There is considerable interest in the performance of materials during impact. The usual approach involves the application of an individual technique, such as flash X–ray. We present a new method using high–speed photography to image simultaneously the penetration behaviour and the in–plane strains at the rear surface, obtained using a find–grid technique. The approach is illustrated by analysis of the impact of a rod travelling at 540 m s−1against a polymethylmechacrylate (PMMA) block. Quantitative information is presented on the shapes and the volumes of fragmented material and the displacements of the rear surface from initial impact to full penetration. These data should stimulate mathematical modellers using hydrocode methods. The techniques have general applicability to any isotropic material.