Samsung Galaxy S5 ISOCELL sensor has world’s smallest phase-detection pixels

by Liam McCabe

posted Friday, April 4, 2014 at 11:23 AM EDT


The first thing to do with a brand new flagship smartphone, of course, is to take it apart. The just-released Samsung Galaxy S5 got the now-traditional Chipworks teardown, and the camera components are even cooler than we previously thought.

Looking closely at the new ISOCELL sensor, making its first appearance in any device, Chipworks discovered that “phase-detection pixel pairs are distributed across nearly the entire active pixel array. This marks the smallest phase detection pixel generation [1.12µm] we’ve seen and only the second time we’ve seen them on a back-illuminated chip.” That should help with faster autofocus, especially in dim lighting, all else being equal.


The Chipworks teardown also covers other details that we’ve known for a while about the S5 and ISOCELL sensor. It's produced in-house by Samsung, marking a step away from the Sony chips that Galaxy phones have been using for the last several generations. It’s a 16-megapixel, 1/2.6-inch sensor, which is a bit larger than the typical smartphone sensor. While the ISOCELL technology differs in a few key ways, using front deep trench isolation and vertical transfer gates, it’s essentially a BSI CMOS sensor. But Samsung says the new design reduces crosstalk and increases well capacity by 30 percent each. In practical terms, that means better color accuracy, less noise, and a wider dynamic range—as we’re learning, it’s not the size of the pixels, but how you use them.

Sony has been dominating the smartphone sensor sector for years now, but Chipworks writes that "it appears that at this moment in time Samsung can go toe-to-toe with Sony and win.” More in-depth details on the camera and other components are up at Chipworks.

(Via Image Sensors World)