Ultra-Highspeed camera manufacturer Vision Research just released two new models: the Phantom TMX5010 and T3610. Capable of capturing motion at up to 1.16 million fps, these cameras feature a CMOS Backside illuminated Sensor for maximum sensitivity.
Ultra-highspeed cameras are an extension of our eyes. They allow us to observe events that would be impossible to see otherwise. However, shooting at extremely high frame rates comes at a price. Since each frame is only exposed to light for infinitely small fractions of a second, these cameras are light-hungry beasts.
As a consequence, the sensors in cameras like these require very high sensitivity. To address this problem, the new Phantom TMX5010 and T3610 feature a Backside Illuminated (BSI) sensor, a technology that greatly improves low light performances. Let’s go through the basics of how it works.
Phantom TMX5010 and T3610: Backside Illuminated Sensor
Backside Illumination is nothing new. Many traditional camera manufacturers have been relying on this technology for years, but up to this day, it has been technically difficult to implement into ultrahigh-speed cameras. With the Phantom TMX5010 and T3610, Vision Research is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
It is commonly thought that a camera’s sensitivity depends on its ISO. However, this belief is wrong. Instead, the sensitivity of a digital sensor depends on its Quantum Efficiency (QE).
In a nutshell, Quantum Efficiency measures how capable a sensor is in converting particles of light (photons) into particles of matter (electrons). A higher Quantum Efficiency results in higher sensitivity, better low-light performances, and greater dynamic range.
Many different factors affect Quantum Efficiency: one of the most important is how big the sensitive area of a pixel is. A photodiode with a bigger sensitive surface collects more photons. Thus, it has a higher Quantum Efficiency and greater sensitivity to light.
In traditional Frontside Illuminated sensors, the metal wiring sits above the photodiode, preventing part of the light from reaching the sensitive area of the pixel. Instead, in Backside Illuminated sensors the metal circuitry stands below the pixel, providing a bigger sensitive surface and a higher Quantum Efficiency.
Phantom TMX5010 and T3610 overview
The Phantom TMX5010 is the entry-level camera of the TMX-Series. It is capable of capturing motion at up to 50,725 fps with a maximum resolution of 1280×800. Resolution can be dropped to 1280×64 to reach an astonishing speed of 1.16 million fps.
The T3610 provides lower power requirements and a more compact form factor for greater flexibility when mounting the camera on a tripod or other supports. This model shares the same maximum resolution as the TMX5010, but it’s “limited” at 38,040fps. A maximum frame rate of 875,000fps is available at lower resolutions.
Technical specs in a nutshell
- 50,725 fps at 1280×800
- 1,166,660 fps at 1280 x 32
- 2×2 binned mode available
- Minimum exposure time of 95 nanoseconds
- 512GB of Internal RAM
- 10Gb Ethernet
- 17.8×17.8x 29.7 cm (without handle)
- 9.1 kg
- 38,040 fps at 1280×800
- 875,000 fps at 1280 x 32
- 2×2 binned mode available
- Minimum exposure time of 190 nanoseconds
- 256GB of Internal RAM
- 10Gb Ethernet (Optional)
- 12.7×12.7x 21 cm (without handle)
- 4.3 kg
Video shot on the Phantom T3610
Vision research released this video, themed around July 4th, and shot on the Phantom T3610:
Price and availability
Designed for many different applications, ranging from engineering to digital cinematography, these cameras can provide a very different perspective on the world. They are quite limited in resolution for imaging purposes, but that’s the price you have to pay for seeing things differently.
Talking about price, no information has been provided so far. What we know for sure is that the Phantom T3610 will start shipping in August, while the TMX5010 is already available for shipping. As usual, a very high price tag can be expected, so I would consider these to be mostly rental items.
Were you aware of the benefits of Backside Illuminated sensors? Have you ever shot on an ultrahigh-speed Phantom camera before? Share your experience in the comments below!