The fastest cameras have relied on what is known as a pump-probe process where light is ‘pumped’ at an object to be photographed, and then ‘probed’ for absorption, researchers said.
The main drawback to such an approach is that it requires repetitive measurements to construct an image.
The new camera is motion-based femto photography, performing single-shot bursts for image acquisition, which means it has no need for repetitive measurements.
It works via optical mapping of an object's spatial profile which varies over time. Its abilities make it 1000 times as fast as cameras it supersedes.
In addition to the extremely high frame rate, the camera also has a high pixel resolution (450 x 450).
Developed by researchers from Keio University and the University of Tokyo, the camera may be used to capture chemical reactions, lattice vibrating waves, plasma dynamics, even heat conduction, which the researchers note occurs at approximately a sixth the speed that light travels.
The team plans to make the camera smaller (currently it's about a square metre) to allow for use in more applications.
They also believe the camera could be used in a wide variety of fields such as laser processes used for making big items like car parts, or in tiny applications such as the creation of semiconductors.
A high-speed camera would allow researchers to see what is going on as the laser does its work.
The details of the camera are published in the journal Nature Photonics.