Samsung works on a 576 MP camera, but it’s not for smartphones

Samsung, among others, has a goal: to produce a 576 MP camera by 2025, but it doesn't seem to be a solution intended for smartphones

The resolution is certainly one of those shock, wow effect ones. We've had our ear to the ground for 100 megapixels for some time, and 200 megapixels only recently, but the 500+ megapixel camera Samsung is working on was probably out of reach for the imaginations of many. But we'll get there, even if it seems unlikely that innovation will affect smartphones.

The race for megapixels has been on for years and seems unstoppable. Within a short period of time, camera manufacturers, Sony and Samsung in the lead, have developed sensors with an increasing number of megapixels, and therefore more and more resolved. However, the number of megapixels is not a guarantee of excellent quality: it is true that a larger image lends itself to pixel binning, that software trick whereby a relatively small photo (currently no more than 40 MP, often less than 20 MP) is obtained from a very large one, and this is particularly useful in low light conditions, but that number on which marketing pushes so hard says nothing about color fidelity and all those aspects that make a photo beautiful. Samsung, in fact, is not at all working on a sensor to make beautiful photos.

Samsung, target 576 megapixels in 2025

Having lots of megapixels therefore helps, but that's not all. At the same time, the evolution is galloping, and Samsung, which is one of the world's leading manufacturers of photo sensors for smartphones and cars, doesn't want to be unprepared for the challenges ahead.

Haechang Lee, who holds the position of vice president at Samsung Electronics Automotive Sensors, showed a slide at the SEMI Europe Summit showing the history of photo sensors from the 2000s to the present day. At the far end of the timeline intrigues what was marked for 2025, a 576-megapixel sensor.

Samsung's goal would be to get to that resolution within four years, when with such a resolution the company could get a 36-megapixel shot by bundling 16 pixels into one through a special pixel binning that the company calls ChameleonCell.

Not for smartphones with current technology

Judging from Lee's role at Samsung, however, the innovation wouldn't seem designed for use on smartphones, but for autonomous driving in cars. Of course, you can never say that once ready it can't end up on a smartphone, perhaps with some ad hoc modifications, but it seems that the project for a sensor with so many megapixels was not approved by the company's top management thinking about smartphones.

Moreover, its use would bring to smartphone designers problems of a practical nature almost insurmountable for the current state of technology: the surface of the sensor should be quite larger than the current one to avoid that the single pixel is too small, and then the information on light captured by each one does not end up getting confused, decreasing the quality.

Moreover, the larger surface would also bring with it an increase in thickness for reasons related to optics, so imagine a 576 MP sensor on a smartphone at the moment is complicated. All problems that, today, do not exist on a car but remain on a smartphone that must fit comfortably in a trouser pocket. But four years are a long time, especially for the fast pace of technology, so who knows.