Understanding the Application for a High Speed Camera

Frames from per second camera for sports

For many, when they think of a high speed camera, they think of motion pictures or sports photography. While there are many impressive things that can be caught on film in sports and in the production of film, those applications only scratch the surface.


When applied to fields like science and engineering, high speed cameras can explode our understanding of how things move and work. A researcher can take frame by frame shots of a hummingbird in flight to show people exactly how their wings move.

High speed cameras have a significantly faster shutter speed, which allows them to capture moments. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second and may range from a full second to 1/1000th of a second. The longer the shutter is open, the more light is allowed into the lens. In full sunlight, a regular camera can take pictures with a shutter speed of 1.125th. A high speed camera, however, can take pictures at 1/8000th of a second. At that speed, a three-megapixel camera can take better pictures than the normal computer monitor can display.

Edward Muybridge was the first person to really use a high speed camera back in 1878. He took pictures of a horse galloping that allowed people to see exactly how the horse’s legs moved and whether the horse had all for feet off the ground at one time.
Laboratory research centers may have access to high speed cameras that exceed 100,000 frames per second. It is impressive just to try to wrap your brain around the idea of that many images in such a short period of time. Depending on the optical system being used in the lab, it is possible for an ultrahigh-speed camera to exceed 1 million frames per second.

Cameras working at these speeds can be used to record and observe reactions that are so fast, they are invisible to the naked eye. In 1950, a United States Army engineer named Morton Sultanoff, invented a high speed camera also known as a slow motion camera that was fast enough to record the shock wave from a small explosion.

While the need for such speeds is limited to specific fields like science, vision research, and engineering, within those fields, they are invaluable.

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