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Dual Pixel AF: from DSLRs to Smartphones

Samsung’s newest 12 megapixel image sensor for smartphones is equipped with Dual Pixel autofocus technology that has been reserved for DSLR cameras.

dual pixel af samsung

The new Dual Pixel technology present in Samsung’s smartphones enables rapid auto-focus for fast photo shooting while producing premium image quality on mobile devices, even in low light situations.

The new sensor, already in mass production, is a 1.4μm-pixel-based image sensor which employs two photodiodes located on the left and right halves of a pixel, while a conventional image sensor dedicates less than five percent of its pixels, with one photodiode each that converts light particles into measurable photocurrent for phase detection.

Due to the different construction, and because each and every pixel of the Dual Pixel image sensor is capable of detecting phase differences of perceived light, significantly faster auto-focus has become possible. With such groundbreaking improvements, the image sensor ensures clear and sharp images, especially for moving objects even in poor lighting conditions.

“With 12 million pixels working as a phase detection auto-focus (PDAF) agent, the new image sensor brings professional auto-focusing performance to a mobile device,” said Ben K. Hur, Vice President of Marketing, System LSI Business at Samsung Electronics. “Consumers will be able to capture their daily events and precious moments instantly on a smartphone as the moments unfold, regardless of lighting conditions.”

Dual Pixel AF: is it a game changer for autofocus?

The image sensor has also adopted Samsung’s ISOCELL technology, which isolates the photodiodes in each pixel with a physical wall to further reduce color cross talk, maximizing the image sensor’s performance. The technology enables rapid auto-focus for fast photo shooting while producing premium image quality on mobile devices, even in low light situations.

For top-of-the-line performance while keeping the size to a minimum, the new image sensor is built with cutting-edge chip-stacking technology. The Dual Pixel image sensor stacks a 65 nanometer (nm) sensor and 28nm logic chip together to deliver, says Samsung,  outstanding photo-taking experiences in today’s sleek smartphones.

Pro Video Coalition has, in multiple occasions, mentioned the Dual Pixel AF technology from Canon, widely referred as a game changer for video. Well, it seems that Canon has company, although the new similar system appears inside a smartphone. Apparently,  Samsung, which has left the photography market, confirming the rumors from the last months, is moving towards best “phonetography”.

dual pixel af samsung

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 has the first Dual Pixel camera sensor for smartphone, ensuring incredibly fast and accurate autofocus even in low light conditions, says Samsung. The company adds that “while equipped with plenty of features and functions of DSLR cameras that allow users to capture great photos anywhere at any time, previous smartphone cameras didn’t quite stack up to DSLR cameras in terms of taking high quality photographs in low-light environments. However, the new Galaxy S7 has overcome these limitations by employing the Dual Pixel image sensor—a first for a smartphone.”

While it is true that in recent years smartphone cameras advanced and evolved in incredible ways, there is still a gap, starting with the dimension of the sensors used. This kind of statement, which I deem should be avoided, takes us back to the early days of Nokia phones, when the company claimed they could rival professional studio cameras. Smartphones are great but lets not mix apples and oranges again.


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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…
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