Cameras of smartphones have become the most important decision making factor these days. Millennials want maximum value for money, and one thing they don’t want to compromise on is the phone’s camera. Keeping in view the growing trend of smartphone photography, Chinese phone makers started increasing the number of megapixels of the camera sensors. The focus has entirely shifted from camera quality to the number of pixels now. Sony and Samsung both have introduced their sensors trying to keep a balance between the pixel quantity and quality. Their new sensors, IMX586 and GM1 offer good specs on the paper.
Phone manufacturers like OnePlus, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Samsung have been using the Sony sensors for a while. The Samsung camera sensors have also become mainstream now and Xiaomi seems to be using them in most of its phones. The Redmi Note 7 Pro recently came with the GM1 sensor. The Realme X is coming with the 64MP GW ISOCELL Samsung sensor. And just yesterday, Samsung and Redmi announced a new 108MP ISOCELL HMX Sensor.
If you are in the process of selecting a phone, and the phone comes in two options i.e. IMX586 or the Samsung GM1 camera sensor, it can leave you confused. To make a quick decision, you must learn about all the basic differences between the Sony IMX586 and Samsung GM1. That is exactly why I am making this Sony IMX586 vs Samsung GM1 comparison.
The Sony IMX586 is a 48MP stacked CMOS sensor. It uses the Quad-Bayer color arrangement to add life to the pictures. The previous sensors used classic Bayer RGB pixel pattern. The Quad-Bayer RGB pixel pattern is an extension of the RGB pattern.
The Quad-Bayer arrangement allows three modes i.e. two-exposures HDR, Quad-binning, and normal.
With these three modes, the Quad-Bayer pattern can result in very high-resolution pictures, it can perform very well in low-light conditions with the help of pixel binning, and it can high-contrast scenes with the help of two-exposures HDR. The basic idea behind Sony IMX586’s Quad-Bayer tech was to deliver great low-light pictures.
In the Quad-Bayer arrangement, each pair of pixels senses using different parameter reducing the effective resolution by 4x. This is why these sensors need to have a very high resolution. You must have seen that the Quad-Bayer sensors usually sport a 10MP or 12MP default mode. The sensors can be manually switched to the original resolution.
For example, the Sony IMX586 sensor on the Galaxy A80 is set to 3:4 mode, which captures pictures at 12.2 megapixels. These pictures have an effective resolution of 4032 x 3024 pixels.
Switching the phone’s camera to 3:4H captures pictures at a resolution of 6000 x 8000 or 8000 x 6000 pixels. At this resolution, it takes pictures at 48 million pixels, which is the original 48 MP resolution of the camera. I have also discussed this in detail in my Samsung Galaxy A80 camera review.
Camera sensor manufacturers use 0.8-micron pixel to work in a group of 4. Since these are very tiny sensors, it is possible to put them in the form of a group to achieve great results.
Using the camera in the individual sensor mode can perform at its best in the low-light conditions. That is because a single sensor is more effective when the light conditions are poor. This is also why the pixel binning mechanism helps to break it down to 12MP from 48MP.
Samsung GM1 Sensor
For the most part, the Samsung GM1 and Sony IMX586 sensors are the same. The major difference is between their tech. Samsung has its in-house tech while Sony has its own.
The Samsung GM1, GD1, GW1, and HMX sensors use the Tetracell and Tetracell Plus technology. The same kind of technology is called Quad-Bayer for Sony sensors.
Tetracell Technology, like the Quad-Bayer, combines tiny pixels of 0.8-micron to deliver light sensitivity equal to 1.6-micron pixels. The Tetracell technology also takes pixel binning into account which helps break the 48MP resolution into affective 12MP resolution by switching to a single sensor. The primary focus of Samsung’s new ISOCELL sensors is to perform better in low light conditions.
The GM1 sensor uses the typical 2×2 array to recognize colors, and it outputs collective results only. It can deliver a resolution of 4000 x 3000 only, which means 12 million pixels/12 Mega-pixels. Samsung is using Software techniques to bump this up to 48 Mega-pixels which greatly compromises on the picture quality. Samsung uses pixel interpolation to theoretically convert a picture of 12MP into 48MP and this is where the Sony IMX586 takes the lead.
Sony IMX586 vs Samsung GM1 – What’s the difference?
The Sony IMX586 has a true 48 million pixels resolution. By using the phone’s camera in 3:4H mode, you can get pictures with great details and high-sharpness. Zooming into these pictures will not lose the quality or break the pixels.
On the other hand, Samsung uses pixel interpolation to convert a 12MP picture into 48MP for its GM1 sensor. The software part here completely damages a picture. Zooming in on a picture taken by Samsung GM1 will immediately show you how it damages the quality.
The Sony IMX586, for now, is definitely a better choice over the Samsung GM1 sensor. Although both the sensors do not have a very good result when compared to a flagship phone of 2017 or 2018, those are the two best sensors you have for the existing and upcoming midrange & premium midrange devices.