It looks like Samsung is committed to escalating the smartphone megapixel war – a war it is already winning. Reports by Korean outlet ET News have confirmed that the firm’s next flagship smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, will sport a 200MP camera.
This is almost double the 108MP resolution of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, already the highest-resolution smartphone camera on the block, and more than four times the rumoured 48MP resolution of the iPhone 14, which we're expecting this September.
For those who don’t spend time poring over camera specs, the more megapixels a camera has, the more detailed an image it is capable of producing. For context, the Sony A7R IV, one of the highest-resolution professional cameras on the market right now, has a resolution of 61MP. The Fujifilm GFX 100S, a fine-art medium-format camera with a very large sensor, has 102MP.
According to ET News, Samsung Electronics' Mobile Experience (MX) division has shared the specs with its major camera partners, as well as its production plans for the phone’s expected release in 2023.
So why has Samsung put such an absurd number of pixels in a smartphone camera? It’s not just about detail, as 200MP is many more pixels than you need to print an image on a double page in a magazine. It’s to do with a process called pixel-binning, by which the sensor combines the data from multiple pixels into one. Having fewer pixels on a sensor means less resolution, but also less image noise, and therefore better performance in low light.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is going to use a sensor called ISOCELL HP1, which was announced last year, and is capable of binning 16 pixels at once. This would take it from 200MP with a pixel size of 0.64μm (micrometres), to 12.5MP – still a perfectly acceptable photo resolution – with a pixel size of 2.56μm, which is much better for light absorption.
The idea is that the sensor provides the best of both worlds. In bright conditions, it should be able to capture monster 200MP images for absolutely blistering levels of detail. And when the light gets low, you bin the majority of that resolution in favour of larger pixels that produce a much cleaner image.
According to Samsung, the sensor will also allow for capturing 8K video at 30fps with a minimal loss in field of view. Many smartphones and cameras incur a significant crop on their sensor's resolution when capturing high-quality video, which can make it difficult to get wide-angle shots.
It’s still difficult to imagine many people having much use for a memory card-clogging, processor-stuttering 200MP smartphone image, which is likely why the sensor also offers a two-by-two binning process that produces 50MP images. However, once you dig into the specs, that 200MP sensor resolution does make a little more sense.
Whatever the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra ends up looking like, it’s safe to say that it’s very likely to find its way into our best camera phones guide, though probably not our best budget camera phones guide. And if 2023 seems like a long time away, check below for the best current deals on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which offers the most megapixels you can get on a smartphone camera right now.