High-Speed Camera System Can Capture Objects Traveling at 7,500 MPH


Researchers at a California company specializing in high-speed imaging equipment have developed a camera add-on capable of freezing objects traveling at up to 7,500 miles per hour — that’s almost 10 times the speed of sound.

MetroLaser, a company based in Los Angeles suburb Laguna Hills, just announced the development of a new type of digital camera system designed to replace the high-speed film cameras still used by some automobile test tracks and others today. The process was detailed in a paper published by the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers.



The design is an adaptation of the “streak camera,” in which film moves behind a vertical slit installed behind the aperture. The process creates a long, continual composite image of the moving object. Film for such cameras is no longer manufactured, however, so the U.S. Air Force hired MetroLaser to come up with a digital replacement.

The new system relies on a moving mirror that precisely tracks the object being photographed and reflects the image onto a camera’s sensor to create a continuous image. The system could also be classified as a “schlieren camera,” in that it captures the wave of moving air pushed forward by the object being photographed.

Shotgun pellets at 790 mph.

Shotgun pellets at 790 mph.

The system works with a standard DSLR and flash, making it broadly adaptable for ballistics researchers, racetracks, aeronautical engineers and other high-speed camera users.

“The real power of this approach,” MetroLaser engineer Benjamin Buckner tells, “is that you can take almost any kind of existing camera back and fit it into a rig like this to turn it into a high-speed streak camera.”


Image credits: Photographs by MetroLaser, courtesy of SPIE

  • madmax

    Saying 7500 mph is just nonsense. I can shoot much faster moving objects on the sky with a standard camera. Speaking about angular velocity is a more correct approach.

  • GrammarNazi

    Most of us know exactly what 7,500 MPH means, and it is not nonsense.Saying “much faster moving objects” is nonsense.. And using the term “standard camera” is nonsense. Furthermore, I think you mean “in the sky” rather than “on the sky.”

  • Joey Duncan

    Not sure what crack you’ve been smoking. lol

    What objects are you shooting that travel faster than 7500mph? Also, maybe you don’t realize that these images aren’t cropped, (or close to it) They aren’t standing back 20 feet and shooting with the object barely visable. The idea is to TRACK the object and take a close, hi resolution image. I’d like to see you do that with your “standard” camera.

  • jerome

    Not sure who’s on crack here. The principle of this camera is the
    opposite of tracking (or TRACKING, as you would say). It takes a picture through a vertical frame, and
    virtually moves the sensor horizontally to expose the whole sensor over time. It cannot track, the path of the object must be pre-determined, and the camera must be triggered just before the object enters the field of view. The dotted line in the first picture is a blinking (2.5kHz) fixed light,

  • Loki

    The ISS travels at 17,247.6 MPH. You’re point is still good, I’m just sayin’