What to know about the New Samsung Galaxy S23’s “huge” 200MP sensor
Today Samsung unveiled its latest and greatest flagship smartphones and explained that they come packed with a seemingly incredible 200MP camera.
The three new S23 phones were unveiled at the company’s Unpacked event in San Francisco and consist of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the Galaxy S23+ and the most affordable of the trio, the Galaxy S23.
In many ways, all three phones are incremental improvements to their predecessor models, but one particularly noteworthy area in which they really bump up their specs is mobile photography.
All three phones feature a powerful new 200MP image sensor and several prosumer photo features. Among these are internal Lightroom editing for RAW photos (which they can all take).
Starting with the new sensor, called the new ISOCELL HP2, it’s something that Samsung had already previously announced in mid-January of this year.
This is the third generation sensor model with a 200Mp smartphone resolution for phones and according to Samsung, it’s the best yet.
The company claims that its improved pixel processing and binning technology lets it create “stunning” levels of mobile image quality.
Particularly, the ISOCELL HP2 is aimed strongly at being able to deliver excellent night and low-light photography. This, along with its excellent pixel-binned resolution is considered to be the main feature of these phones.
Now, as we’ve previously explained in our descriptions of other mobile phone sensors, the 200Mp resolution of a smartphone’s tiny sensor isn’t the same thing as resolution in a standalone digital camera.
Because phone sensors are so small, their individual pixels can be absurdly tiny compared to those of an average mirrorless camera (and particularly a full-frame model).
Thus, in many cases, 200MP means 200 million pixels that are individually barely a 5th or even a 10th the size of those found in a modern full-frame mirrorless or DSLR camera.
This tiny pixel size often translates to lower light absorption and lower real resolution. This is why many phone makers compensate by adding internal digital processing technologies, and by binning multiple pixels together to make larger individual “super-pixels.
The HP2 sensors do both things. In the case of pixel binning, Samsung has said that it’s using new Tetra2pixel 4×4 pixel binning technology that joins 4 individual pixels together to form larger fused 2.4μm super-pixels for a default 12.5-megapixel photo resolution.
The phone however can also group pixels in 2×2 arrangements for delivering 50MP photos with 1.2μm individual pixel size. At the phone’s full 200MP resolution, the individual pixels are just 0.6μm across.
The μm symbol stands for micrometers (one-millionth of a meter) by the way, and for a bit of comparison of how the above pixel sizes compare to standalone camera sensors, it’s good to bear in mind that the individual whole pixels in an average mirrorless or DSLR camera are between 6 and 8.4μm.
In other words, even with its largest pixel-binned super-pixels, the Galaxy S23 phones offer very small pixel sizes in their sensors. The 200MP resolution with 0.6μm pixels is more marketing gimmick than anything that you could compare to the sensor in a full camera.
These phones can also shoot 8K video and when they do so, their HP2 sensor switches over to its 50MP format with 1.2μm 2×2-binned pixels in order to prevent too much frame cropping.
The phones doubtlessly take superb low light and other photos, but their 200MP resolutions should definitely be taken with a grain of salt and certainly feature lots of internal post-processing.
Another photographic feature of the new Galaxy S23 phones is that they all include embedded Expert RAW shooting at a maximum resolution of 50MP, vs. the 12.5MP of their predecessor the Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Samsung has also thrown integrated Adobe Lightroom editing features for these RAW photos right into the new phones. This is a great detail for smartphone photographers who want to do some more serious photo shooting and editing right from the same device.
The diverse lenses on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra include the main 23mm-equivalent wide lens, a 12-megapixel, ultra-wide lens that’s 13mm-equivalent and a 10-megapixel telephoto lens that’s 70mm equivalent.
To top things off, there’s also a 10-megapixel periscope lens with 230mm equivalence in the Galaxy S23. At least on paper, all of these lenses are identical to the ones in the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The real differences are in the S23’s sensor, at least for photographic quality.
All three phones will run on Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processors, ensuring the same photo processing quality across the board for all three models.
In fact, the main differences between the three phones are in their battery power, other specs and assorted accessory features instead of their lens, sensor, or internal processing capabilities.
Samsung will be releasing the new Galaxy S23 phones in this month with different memory and storage variations. All three will be available in phantom black, cream, green or lavender options.
Price-wise, the Galaxy S23 will have a starting price of $799, the S23+ will be priced at $999 for its base version and the Galaxy S23 Ultra will retail for $1,199.