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Flash bulb addiction
Old 06-25-2017   #1
Robert Lai
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Flash bulb addiction

OK, my name is Robert, and I'm hooked on flash bulbs. Yes, flash bulbs.
Why?
Sheer freaking POWER!

It started when I took to hiking in the woods, taking pictures. Unfortunately, with the powerful sun here in Arkansas, there are deeply shaded areas mixed with brighly lit tree tops. So, I then tried my most powerful electronic flash, and it was an improvement. But, it didn't seem to be enough.

Then I discovered the Nikon BC-7.
Takes bayonet base (e.g. #5)
Miniature base (M2, M3).
and all glass (AG-1) bulbs.

Uses a #504 15V battery, which I obtained online.
Plugs directly into the hot shoe of your Nikon F, or F2. These have the contact at the rear of the shoe.
Using an adapter, you can also plug it into your rangefinder Nikon (S3, SP, etc). The rangefinder Nikons have the contact at the front of the shoe.
Adapter AS-2 lets you mount the flash onto any conventional ISO hot shoe.

Adapter AS-3 lets you use this on the F3.

For completion, AS-1 lets you use a regular flash on your F or F2.
AS-4 lets you use ISO foot flash on your F3.
Yes, I've got all these adapters. I told you I was an addict!

Info page on Nikon adapters: http://mir.com.my/rb/photography/har...pler/index.htm

The BC-7 lets you adjust the beam for 35mm lens coverage, and for 45mm lens coverage (the famous Guide Number Nikkor lens).

Using the AS-2, and a Safe voltage hot shoe adapter (e.g. Wein sync safe, but I use a Vello product that is less than half the price of the Wein), I tested it out using my Fuji GS645's hot shoe, with an M3B bulb.

HOLY FREAKING!!!!!

It's blinding, even at 15 feet away.
I now understand why the old photo books say to take portraits 10-15 feet away, and to use a 90mm or 135mm lens. Your victims don't want to get too close to the flash bulb.
Plus, tell them not to stare at the camera:
1) prevents red eye
2) prevents them from being temporarily blinded for 5 minutes.

I was the subject of my initial tests, not due to vanity, but because I was using my Gossen Luna Pro F in flashmeter mode to see what f/stops I should be using.

There is a difference in guide numbers between the 35mm and 45mm reflector settings.
Guide number was 160 for ISO 160 (Portra 160) at the 45mm setting. Handy, eh?
Guide number 140 for 35mm setting (Portra 160)
Note, this is much lower than the guide number on the box of bulbs, so I'll have to see when the film comes back which is accurate - box or the Gossen Luna Pro F.
Note #2 - the flashmeter is correct.

I also tried not hooking up the reflector at all, to see if it would cover a 28mm lens. Guide number then is 125.

Finally, I had to push it to the limit.
Nikon F with an 18mm lens, and bare bulb (no reflector).
Guide number 100 (f/6.7 at 15 feet, 160 ISO).

For off camera use, there is a handy extension cord that plugs into the BC-7, and the other end has a standard PC socket.
This is the way I use this flash unit now, as I mount it on a flash bracket when i'm not using a Nikon F or F2 camera.

Chapter 2 - Infrared. While I was taking pictures in the woods, I also tried out Rollei IR400 film, rated at EI 25. I used a Cokin A007 filter (equivalent to 89B), and just held it in front of the lens of my Fuji GS645.
I must say that for IR work, rangefinders are ideal. You can't see anything through an SLR with an IR filter on.

Results from the hot Arkansas sunlight was amazing!
White trees! Shadow detailed opened up a lot.

But, I want more.
I want infrared fill in flash!
Electronic flash is useless, as most of the output will be blocked by the IR filter.
Why not flash bulbs? They generate tons of heat, therefore infrared energy.

I used the M3 (clear bulbs) this time around. Not knowing what guide number to use, I just used the number on the box for ISO 10. I figured that at least 1/2 the light has got to be wasted as the visible light portion. The rest should be my IR light.

I tried this out today with my M4-2. The beauty of the Leicas until the M6 is that they give you both an M sync port as well as an X sync port (as well as a hot shoe from M4-2 upwards).
You can actually use both flash units together, simultaneously!!!
Think of the possibilities.
Use the electronic flash for (non-IR) lighting up your subject.
Use the bulb flash to light up the background.

Anyway, I climbed up hill and dale today with my M4-2, the Nikon BC-7 and AS-2 adapter, M3 clear bulbs, and Gitzo tripod at hand.
Lens was 35mm Summicron ASPH with a B+W IR filter installed.
I got tired of slapping that Cokin IR filter in front of the lens all the time.
Rollei IR400 film.

While I was finishing off my Portra 160 roll, I did try some bare bulb photography with a 21mm f/2.8 ZM Biogon, using M3B bulbs.

Spent bulbs were placed in a small cardboard box that I carried with me, until I could find a garbage container to discard them into.

I haven't finished the roll yet, so I don't know if this is a total folly or not.
I notice that the Leica instructions say that you can use up to 1/125 shutter speed with M synch and an M3 bulb. However, since I did my testing at 1/30 shutter speed, I kept to that speed.

Chapter 3 - MORE POWER.
As nice as the Nikon BC-7 flash unit is, it won't take those Mazda base bulbs. The screw base bulbs that look like a 25 W incandescent light bulb.
Bulbs like the Press 40, or even more powerful ones.

So, I just bought a Minicam Synchro Junior LBC. This is a batttery - capacitor unit that can accommodate the Mazda base bulbs as well as the bayonet bulbs. As well, I've got a bunch of #5 and #6 (focal plane) bulbs coming to me, in clear and blue versions. If this unit works, I'll then try those bigger bulbs!!!

I can't afford a Corvette to feed my middle age crisis, but I can get flash bulbs.

Anyone else who uses flash bulbs, please share tips, encouragements, and photos.
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Old 06-25-2017   #2
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Wow, sounds great. Please post some results. I thought only cavers were still using flash bulbs - for the same reason as you are excited about the bulbs, as they need the power to light up some huge caverns. They best example of sheer flash bulb power is O. Winston Link's book The Last Steam Railroad in America which shows his giant, homemade flash setups.
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Old 06-25-2017   #3
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I have not used flash bulbs since my Brownie Starflash, but I'm intrigued by them. Not enough to try though.

Quote:
As nice as the Nikon BC-7 flash unit is, it won't take those Mazda base bulbs. The screw base bulbs that look like a 25 W incandescent light bulb.
My dad used to use screw-base bulbs with his Kodak Monitor and Tourist cameras. The ones I remember were kind of the size and shape of an appliance bulb. A prank my brothers learned was to replace the bulb in a table lamp with one of these and wait for an unsuspecting person to turn it on.

One thing I noticed was that these old honker flashbulbs used to scare the cat we had back then. Nowadays with the strobe flashes I have and use when I have to, the cats I have don't seem to care at all. I suspect it was the power and the duration of the flash that made the difference.
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Old 06-25-2017   #4
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I still have a lot of bulbs, although I haven't used them in a few years. Press 25 bulbs, mostly, but a few of those larger ones too with the screw-in bases. I cleaned out a couple very old camera stores about 25 years ago, and took home whatever they had left. I think I have more bulbs than anyone in the Chicago area!

I don't do portraits. Instead, I do open flash setups with the camera in "B" and three or four bulbs flashed depending on the size of the subject. For a long time, I used an old flash unit with a reflector that opened up like a fan, but when batteries became hard to find I switched to an old Brownie-style flash reflector which used C batteries. I just short the two terminal pins with a coin to make it flash.

The smell of the melted plastic coating on the bulbs is one I'll never forget!
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Old 06-25-2017   #5
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Hi Guys,
Well, it is going to be a while before I get done with this roll of IR film. Setting up, and then finally taking the picture takes some time. I was wondering why I just didn't use a 4x5 view camera instead, as it would give me shifts to keep trees vertical.

Hmmmm.....
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Old 06-25-2017   #6
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I remember as a child, at every family gathering, all of us kids would be lined up by aunts and uncles who would then take our pictures with flash bulbs. We were no 10 - 15 feet away and we had to look at the camera with our eyes open. We always dreaded it. I remember walking away afterwards, seeing a blue dot before me for some time, as my eyes gradually recovered.

I have some flash bulbs around, myself, but I so rarely use flash in any form, that I haven't been moved to use them.

- Murray
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Old 06-25-2017   #7
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Cool addiction. Can we see some sample images? Thanks.



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Old 06-25-2017   #8
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Sorry, no samples yet. I'm sending off the Portra 160 roll to get developed. Then I need to figure out how to get images on here.
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Old 06-25-2017   #9
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I've got to say I like that sizzle sound and smell when you fire a flashbulb.

I worked for the department of energy in the mid 70's and like all government agencies we were on the cutting edge of technology. We were still using 4x5 speed graphics and press 25 flashbulbs. I used many cases of them over the year and a half I worked for them.

I used bulbs regularly through the 70's into the 80's. I lit a lot of interiors in industrial settings with bulbs. For interiors I mainly used #3 and 3B's.

When I was at the DOE I did some ultra high speed motion picture work. I shot many assignments at 44,000 frames per second looking at explosive detonations. To give you an idea of how fast this is the shutter speed was 1/100,000 of a second and 400 ft of film would go through the camera in 1/10 of a second. Fast? Yes! I used either #3 or FF33 bulbs. The prows peak of the #3 was plenty long but required precise timing to trigger the bulb. The FF33 put out about the same amount of light but the peak was 1.75 seconds. It was much easier to sync with the event.

I still use a few 5's and 25's. Bulbs in a large polished reflector have a different look than electronic flask and put out a tremendous amount of light for the size and weight.

Something to keep in mind. I learned the hard way to wrap the bulb in a cloth when inserting in the flashgun. They can ignite from static electricity or a malfunction of the flash. When a bulb goes off in your fingers the skin sticks to the bulb and there's an intense pain. It burns! Radar has been known to ignite them at airports. If there are multiple bulbs in contact with each other and one ignites they all will go off.

Older bulbs build up oxides on the lead contact on the base of the bulb. Sometimes they won't fire. With old bulbs it's a good idea to carry a small piece of fine sandpaper and rub the lead tip on the sandpaper to remove it. In the day we would glue a disc of sandpaper on the base of the battery case of our Graflex flash guns.
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Safety First
Old 06-25-2017   #10
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Safety First

Thanks X-ray about the safety tips. One advantage of the Nikon BC-7 is that it won't start charging the capacitor until you put the bulb in there. It trickle charges through the bulb.

On this other unit I'm getting, there is the option to use 2 C cells, or the battery - capacitor unit. It does have an on/off switch.

I've noted also that with old cameras, once the shutter is fired, the flash synch contacts are STILL CLOSED. The Leica IIIf does this.
You need to wind the shutter to open the circuit again. I noticed this with electronic flash units, that they kept repeatedly firing while winding the IIIf. I don't know about the IIIg and M Leicas, but I hope that they are better in this respect.

At any rate, I have a policy of advancing the shutter first, keeping the flash unit OFF, and only then will I place a bulb. Once the hand is out of the way, then the unit can be turned on.

Trampling around in the woods, I'm grounded. The bulbs are in their cardboard box, which dissipates static electricity. There is a small municipal airport some distance away, but I think I'm OK from their radar. None of my bulbs today went off spontaneously.

I've read online to never carry the bulbs loose in a pocket. They can all ignite spontaneously, causing a severe burn.
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Old 06-25-2017   #11
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You have to be pretty close to an active radar antenna. Closer than I wasn't to be.

I've seen many old timers lick the base of the bulb. They thought the saliva improved continuity. In reality they were getting a tiny amount of lead in their system every time they licked the solder.

Ive accidentally fired a bulb while putting it in the gun. I used them with the speed graphic I was issued. I would insert the holder, pull the slide, cock the shutter and insert the bulb in the gun. On these old speeds, the shutter was tripped by a selanoid that was fired by a button on the back top of the flash gun. Wow! That hurts! It only took one time to change the order that I cocked the shutter and put the bulb in. Ouch!!!
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Old 06-25-2017   #12
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I still remember the strange smell of the bulbs after they fired. They were fun (when they worked!).
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Old 06-25-2017   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Lai View Post
I've read online to never carry the bulbs loose in a pocket. They can all ignite spontaneously, causing a severe burn.
Unlikely, though, press photographers of the era generally carried them loose in their pocket, without any known incidents of PJ self immolation. It takes more power to ignite a flash bulb than you'd get out of ambient static electricity (or any radio or radar station you would survive undamaged at that close a distance).

