Yesterday, OmniVision Technologies Inc. introduced a new camera sensor in the form of the OV5645, a System on a Chip (SOC) device that will bring some very impressive new features to low-cost smartphones while keeping them low-cost.
The OV5645 is the followup to OmniVision's earlier release of the OV5640, a very popular chip that saw action in several cameras. As for the specifics of the update, while the OV5645 retains the MIPI port that the OV5640 offered, much of the chip has been revamped for the update. The OV5645 eliminated the JPEG compressor that the OV5640 offered, as well as the DVP interface.
But what the OV5645 brings in place of those lost systems is significant in its own right. Now included in the OV5645 is a five megapixel shooting capability as well as a built-in autofocus control system, complete with voice coil motor driver. Additionally, there's a new kind of picture-in-picture architecture that can allow a secondary camera to connect to a master camera, which provides picture-in-picture without the need for an extra MIPI interface.
On the video front, the OV5645 allows for shooting 720p video in 60 frames per second and 1080p video to be shot at 30 frames per second, while still allowing control over formatting decisions at the user level. There's even a new filter function that can remove what are known as "zigzag artifacts" from the slant edges of a shot, and keeps spatial artifacts overall to a minimum.
The elimination of some of the older, more costly features and the inclusion of the new ones allows the OV5645 to offer plenty of features, but at the same time, keep costs down for inclusion in the low-cost smartphone market. The chip will start entering mass production in the first quarter of 2013.
The low-cost smartphone market has been set to make some impressive gains for some time now, and is set to carry on with those impressive gains as far out at 2016 by some estimates. Thus it's only something of a surprise to see a company bring out a chipset geared to power the cameras on a smartphone inexpensively, as they're likely just moving with the market.
Still, it's clear that the OV5645 is a reasonably powerful system that will not only make low-cost smartphones attractive on the strength of their pricing, but also on the strength of their overall feature set. That gives the predictions of large growth in the market a lot of credence, and overall, plenty of room to succeed.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey