Catching Equipment Problems in the Blink of an Eye

Written By: Colin Shipley

Everyone has seen at least one high-speed video before. Most of them involve a bullet going through something, causing the object to explode in slow-motion. I assure you there is more to high-speed video than things blowing up. In industries with high-speed equipment, it can mean the difference between an impossible to spot problem and one that is clear as day.

These cameras have come in handy during testing of several of our robotics projects. When the equipment we’re building is required to run faster than what the naked eye can see, catching a troublesome issue can be a monstrous task. To help ease this problem, there are new digital cameras on the market with slow-motion recording modes for under $300, and these cameras are available for purchase at many of your local electronics stores.

However, not all slow motion is created the same. Most of the cameras I found at one Best Buy store ran at 240 frames per second (fps). Most videos play back at about 29-30 fps. This means that one second of recorded time takes eight seconds to play back. There is one camera out there that allows up to 1000 fps, which equates to 33 seconds of playback for one second of recording time!

What to Know Before You Buy

There are a few factors to consider when buying a camera that will affect the video. First is the optical lens; try to get the highest zoom from the lens possible. This will allow for a close-up of the action without losing quality. The image sensor should be in the range of 10 to 20 megapixels. Any lower and the video will look grainy on a computer screen. Any larger and it affects the shutter rate (makes it stay open longer) by requiring more light. It is better to lean toward the higher pixel count when looking to do high-speed video.

High-Speed Camera from Casio

The Casio EX-ZR100 High-Speed Camera

The widest selection of compact cameras with slow motion mode is provided by Canon. I would recommend the Canon PowerShot ELPH 310 HS which retails for $259. This comes with an 8x optical zoom and 12.1 Megapixels. There are plenty of other features that also make this a very handy camera to have. In case you need the 1000 fps video mode, the Casio EX-ZR100 is great! It retails for about $300 online only, but I have had difficulty confirming availability of this camera.


As for accessories, there are two I would insist on purchasing with either of these two cameras. The first is a memory card with a class 10 rating (10Mb/s date rate or more), so the video can move to the card quickly without slowing down the camera. The second is either a small flexible tripod for small spaces or a standard tripod if space is not an issue.

I find the flexible tripod to be very handy and can be placed on almost anything to get the perfect angle. I have even put one inside a robotic cell and let it run so I could get an inside view. The hardest part is getting enough light on the subject so it is clear what is happening, but I usually use a couple of large directed light sources to help illuminate the subject and counteract this.


If you’re going to purchase a high-speed video camera, make sure it has high optical zoom, as well as 10 to 20 megapixels, and can film at least 240 frames per second (fps). Key accessories include a tripod and a memory card with at least a class 10 rating.

Best of luck in your search for the right high-speed camera!

Colin Shipley is Senior Automation Engineer at Bastian Solutions’ robotics division in St. Louis, Missouri.

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