updated 09:40 am EDT, Thu August 4, 2011
OmniVision OV8850 caters to thin phones, tablets
OmniVision brought out a new camera sensor on Thursday that it hoped would lead to even thinner phones and tablets as well as better photo quality at the same time. Its OV8850 still shoots at the now common eight megapixels but, as the first from the company to shrink pixels down to 1.1 microns, gets a much reduced size. The autofocus elements are about 20 percent thinner and lead to a design just 4.7mm (0.19in) thick, or good enough for 'ultra-slim' devices.
The smaller pixels come along with a new overall design, OmniBSI-2, that combined provides better image quality yet again. A camera made with the OV8850 should have 35 percent better low-light sensitivity and 20 percent better peak efficiency in every color channel, leading to overall higher accuracy.
A new sensor can handle not just 1080p video at a full 30FPS, even with a full field of view, but create high dynamic range videos by alternately exposing every other row of pixels. The camera can also produce 720p video at a smoother-still 60FPS and can invoke electronic stabilization to improve the sharpness of the final image.
Test production runs of the OV8850 are starting this month, although full-scale production isn't expected until early 2012.
OmniVision hasn't named customers. Its timing rules out the OV8850 being ready for the iPhone 5 due this fall and will more likely see a predecessor reach the iPhone, such as the OV8830, instead. The OV8850's thinness might make it a candidate for the third-generation iPad if its cost and size are low enough. Other phone and tablet designers are likely to adopt the sensor as well, but Apple is often considered a primary OmniVision customer.