Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 comes with new image signal processor
Qualcomm has announced the latest generation of its top-end chip, the Snapdragon 820, which is expected to make its appearance in devices during the first half of 2016. It comes with the brand new Spectra camera ISP (Image Signal Processor), which it claims will make a number of improvements in image quality.
Digital cameras have an ISP that controls the imaging pipeline. Among other things, they dictate the way raw data is transformed into JPEG image output. With very few exceptions, those tasks are taken on by the main system chips in smartphones, as they typically come with an integrated ISP. Qualcomm describes its Spectra ISP as follows:
"This dual-ISP, our most advanced to date, is designed to provide superior camera image quality and experiences. Qualcomm Spectra supports the latest 14-bit sensors for a wider range of colors and more natural skin tones. You can also expect better photos through the hybrid autofocus framework and multi-sensor fusion algorithms that support next generation computational photography."
The ISP will be able to handle one 25MP or two 12MP sensors at 30 frames per second with zero shutter lag, allowing its use in dual-sensor setups like we've seen on the HTC One M8 or the ZTE Axon Pro. According to Qualcomm, support for 14-bit sensors will result in more natural skin tones on human subjects and the flexible hybrid autofocus framework and multi-sensor fusion algorithms will allow for applications in next generation computational photography.
Compared to ISPs in previous chips, the Spectra comes with improved power efficiency, better noise immunity and, thanks to improved compression techniques, higher throughput. It'll still be a few months before we see the Snapdragon 820 appear in actual devices but we are looking forward to seeing if the improved ISP specifications translate into better image quality on the next generation of high-end smartphone cameras.
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