I've gotten interested in high speed photography. My equipment is limited - I use a DSLR and custom triggering with very short duration xenon flash to take pictures of things like popping balloons. (I open the shutter in complete darkness before popping the balloon, and use the flash discharge to freeze the motion.)

From what I've read, the edges of a popping balloon move faster than the speed of sound. Despite my best efforts, the edges of my popping balloons are always blurry. From my research, it seems that the fastest discharge I can get from a xenon flash is somewhere around 1/40,000 of a second. It seems you need to get exposures less than a microsecond to get crisp images of supersonic motion.

I sometimes put cornstarch in the balloons, and get some fascinating patterns in the cornstarch: enter image description here

I really need an air gap flash to get crisp images. Air gap flashes create bright discharges as fast as 1/2 microsecond. (1/2,000,000 of a second.)

However, what I really want to do is understand how those patterns form in the cornstarch as the balloon pops. To do that I need a high speed video camera that takes images with sub-microsecond shutterspeeds, and very rapidly. Do any commercial high speed cameras exist that can do that, and that can be rented by mere mortals? And how would I pump enough light onto my subject to expose those extremely short shutterspeed images?

I know Dr. Edgerton used moving film and revolving mirrors to create sub-microsecond images of exploding atom bombs, but those cameras weighed hundreds of kilos and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, or perhaps more.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Video is off topic. There is a separate video SE site. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eric S
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 3:31
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Video is normally off topic, but this is really about hoping to create a high speed series of stills.... \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 4:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm familiar wiht both Kronos and Phantom cameras. However most of those seem to have at most 100,000 frames/second, with unknown shutterspeeds. I'm hoping to get info from somebody who knows more detail than I've been able to glean. \$\endgroup\$
    – Duncan C
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 13:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Check out the Vela 1 flash vela.io/vela-one-high-speed-flash. claims to be able to generate 500ns flash durations along with flash bursts. A bit pricy, but possibly an alternative to xenon or spark gap flashes... \$\endgroup\$
    – BobT
    Commented Nov 16, 2018 at 23:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BobT, I've read about the vela before. You'd need multiple cameras or a camera that could take very rapid bursts of images in order to use that flash in burst mode to get separate images. That flash is also not very bright at very short durations. \$\endgroup\$
    – Duncan C
    Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 4:34

1 Answer 1


so many cams with sub microsecond shutter---photron down in 100 nano scale. problem is cost---unless this is a job, you won't like spending 20k plus. there are other ways to do this but depends on what objective is as to which way is best

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you rent these cameras? And how do you pump enough light onto the scene to expose video using sub-microsecond shutterspeeds? \$\endgroup\$
    – Duncan C
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 0:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ And can you list some brands and models? I don't know much about high speed video gear. \$\endgroup\$
    – Duncan C
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 0:23

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