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This letter describes an original CMOS imaging system dedicated to human face recognition. The main interest of this work is to provide ambient light invariant images and facilitate segmentation of the face from the background. This system has been implemented in a specially designed CMOS smart image sensor with only one analog memory per pixel. This simple pixel design gives the possibility to incorporate this functionality into classic low-cost CMOS image sensors. One of its possible applications is face recognition, since the human face appearance is dramatically dependent on illumination conditions. A first indoor experience with different illumination conditions shows that a simple correlation-based verification algorithm on face images of 25 people of the INT database gives promising results.