Hardware is reversing, self-developed chips have become the main track, and the in-roll of mobile phone images ushered in a transition period

At the beginning of 2022, mobile phone manufacturers have been crazy about the Snapdragon 8 Gen1 processor. New products such as the moto edge X30, Xiaomi 12 Pro, Realme GT2 Pro, and Honor Magic V have been launched one after another, which is dazzling. In order to highlight the advantages of their own products, various manufacturers began to pile up materials frantically outside the chips, of which imaging hardware is an indispensable part.

A careful comparison of these models, I believe many discerning people can see that: different from the previous super-large bottom main camera + high-pixel ultra-wide-angle + periscope telephoto optimal configuration combination, this year’s new product “super-large bottom main camera + ultra-wide-angle lens” “+Portrait lens” has become the mainstream, and various brands no longer chase the competition of pixel values, 50 million pixel optical hardware has become a sweet pastry, and the periscope telephoto lens seems to have not appeared for a long time.

Out of a responsible attitude, Brother Quan checked the imaging hardware of these flagship phones. Among them, IMX707, IMX766, and OV50A shoulder the heavy responsibility of imaging in the main camera lens of the outsole. In terms of camera and ultra-wide-angle lens, Samsung JN1 has become the first choice of manufacturers. So the question is, why is the Samsung JN1 so popular, and what kind of industry change signal is revealed behind the disappearing periscope telephoto lens?

Small size and high pixel size, Samsung JN1 is favored

The sensor size of the Samsung JN1 is 1/2.76 inch, with a direct output of 50 million pixels and a single pixel area of ​​0.64 μm. It supports four-in-one pixel technology and can shoot 4K 60-frame video. By improving the pixel structure, the Samsung JN1 sensor can make full use of the acceptable light, thereby reducing light loss and outputting high-quality image quality.

At the same time, due to the small size of the sensor, the Samsung JN1 can further save internal space and reduce the protrusion of the rear lens, making the body thinner and lighter. While ISOCELL 2.0 technology can reduce crosstalk and improve light-gathering ability, dual super focus technology can double the number of pixels used for autofocus under the same pixel condition. This means that when using the Samsung JN1 as a portrait and ultra-wide-angle lens, the focus and image quality experience will be better.

From the perspective of paper strength, the area of ​​Samsung JN1 sensor is far less than the Sony IMX586 sensor that was popular in previous years. For example, when Xiaomi Mi 12 Pro uses it as an ultra-wide-angle lens, the set aperture value is F2.2, which means that the mobile phone is ultra-wide-angle. When taking pictures in this mode, the amount of light that can be captured is small, and imaging in night scenes and low-light environments will easily cause blurring of the picture due to insufficient light. Coupled with the lack of OIS optical image stabilization, ordinary consumers are prone to blurring when taking pictures by hand. For the actual imaging effect, manufacturers need to compensate at the algorithm level outside the hardware.

So, why are manufacturers keen to introduce the Samsung JN1 sensor just because of its small size? Of course it won’t be that simple. As we all know, the homogenization of smartphones has been serious in recent years. In order to establish an advantageous selling point in the imaging track, upgrading the auxiliary camera lens and promoting it in the name of multiple main cameras has become one of the marketing strategies. For example, the IMX766+IMX598 combination on iQOO 8 Pro, the super wide-angle lens is replaced by the flagship CMOS, it is easy for consumers to change their impression of the product and increase their desire to buy.

In contrast, other brand products such as 8MP/5MP sub-cameras will be regarded by consumers as “to make up the number”, in order to cope with the market pressure brought by multi-main camera models and further reduce the sales of Snapdragon 8 Gen1 models. If the price is too low, manufacturers need to look for “substitutes” with small bottom, low picture quality but high pixels. There is no doubt that Samsung JN1 is this type of CMOS. For most consumers, what they can understand is more intuitive pixel digital propaganda. For example, the Xiaomi Mi 12 Pro is equipped with three 50-megapixel lenses, which is easy to win the favor of users.

