Capturing precious moments in everyday life has never been easier, thanks to the smartphone. Not only have mobile devices given everyone greater access to cameras that can fit in our pockets, the quality of the photos has also come leaps and bounds in recent years.
While advanced cameras have become a standard in the industry, finding ways to improve photo quality in low-light settings remains a puzzle for mobile engineers. As a leader in smartphone innovation, Samsung’s Tetrapixel technology promises to take mobile photography to the next level.
The challenge of capturing photos in low-lighting conditions
To understand how Tetrapixel technology works, it’s important to first explore the problem it aims to solve. And this starts with the image sensor.
As the component which detects and processes light coming through the camera lens, the structure of the image sensor determines the final quality of the photo. For an image sensor to produce high resolution images with intricate details and sharpness, it needs to be equipped with a large number of pixels. On the other hand, the size of each individual pixel impacts on the light-sensitivity of the image sensor – the larger the pixel, the better it is at absorbing light.
Since smartphones need to be portable, the image sensor has to be compact as well. This leaves engineers with a dilemma: increasing the number of pixels would decrease their individual size, whereas enlarging pixel size would result in a smaller pixel count. In other words, mobile image sensors usually have to sacrifice image resolution for better low-light photos, or vice versa.
Transforming pixels: How Tetrapixel technology works
What if pixels can change in size depending on the lighting condition? This was the question which led engineers to develop Tetrapixel technology. While the physical structure of the pixels can’t be altered, the engineers found a way to transform them using an advanced algorithm.
Unlike conventional RGB sensors, pixels with the same color filter are placed next to one another in groups of four in an image sensor with Tetrapixel technology. When the camera is shooting in low-light conditions, the algorithm combines information and data from each group, essentially transforming four smaller pixels into a larger pixel. In bright lighting conditions, the re-mosaic algorithm remaps the pixels into a conventional RGB pattern through an algorithm called re-mosaic algorithm to produce high-resolution photos.
Tetrapixel technology not only improves image quality in both bright and dark lighting conditions, it also improves HDR (High Dynamic Range) performance in high-contrast environments due to its unique structure. The pixels in each group have different exposure times, allowing them to capture light more precisely. When the information they collect are combined through HDR processing, the image sensor produces photos with more accurate colors with greater dynamic range.
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* Technological terms of 'Tetrapixel' were updated in July 2022