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.

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.