Today Samsung has announced its new "ISOCELL Plus" technology, which aims to improve color accuracy and sharpness for the company's CMOS camera sensors. The "Plus" in this case replaces the metal grid over the photodiodes with a Fujifilm-designed material that absorbs and reflects less light, sharpening what each individual pixel can capture. That could give the upcoming Note9 or next year's Galaxy S10 even more accurate and clear photos, especially in low-light. 

Put simply: Cameras require light and the more you can capture, the better. But reducing interference between the parts of the sensor is also significant, so ISOCELL sensors have a barrier placed to separate out subpixels between the color filter and the photodiodes to reduce "crosstalk," or bleed-over between subpixels in the light that comes through. Unfortunately, that barrier can absorb and reflect a bit of light on its own, which reduces how much light hits the photodiode, and can have an impact on performance.

ISOCELL Plus uses the same pixel-isolating concept, but with a new material developed by Fujifilm which reduces reflection and absorption. It increases how much light hits the sensor, improving low-light performance and color accuracy, while still keeping that enhanced ISOCELL sharpness. Samsung claims up to a 15% improvement in light sensitivity, and it's developed the technology for use down to a scale of 0.8µm pixels. That means not only can we expect better performance at the same sensor size, but a future increase in resolution may not be at the cost of low-light performance.

For more information, you can read Samsung's full PR just below. This announcement might be a bit too short notice for the Galaxy Note9, we'll just have to wait and see, but I bet it makes it into next year's S10, at a minimum.

Press Release

Samsung Brings Enhanced Color Accuracy and Sharpness to Mobile Photos with New ISOCELL Plus Technology

Optimized pixel isolation technology enhances light sensitivity and color fidelity

Samsung Electronics, a world leader in advanced semiconductor technology, today introduced its new ‘ISOCELL Plus’ technology, which allows CMOS image sensors to capture more light, significantly increasing light sensitivity and color fidelity. Smartphone consumers can now expect even more accurate and clearer photos in challenging light environments.

To take high-quality photographs, CMOS image sensors need to hold as much light, or photons, as possible and transmit the right color information to the photodiode. Such requirements were resolved by the introduction of Samsung’s ISOCELL technology in 2013. ISOCELL forms a physical barrier between the neighboring pixels, reducing color crosstalk and expanding the full-well capacity. This enables each pixel to absorb and hold more light than the conventional backside-illuminated (BSI) image sensor design for superior image quality.

With the introduction of ISOCELL Plus, Samsung pushes pixel isolation technology to a new level through an optimized pixel architecture. In the existing pixel structure, metal grids are formed over the photodiodes to reduce interference between the pixels, which can also lead to some optical loss as metals tend to reflect and/or absorb the incoming light. For ISOCELL Plus, Samsung replaced the metal barrier with an innovative new material developed by Fujifilm, minimizing optical loss and light reflection.

“We value our strategic relationship with Samsung and would like to congratulate on the completion of the ISOCELL Plus development,” said Naoto Yanagihara, corporate vice president of Fujifilm. “This development is a remarkable milestone for us as it marks the first commercialization of our new material. Through continuous cooperation with Samsung, we anticipate to bring more meaningful innovation to mobile cameras.”

The new ISOCELL Plus delivers higher color fidelity along with up to a 15-percent enhancement in light sensitivity. The technology also enables image sensors to equip 0.8-micrometer (µm) and smaller-sized pixels without any loss in performance, making it an optimal solution for developing super-resolution cameras with over 20 megapixels.

“Through close collaboration with Fujifilm, an industry leader in imaging and information technology, we have pushed the boundaries of CMOS image sensor technology even further,” said Ben K. Hur, vice president of System LSI marketing at Samsung Electronics. “The ISOCELL Plus will not only enable the development of ultra-high-resolution sensors with incredibly small pixel dimensions, but also bring performance advancements for sensors with larger pixel designs.”

The ISOCELL Plus will be showcased at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai, held from June 27 to 29.