Smart-ISO Pro takes HDR photography and bumps it up a notch by using multiple conversion gains.
Samsung is continuing its mission to make smartphone photography hard to ignore. We already know just how good smartphone cameras are thanks to AI. Samsung, though, are pushing boundaries with their ISOCELL sensor technology as well. Back in 2010, Apple introduced HDR technology with iOS 4.1. Since then, smartphone manufacturers have been trying to come up with ways to introduce better dynamic range. Now, Samsung thinks it has the answer with its new Smart-ISO Pro feature. After the break, we’ll talk about what it is and if it’s as revolutionary as they claim.
Head on over to Samsung’s official YouTube channel, and you’ll be able to see a video all about the new Smart-ISO Pro feature. Smart-ISO Pro is a new feature that will be found in Samsung’s ISOCELL sensors. These sensors are, of course, designed for their smartphones. Now, smartphones have come a long way in regards to the amount of dynamic range they have. As much as they have improved, they can still struggle when it comes to highlight and shadow detail retention. This, according to Samsung, is where Smart-ISO Pro comes into play.
What Is Smart-ISO Pro?
Most sensors, when they receive light, turn that light into voltage. This voltage output is called conversion gain. Most sensors have a fixed conversion gain. Sensors do a good job generally, but we still have issues creating images with perfect shadows and highlights. This is because you can still only expose for the shadows or highlight separately. Expose for the shadows, and highlights get blown out due to the single conversion gain. Expose for the highlight, and the shadows crush due to the single conversion gain.
What makes Smart-ISO Pro different is that the ISOCELL sensor can output two different conversion gains. AI will look at your image and determine if your shot needs high or low conversion gain based on whether the scene is well lit or dark. The third option with this ISOCELL sensor is that it can use both high and low conversion gains. This should, in theory, give you perfect shadow and highlight detail. The phone will create two images simultaneously and will merge them in-camera. Pretty sweet, right? Well, read on.
Smart-ISO Pro Is Not As Fancy As It Sounds
The Samsung marketing team has done a fine job here of making Smart-ISO Pro sound like it’s something from the future. Photographers who have been around for a while will figure out what’s going on here, though. I’m not discrediting the tech at all. It’s still pretty cool. Still, what’s going on here is that the camera is basically taking two images. One that’s exposed for the highlights, and one that’s exposed for the shadows. The camera then automatically merges the images.
This is nothing more than what we call bracketing. Bracketing in traditional cameras will allow you to capture multiple images that can then be merged later. Once combined, you get a picture with an avg exposure that retains all shadow and highlight details. The more photos in the bracket, the better the results. Traditional cameras do this by changing the shutter speed of your camera to over and underexpose the scene.
Samsung’s Smart-ISO Pro works by changing the voltage output or conversion gain of the sensor itself. Conversion gain sounds too technical. Basically, the camera is just adjusting the ISO. So, it’s just a different way to create HDR images without messing with shutter speeds. This does have benefits, of course. One issue photographers will tell you about when bracketing is motion blur. As the camera changes shutter speeds to alter the exposure, there’s a chance that it may choose a slow shutter speed. This can introduce problems. So, Smart-ISO Pro is just automatic bracketing for smartphones. It’s still cool and does offer up a new way to bracket. So, Kudos to Samsung.
Samsung Are True Innovators
It’s announcements like this that make me wish Samsung would get back into the traditional camera market. Whether that means Samsung branded cameras or just supplying sensors, it doesn’t matter. Samsung has shown their commitment to improving photography. They have pushed smartphone photography to new heights, and that’s a good thing. It means more people than ever have capable devices to create with at all times. I wish the likes of Sony had more competition as that would really spur innovation in the traditional camera space. What do you think about Smart-ISO Pro? Is it something you’d like to test out? Let us know in the comment section below.