, the ISOCELL pixels decrease the crosstalk by approximately 30 percent which results in higher color fidelity to reproduce the original color with sharpness and richness, and increase the full well capacity (FWC) by 30 percent which leads to greater dynamic range.

Additionally, an imager designed with ISOCELL can feature a 20 percent wider chief ray angle (CRA), reducing the height of the camera module. This makes it suitable for slim and small form factor mobile devices with challenging low z-height requirements. 

As the first Samsung image sensor to adopt this new technology, the S5K4H5YB 8Megapixel imager utilizes a 1.12um ISOCELL pixel and has a 1/4inch optical format. The S5K4H5YB is currently sampling to customers with mass production scheduled for Q4 2013.

According to market research firm Techno System Research, in 2014, approximately 66 percent of smartphones will feature image sensors with 8Mp or higher resolution.