Samsung announced a new sensor, the ISOCELL Bright HMX, a 1/1.33 inch sensor (slightly smaller than a 1-inch sensor) with a 6K video resolution and a 108mp photo resolution. Here’s why this sensor has tremendous significance for 360 cameras.
Since 2015, 360 camera video resolution has been increasing rapidly, almost double per year. It started out with the Ricoh Theta m15 at 1920 x 960, then we saw cameras such as the LG360 Cam at 2560 x 1280, and in 2016, the Samsung Gear 360 at 3840 x 1920. In 2017, we saw the Fusion at 5k and the Yi 360 VR at 5760 x 2880. Since then however, an 8K consumer 360 camera has remained elusive. The bottleneck is the sensor: 360 cameras typically use small sensors (1/2.3 inch or smaller) which have been limited to 4K resolution. With two 4K sensors, the highest resolution a 360 camera can offer is 6K.
Samsung’s ISOCELL Bright HMX sensor can capture video at 6K. It is not the first such sensor to do so — there are 6K sensors for full frame (e.g. in the Pasnasonic S1H) and Super 35 (e.g. Black Magic Pocket Cinema 6K). Larger sensors are harder to use for 360 cameras because they require proportionately larger and more expensive lenses. Moreover, larger sensors have a larger distance between the other lens, which usually means larger parallax stitching error. The Bright HMX sensor, however, can capture 6K video 30fps and at just 1/1.33 inch size, it is easier to create a lens for it. For example, Ricoh Theta Z1 was made with two 1-inch sensors (slightly larger than the Bright HMX sensor), and is barely larger than the Theta V. Because the Bright HMX sensor has 6k video resolution, it is possible to capture 8K 360 video with two Bright HMX sensors.
Bright HMX also has a high 108mp photo resolution (12,032 x 9,024). In low light, the HMX can also decrease resolution to 27mp with lower noise. A 360 camera with two Bright HMX sensors, using two circular fisheyes (9,024 x 9,024), could see a photo resolution of perhaps 122mp (stitched), almost as high as the XPhase Pro (reviewed here).
I would not be surprised if we saw a prosumer 360 camera that uses this new 6K sensor, perhaps from Insta360…? What do you think? Would you be interested in such a 360 camera, and how much would you be willing to pay for it? Let me know in the comments!