Omnivision 5-Mpixel CMOS sensor to rival CCDs in high-end camera market

SEPTEMBER 28--At Photokina in Cologne, Germany, OmniVision Technologies (Sunnyvale, CA; www.ovt.com), a supplier of CMOS image sensors for digital imaging solutions, introduced its small-scale, CMOS image sensor with 5 Mpixels, the OV5610.

SEPTEMBER 28--At Photokina in Cologne, Germany, OmniVision Technologies (Sunnyvale, CA; www.ovt.com), a supplier of CMOS image sensors for digital imaging solutions, introduced its small-scale, CMOS image sensor with 5 Mpixels, the OV5610. The OV5610 delivers the image quality of more-expensive charge-coupled devices (CCDs) and is expected to measurably reduce the cost of high-resolution digital still cameras (DSCs).

The OV5610's new architecture is based on OmniVision's recently launched OmniPixel technology. The sensor's 2.775-μm pixels allowed OmniVision to design its 5-Mpixel device with an optical format (footprint) of just 1/1.8 in., making the OV5610 small enough to meet the increasing demand for smaller, low-cost cameras with high performance.

"The OV5610 comes at the right time because by 2005 the largest segment of consumer DSCs is expected to be in the 5-Mpixel category, accounting for approximately 35% of the market," said Jason Liu, product manager at OmniVision. According to a March 2004 research report from Japanese market-research firm Techno Systems Research, worldwide sales of digital still cameras will reach 64 million units this year and surpass 76 million units in 2005.

To date, the high-end DSC market has been dominated by more expensive
CCDs because CMOS sensors have been unable to match CCDs in resolution and image quality. According to Liu, CMOS sensors lead the lower-end segment of the DSC market because of cost-effectiveness, but steady improvements in CMOS image sensors are expected to challenge CCDs in the high-end DSC market.

"OmniVision's new proprietary pixel structure diminishes dark current to unnoticeable levels, a key factor in bringing CMOS image quality to CCD levels," said Liu. "In addition, our OmniPixel technology improves the light sensitivity of the sensor resulting in a higher signal-to-noise ratio meaning the camera will perform better in low light situations. All this adds up to better performance at lower cost."

The OV5610 is in 1/1.8-in. optical format and CLCC package. It incorporates a 2592 x 1944 image array and an on-chip 10-bit A/D converter capable of operating at up to 4 frames/s in full resolution (QSXGA). OmniVision's sensor technology utilizes advanced algorithms to cancel fixed pattern noise, eliminate smearing, drastically reduce blooming, and virtually eliminate dark current. The control registers allow for flexible control of timing, polarity and operation, which, in turn, allow the engineer a great deal of freedom in product design.

The OV5610 is currently in engineering samples with key customers. Production volumes are expected to be available in November 2004, with the first 5-Mpixel cameras expected in stores as early as December.

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