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We consider optimal power allocation for wireless video sensors (WVSs), including the image sensor subsystem in the system analysis. By assigning a power-rate-distortion (P-R-D) characteristic for the image sensor, we build a comprehensive P-R-D optimization framework for WVSs. For a WVS node operating under a power budget, we propose power allocation among the image sensor, compression, and transmission modules, in order to minimize the distortion of the video reconstructed at the receiver. To demonstrate the proposed optimization method, we establish a P-R-D model for an image sensor based upon a pixel level sigma-delta ( ) image sensor design that allows investigation of the tradeoff between the bit depth of the captured images and spatio-temporal characteristics of the video sequence under the power constraint. The optimization results obtained in this setting confirm that including the image sensor in the system optimization procedure can improve the overall video quality under power constraint and prolong the lifetime of the WVSs. In particular, when the available power budget for a WVS node falls below a threshold, adaptive sensing becomes necessary to ensure that the node communicates useful information about the video content while meeting its power budget.