In mobile video systems powered by battery, reducing the encoder’s compression energy consumption is critical to prolong its lifetime. Previous Energy-rate-distortion (E-R-D) optimization methods based on a software codec is not suitable for practical mobile camera systems because the energy consumption is too large and encoding rate is too low. In this paper, we propose an E-R-D model for the hardware codec based on the gate-level simulation framework to measure the switching activity and the energy consumption. From the proposed E-R-D model, an energy minimizing algorithm for mobile video camera sensor have been developed with the GOP (Group of Pictures) size and QP(Quantization Parameter) as run-time control variables. Our experimental results show that the proposed algorithm provides up to 31.76% of energy consumption saving while satisfying the rate and distortion constraints.