High speed video and comparative equipment

High-speed video cameras have revolutionized the way we analyze and understand fast-moving phenomena across various fields. Whether it’s capturing the intricate movements in biomechanics, analyzing fluid dynamics, or conducting automotive crash tests, the ability to record at high frame rates provides unparalleled insights. The purpose of this comparison is to highlight the range of high-speed video cameras available, from readily accessible options to scientifically advanced models like those from Photron — a high speed camera as used in scientific applications.

Understanding the capabilities and applications of these cameras can help researchers and industry professionals make informed decisions about which equipment best suits their needs. Key considerations include resolution, frame rate, light sensitivity, and ruggedness, all of which vary significantly between models and manufacturers. This overview will shed light on why high-speed video is crucial and how different camera options meet diverse scientific and industrial requirements.

When comparing the frame rates of an Apple iPhone 15, a Sony camera, and a Photron ultra-high-speed camera, one must consider the impact on lighting as the frame rate increases. This is particularly relevant when aiming for cinematic effects, where lighting plays a crucial role in setting the tone and mood of the footage.

Apple iPhone 15:

The Apple iPhone 15 stands out with its ability to capture high-quality video at various frame rates, including an impressive 240fps for ultra-smooth slow-motion effects. While higher frame rates like this can lead to reduced light capture, the iPhone 15 counters this challenge with its advanced computational algorithms, ensuring that image quality remains consistent even in lower lighting conditions.

  • Standard Frame Rates: 24fps, 30fps (perfect for a cinematic aesthetic)
  • High Frame Rates: 60fps, 120fps, and 240fps (ideal for smooth motion and detailed slow-motion shots)
  • Low-Light Performance: Despite the potential loss of brightness at high frame rates such as 240fps, the iPhone 15’s software enhancements help to maintain image quality, making it a robust choice for high-frame-rate videography in varying lighting scenarios.
  • Versatility:  The iPhone’s light weight and small size makes the videography easy, albeit with a rolling shutter.

Sony Camera:

Sony cameras are renowned for their video capabilities and offer a range of frame rates that cater to both amateurs and professionals. The higher-end models include features that allow for better low-light performance even at higher frame rates.

  • Standard Frame Rates: 24fps, 30fps
  • High Frame Rates: Up to 960fps with certain models (for super slow-motion)
  • Low-Light Performance: Sony cameras generally handle low-light situations well, thanks to larger sensors and advanced image processing. However, as the frame rate goes up, additional lighting may be necessary to avoid underexposed footage.
  • Versatility: Modest weight, built with professional mics and functionality. A good all-purpose video camera.

Photron Ultra-High-Speed Camera:

Photron specializes in ultra-high-speed cameras that can capture thousands of frames per second. These cameras are designed for scientific and industrial applications where capturing fast events is crucial.

  • Standard Frame Rates: Not applicable (these cameras are designed for specialized use cases)
  • High Frame Rates: Ranges from thousands to millions of fps. In practical terms, 10,000 -12,500 FPS is practical.
  • Low-Light Performance: At extremely high frame rates, the amount of light captured is minimal. Therefore, intense lighting setups are often required to ensure proper exposure.
  • Multiple Camera Setup and Syncing: The Photron cameras offer the opportunity to sync the capture of an even with multiple cameras which offer unique perspectives. This could be a front view, side view or a capture of a digital display measuring an event. While something could be custom rigged with a Sony camera, the Photron Software has this feature specifically built-in.
  • Versatility: Considerable weight especially with cabling. Setups are long and need special care.

Below are some example of high speed video at the various frame rates.

30 FPS Apple Iphone 15 (updated June 19-20, 2024)

120 FPS Apple Iphone  15 (updated June 19-20, 2024)

240 FPS Apple Iphone 15 (updated June 19-20, 2024)

480 FPS

960 FPS


In summary, while all three devices—the Apple iPhone 15, Sony cameras, and Photron ultra-high-speed cameras—can achieve high frame rates, the trade-off with light sensitivity is an important consideration. Cinematic effects rely heavily on maintaining appropriate lighting, and as the frame rate increases, each device handles the reduction of light differently. The iPhone leverages software, Sony relies on sensor technology and image processing, and Photron requires external lighting solutions to compensate for the loss of light due to rapid exposures.

Blog post updated to reflect the new iPhone 15 on September 30th, 2023 with video optimization.