New High Speed Camera Can Literally Capture the Speed of Lasers and More

digital cameraExpanding upon an already revolutionary camera, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have developed one of the the fastest, highest-quality picture-taking cameras in the world. According to, the same researchers had previously developed a “streak camera,” which was already one of the fastest cameras in the world and capable of capturing image at speeds of 100 billion frames per second in a single exposure. Apparently, they’ve now taken it to another level.

“This is a step above something that was already exciting,” said the study’s senior author, Lihong Wang, an applied physicist at Washington University. “Neural signals can propagate along nerves at speeds of over 100 meters per second (223 mph). That kind of speed is too high for any current cameras to capture. We hope we can use our system to study neural networks to understand how the brain works.”

The previous camera was the fastest receive-only camera in the world, the new camera uses a technique known as compressed ultrafast photography, which also boosted the resolution by about 2.4 times, according to Wang.

This new camera is so fast it can actually capture laser pulses, which last a mere picoseconds or trillionths of a second long. The most expensive camera ever sold was a rare 1923 Leica camera, which went for $2.8 million at auction in Vienna. It’s unclear how much these high-tech devices will cost if they make it to the public market, and while they likely won’t match those kind of numbers, chances are they’ll be pretty pricey in their own right. That’s probably out of reach for the typical professional photographer making about $18 an hour, according to 2013 statistics.

Some of the areas in which the researchers believe this new camera technology will be especially useful include biochemical reactions that occur within cells, combustion-engine fuel efficiency, and the ability to combine it with microscopes or telescopes.

The researchers detailed their findings in the June 30 edition of the journal Optica.

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