updated 05:20 pm EST, Mon February 15, 2010
OmniVision OV5647 would take 10-bit photos
OmniVision today unveiled a new sensor that could provide normally unseen levels of quality for phone cameras. Although the OV5647 shoots at a strictly average 5-megapixel resolution, it has a new, back-illuminated CMOS design that can capture images in RAW. The combination both gives the camera much better sensitivity to low light but also 10-bit detail and much more control over the final output, such as its white balance.
Alongside the improved image quality, the sensor can record full-speed video at 1080p or 720p at a doubled frame rate, or 60fps. Capturing at the lower resolution actually improves image quality further by binning pixels together to take in more light. Even with the features, the OV5647 has the same surface area as a typical phone camera sensor and is actually thinner at about 0.02 inches; OmniVision expects it to fit into designer phones.
Samples are being sent to companies today, although mass production isn't due to start until July.
Partners for the sensor haven't been named and aren't certain. OmniVision is one of Apple's regular suppliers for iPhone cameras and is believed to be readying 5-megapixel iPhone sensors en masse for the summer, but the July production date would likely be too late for Apple as it normally starts assembling new iPhones in spring to ensure a healthy supply for its own summer ship date.