Watch how Fastax cameras could capture 10,000fps in the 1960s (VIDEO)
posted Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 1:15 PM EDT
These days, it seems that even affordable pocket-sized point-and-shoot cameras are capable of capturing high-speed video footage. And while putting that speed in your pocket may be a recent development, the legacy of high-speed video goes back much further than that. In fact, as far back as the 1960s, cameras were capable of capturing 10,000fps footage — like you can see in this incredible documentary of the Wollensak Fastax.
The Fastax was originally developed by Bell Labs, who managed to get the design up to 5,000fps. The design was then purchased by Wollensak, who pushed it to 10,000fps, and even 18,000fps in 8mm and 35mm versions.
This 1965 documentary shows just how they managed to get that high speed, by using a swiftly rotating prism to match the exposed image to the film as it zoomed past. However, the format was not without its idiosyncrasies. You needed vast mountains of film to capture anything but the smallest of bursts. It was powered by two 120VAC motors and apparently made a "loud almost screeching noise" when in use.
Not only was the Fastax incredible for capturing high-speed footage, but by removing the prism, it could also be converted into a streak camera.