RAW Shooting Comes To Smartphone Cameras Thanks To OmniVision Chip

Cameras have become an integral part of cellphones, and smartphones in particular simply have to have a good camera in order to look legitimate in the face of mounting competition. Just a few years ago, consumers were satisfied if their phone had any sort of camera; today, they want the camera to be of good quality. After all, no one wants their mobile uploads to Facebook or Twitter to be blurry and grainy, right?

Many of last year's smartphones were geared towards photogs, with a great number from Asian manufacturers coming with 8MP or 12MP sensors. A few of them even had optical zooms and LED flash modules, though up until now, none of them could shoot in RAW. RAW is a format that most every DSLR can shoot in, and it's a file that's larger than a compressed JPEG but easier to tweak and edit in post-processing. Professional photographers love shooting in RAW, as you can alter things like the white balance setting after the face, whereas you cannot accurately do such a thing when your shots are in JPEG.

OmniVision Technologies has delivered a groundbreaking new module that actually has the ability to bring RAW shooting to cameraphones. Announced today at Mobile World Congress, the new OV5647 is a 1/4", 5MP RAW CMOS image sensor based on the company's 1.4-micron OmniBSI backside illumination technology. This chip delivers best-in-class low light sensitivity (680-mV/lux-sec), low profile z-height and a small footprint, making it ideal for the ultra-compact camera modules used in mobile phones and notebooks. It can also handle 720p HD video at 60 frames per second (fps) and 1080p HD video at 30 fps, with complete user control over formatting and output data transfer.

The chip is currently sampling to select companies, with mass production scheduled for July. Before you know it, your phone really will be your main point and shoot camera. Who would have imagined that just a few years ago?