Smaller camera phones are on the horizon thanks to the development of a new backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, from mobile device imaging sensor manufacturer OmniVision. The OV8850 is said to be 20 percent thinner than any other 8 megapixel module currently on the market, and promises better quality images while also making improvements in power efficiency. The company's announcement has also added even more fuel to the iPhone 5 rumor mill.

The new OV8850 0.25-inch, 8 megapixel CMOS sensor is built on OmniVision's 1.1-micron OmniBSI-2 pixel architecture. In spite of its smaller footprint, the new sensor is said to deliver image output comparable to the company's previous generation of 1.4 micron OmniBSI sensors - like the one in the iPhone 4, which has lead to some speculation that this new development will find its way into Apple's next generation of iPhone - in addition to offering improved power efficiency in smaller devices.

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The sensor is reported to be capable of recording full 1080p high definition video at 30 frames per second (fps) with electronic image stabilization (EIS), with 2 x 2 binning functionality catering for 720p video (also with EIS) at 60 fps - which should help smooth out the action in fast moving scenes.

Other benefits include an on-chip temperature sensor, two phase lock loops (PLL), context switching, lens shading correction, defective pixel canceling and black sun elimination. The OV8850 supports 8- and 10-bit RAW image output, and alternate row exposure allows for high dynamic range image and video capture.

Built to fit an 8.5 x 8.5 mm autofocus camera module with a build height of 4.7 mm and likely headed for next-generation smartphones and tablets, sampling is set to start this month, with mass production scheduled for early next year.