MIT’s new camera can do 1,000,000,000,000 frames per second

“You can think of it as slow motion,” Andreas Velten, a postdoctoral researcher who is a member of the design team, said during a recent technical presentation. “It is so much slow motion you can see the light itself move. This is the speed of light: there’s nothing in the universe that moves faster.”

Read the entire article at NYTimes. Here are two videos that captured traveling light shot at one trillion frames per second:

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  • imenevichian

    no they can’t… according to the video they just take a lot of pictures of a pulsating light beam with a trillionth of a second precision (which is quite impressive).

    more so, they don’t even take a whole picture at a time, but the they record line by line to form a frame and then repeat it a bunch of times.

    leaving all that behind, it is really cool what they did! it’s amazing we can actually see the light front travelling through the (light) field!

    • Global

      Exactly. I call B.S. (marketing for their project).

      This is no different than a car driving by your set up at night with high beams on, and you’re making images at 30~100 fps. If you were photographing an apple or coke bottle, you could reproduce almost exactly what we saw here.

      You could say “we are taking pictures of light traveling” — but itd be WRONG. (A.) You can’t see a photon that is traveling perpendicular to your line of sight (its not headed toward your eyes/sensor), and (B.) you don’t see photons — they are already absorbed into your eyes and are definitely NOT part of the scene you believe youre seeing (because they already scattered). So whatever you are seeing are NOT the photons moving. Thus, exactly, the same as the car moving its headlights across your slow-setup.

      The fact that his camera is high-speed doesn’t mean he is “in effect” watching individual photons pass by — simply its a high speed set up. Everything that he sees did not pass by at all. Each new bit of data is a NEW/separate/different photon than the prior one seen (already scattered long ago and absorbed by the sensor). So yeah, you can do the same thing by dragging a flash light beam across your studio and shooting any frames per second.

      Any photons that did travel the distance were invisible (until, possibly, the very last frame), which is what every photographer calls — a still.

      • Mark

        +1, nothing more to add!

      • Matt

        Keep in mind this is total bullshit marketing on’s side, not MIT. No where on the NY times article do they ever say the words “frames per second”, so keep that in mind thank you very much.
        One more pointless and wrong headline on this website.

      • Sloaah

        What??? Photorumors has one mistake (actually the same as Engadget’s) which is stating it’s fps. It’s a shutter speed of that magnitude.

        The end result is that you can observe light as it is traveling (since the shutter speed is at the speed of light). In other words, you see the photon in action, not simply the end result (what we see).

        Why is it not the same thing as dragging a flashlight? Because they are capturing the travel of a laser, which as light, goes at the speed of light. With any other camera, you can only capture the entire bottle being little up by the laser, as seen by the naked eye. You can never see the progress of the actual light itself. It really is extraordinary tech.

      • Webelieve

        Ok you photo elitist, thank you for the research paper. Get a life.

  • nik

    i’d be amazed if can do iso 1638400

  • Stefan

    how about shooting through some fog or something interesting where the light travelling would look even more fascinating. I personally don’t find it that interestingly shot or anything of the like. Maybe im just being critical….

  • Webelieve

    Weird to see a white guy with Indian accent.

    • Mooboy

      The first guy wasn’t white. The second guy didn’t have an indian accent… sounded European to me.

  • Mike

    Amazing. How much does that camera cost? And the titanium laser? And they’re still only using a Sigma lens! Guess they were about $1000 short in their funding efforts. 🙂

  • ANikonboy

    They use Nikon Lenses. couldn’t quite tell which one but i think its a DX type

  • Even MIT called it “Capturing Video at the Speed of Light”. The fact each exposure duration is so brief that they can see the pattern of light radiating is pretty impressive, but they’re not really “capturing video” at that speed — they’re interleaving multiple slower captures.

    • Rob

      The duration of the exposure doesn’t matter at all, only the incremental delay between the different exposures. You could have 1 second exposures starting one trillionth of a second apart and it would produce the same effect as 1/10000 sec exposures starting one trillionth of a second apart.

  • To me, it seems more like interlacing multiple photos to make a “picture” notice how the apple looks “CGI”, if in fact that camera had a shutter speed (computerized shutter speed) of that magnitude, we would see a simply STUNNING resolution of the picture. When the “photons” are being “photographed” it should be an entire shot, not just mealy 1 line at a time. I don’t want you to get me wrong, this tech is stunning, amazing, and revolutionary, however it is not for the sake of cameras taking a picture. I hope I explained it how it is in my tiny brain. Very interesting never the less… Michael J….

    • Rob

      What does shutter speed have to do with resolution?

      • Michael Clemmer

        My bad, I stand corrected…. I was thinking of it as something else, reviewed it again, and read some other explanations as well, makes total sense now…. Sorry, please drive thru….. Thanks… Michael…

  • Jens

    What is wrong with you guys?!? Starting to sound like 4chan here.
    This is truly awesome technology and let me explain how it works once and for all.
    The camera fps is so high it can actually see the photons traveling through space.
    The only trick here is that it just captures one pixel-line at a time.
    The laser fires, camera records one pixel-line of the scene, mirror moves, laser fires again, camera captures the next pixel-line and so on, until the whole frame is captured.
    All pixel lines are then stitched together, just like a panorama, to show the whole frame.
    It’s possible to build a camera that captures the whole frame at once but it would probably be to expensive for MIT.
    So FPS might be the wrong term here and maybe LPS (Lines Per Second) is more accurate term.

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