Although the reference of the small-bottomed high-pixel sensor will cause consumers to make incorrect value judgments on the product, it cannot be said that this “substitution” strategy is fraudulent. After all, the Samsung JN1 can still meet the daily photography needs under good light conditions, but it is not a technological advancement.

Why are periscope telephoto lenses absent one after another?

Recently, the digital chat station of the whistleblower said: This year, the imaging hardware of many high-priced models is shrinking, and the free-form lens, periscope telephoto, and five-axis VIS image stabilization have been “cut” one after another. Brother Quan noticed that the “periscope telephoto lens” that once made manufacturers proud does not appear in the Realme GT2 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 12 Pro, and Honor Magic V models launched this year. On the other hand, it will be launched in the second half of 2021. The periscope telephoto lens can be seen in the vivo X70 Pro+, Xiaomi MIX 4, Honor Magic3 Pro, and Huawei P50 Pro models. Interestingly, although the telephoto lens has been cut off, the price of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen1 has not dropped much. Why does the mobile phone imaging hardware stack start to “regress” in 2022?

According to the circle, the main reason is that the polishing of the super-bottom main camera is becoming more and more mature. In the 2X and 3X usage scenarios that are most widely used by consumers, the resolution brought by the high-pixel main camera is enough to support consumers to zoom in and view the imaging proofs. As shown in the picture, the fountains and buildings captured by the vivo X70 Pro+ main camera lens are clearly visible after enlarging the picture. “Telescope” effect, but after all, the need for taking pictures with 100X zoom is only a few.

Moreover, with the increasingly thin and light development of smart phones, the internal space of mobile phones is very valuable. In order to achieve better and longer zooming effect of periscope telephoto lens, it is necessary to use the principle of flat plate to fold the optical path, and design the lens horizontally. Due to the expensive hardware costs, manufacturers have to choose between “telephoto” and “light and thin”.

In addition, due to well-known reasons, Huawei’s mobile phone market share has shrunk significantly. The P series and Mate series, which were once addicted to imaging hardware stacking, have limited influence on the current industry, and the competitive market pressure faced by other manufacturers has been greatly reduced. With rising costs, in order to stabilize the price of Snapdragon 8 Gen1 products, mobile phone manufacturers need to find alternatives such as Samsung JN1, or directly ban periscope telephoto lenses that are expensive, large and have few usage scenarios.

Finally, it seems that the periscope telephoto lens is gradually fading out of consumers’ vision, which is more like a change in product strategy. In 2022, the leading manufacturers represented by Xiaomi, vivo, OPPO, and Honor have basically determined the two main product lines of “folding screen + high-end flagship”. Distinguish top-of-the-line flagships from high-end products. However, in today’s increasingly mature supply chain technology, it is quite difficult to realize the iteration of hardware functions, and the periscope telephoto lens has been singled out by manufacturers as a selling point with obvious advantages.

Looking beyond a single brand product, Quan Ge believes that the popularity of Samsung JN1 in 2022 and the lack of telephoto lenses mean that the development of the smartphone industry imaging track will usher in a new transition period. The development of hardware technology requires a period of time. Before the emergence of new technology nodes, manufacturers no longer pursue hardware stacking without thinking, but instead turn the core of competition to the level of software algorithms and self-developed chips.

In 2021, the V1, Mariana X, and Xiaomi Surging C1 image chips will be commercially launched one after another, which is the proof of this transformation. How to adjust the natural texture, clear and bright, accurate color and distinctive imaging under the limited hardware Proofs, how to achieve shooting functions and experiences that no one has and no one has in the same shooting scene, and mastering the core voice at the soft level have become strategic points that manufacturers need to think about. For consumers, this change is not necessarily a bad thing. If the imaging effect is excellent and the body light and thin can be taken into account at the same time, why not do it?

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