Manufacturers seem to be getting tired of the megapixel war. The positive side of this race is that we now have sensors of considerable size, and that is that the size of the sensor itself is more important than the resolution it offers. The next step seems to be bet on own image processing units, either by programming the NPU (Neural Processing Unit) with algorithms dedicated to image processing or creating your own photo ISP: the image processor.
The giants in mobile territory, above all those who have come from China, they are betting little by little on their own ISP (Image Signal Processor) and support in the NPU, two successes at a technical level that, as always, cannot shine if the processing algorithms are not brilliant.
A proprietary ISP to control the processing
Xiaomi gave the surprise with the Surge C1, its own coprocessor to enhance the photography of the Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold. This folding came with the Snapdragon 888, which already has the Spectra 580 as an ISP, but Xiaomi added this coprocessor to regulate photographic behavior.
Although the processors already have their own ISP, the manufacturers are betting on their own chips to leave the processing in their charge
According to the manufacturer, this chip attached to the board is responsible for controlling the white balance, automatic exposure and the camera’s focus. In other words, extra hardware to customize the final result to your liking.
More recently we have seen a major move by OPPO with its Marisilicon, the company’s first photographic chip. It is an NPU oriented to image processing, focusing on energy efficiency, RAW capture with minimal loss of quality and support the real-time processing of 4K video, both in HDR and in night mode.
This hardware deployment will serve to support the alleged Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that will mount the OPPO Find X4, with your corresponding ISP. Again, an important move to control photographic behavior through support of proprietary hardware.
Vivo, recently landed in Spain, does not want to be left behind either, presenting last September its V1, ISP that debuted in the I live X70. It is a chip oriented to photographic processing and that, specifically in the Vivo X70 +, seems to deliver top-notch results.
This idea is not new, but with the new sensors it begins to make more sense
The idea of using an NPU or relying on your own hardware to enhance photographic results is not new. Huawei, with its Mate 10, was already selling us the benefits of the NPU of the Kirin 970 in 2017. On a practical level it was not noticed too much, but it has been years since these types of steps have been taken.
2022 is at hand, and we meet at a critical moment at the hardware level. The new Snapdragon release architecture, MediaTek bets on a Dimensity 9000 more than promising and These processors, together with their own ISPs, is a good combination.
As usual, It is up to the manufacturer whether their processing algorithms are brilliant or not, and it is that the artillery in hardware is of little use if the software does not accompany processing images. Be that as it may, 2022 is set to be a promising year in photography.