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  • Technology Close-Up: Fast Cameras Meet the Need for Speed

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2000
Don Thomas, Redlake Imaging Corp.

Every weekend, all over the world, millions of people relax at home by watching televised sporting events. Often, slow-motion instant replay allows viewers to observe an event that was too fast for the eye to see, providing detail that may cause an observer to change his or her opinion of what occurred.

This process is known as motion analysis. The viewer can see that the football player did make it into the end zone, that the race cars did touch at high speed, causing the crash, and can distinguish details of many other fast sports events that were a blur in real time.

What if we could simplify our work environment by "seeing" the problems caused by fast events that we face daily in manufacturing, research, testing and related environments? We can, with the right camera technology.

The slow-motion instant replay that you see on televised sports programs is typically standard video shot at 30 frames per second and played on a frame-by-frame basis. This is adequate for most sports, but not for most high-speed industrial, test and research applications. For these applications faster, more exotic cameras are often required.

The challenge is to find the right camera technology for the right application. Frame rates range from 50 to millions of frames per second, and prices range from approximately $10,000 to $150,000 per camera. The application -- what you need to see and/or measure -- generally determines the best technology.

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