Besides, I have sometimes fired small flash bulbs (and powerful electronic flashes) with the hand (or sleeve, or a handkerchief) over the reflector, without ever getting hurt - anything in the 100Ws or less range apparently does not have enough energy to cause second degree burns or set fabric or paper alight. The cautions might apply to higher energy (big bulb) flashes.
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Old 06-26-2017   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CMur12 View Post
I remember as a child, at every family gathering, all of us kids would be lined up by aunts and uncles who would then take our pictures with flash bulbs. We were no 10 - 15 feet away and we had to look at the camera with our eyes open. We always dreaded it. I remember walking away afterwards, seeing a blue dot before me for some time, as my eyes gradually recovered.
Yes! Same with our family and it's one reason (the main reason, actually) that I seldom use flash today!

**FOOOOOOMF!** {tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet}

I also remember the smell of a recently-fired flash bulb, but mainly from my Brownie Starflash, which used the much smaller bulbs that were not as nasty. Of course I was on the side of the camera where you did not have to look toward the flash!

My one aunt had a Polaroid with a "wink light" which was MUCH better.
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Old 06-26-2017   #15
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Eagerly awaiting sample pics... you might just have given new focus to my GAS
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Old 06-26-2017   #16
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I have a Navy photographers mate 2 manual and they warn against having flash bulbs in your pocket on the flight deck.
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Static electricity
Old 06-26-2017   #17
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Static electricity

Interesting to find out about static electricity setting them off. There is an old family story that when I was about three, my uncle was putting a flash bulb into a camera with me watching from about a foot away. The bulb went off in my face. Apparently I was rather camera shy for the next couple of years. I guess that's why I am a photographer now - to make up for lost time.
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Old 06-26-2017   #18
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I quite liked the 4-shot flash cube on my Instamatic when I was small.
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Old 06-26-2017   #19
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Originally Posted by MrFujicaman View Post
I have a Navy photographers mate 2 manual and they warn against having flash bulbs in your pocket on the flight deck.
They could be ignited by the ship's radar, even at flight deck level? Or perhaps by the fire control radar in the aircraft.
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Old 06-26-2017   #20
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Interesting to find out about static electricity setting them off. There is an old family story that when I was about three, my uncle was putting a flash bulb into a camera with me watching from about a foot away. The bulb went off in my face. Apparently I was rather camera shy for the next couple of years. I guess that's why I am a photographer now - to make up for lost time.
Or, you may have become a photographer in order to conquer your fear of cameras and flashguns; overcompensation, as it is called.
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Old 06-26-2017   #21
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Flash bulbs have a wonderful magical power, they are slow. So slow that you can actually paint with them. Takes some practice but you can change the look of shadows by moving them in an arc rather than keeping them still.

I've been wondering with LED light sources if I could do the same with a digital camera and a slower shutter speed.

You can make all sorts of funky reflectors for bulbs. I seem to remember something about the original light sabers being based upon the an old flashbulb gun.......

B2 (;->
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Old 06-26-2017   #22
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Flash bulbs have a wonderful magical power, they are slow. So slow that you can actually paint with them. Takes some practice but you can change the look of shadows by moving them in an arc rather than keeping them still.

I've been wondering with LED light sources if I could do the same with a digital camera and a slower shutter speed.

You can make all sorts of funky reflectors for bulbs. I seem to remember something about the original light sabers being based upon the an old flashbulb gun.......

B2 (;->
I've painted with tungsten sources and strobes. Using tungsten and a long enough exposure and keeping the light moving you can eliminate shadows.
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Old 06-26-2017   #23
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Quote:
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Why, what could happen?
Something about the large amount of static electricity on the flight decks and flash bulbs not being very picky about where the electricity comes from that fires them off.

My first photo teacher in High School burning a chunk of magnesium (the insides of flash bulbs) he held up on tongs while I shot a picture of him f16 at 1/30 of a second. Talk about not needing a meter!

They don't stop action, but they do yield a wonder light. I have a gun I hacked with a longer PC cord, had a wonderful satin finish, very cool. All sorts of covers to help defuse the harshness.

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Old 06-26-2017   #24
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My Leica M3 came with its original flash unit, so I replaced the dead electrolytic capacitors with solid state caps, found a battery, and started using it at Thanksgiving and Christmas family events, just like my dad and grandpa did when I was a kid. My mom and aunt both commented that they forgot how bright flashbulbs were.

I also found a Konica flashcube flash at a thrift shop. It was a trick to find the little battery it used, but it works really well too, but only half of the light output. The convenience of four flashes with a twist of the cube is pretty addicting. The look of the photos is cool too, strangely colorful compared to strobe flash pictures.

Scott
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Old 06-26-2017   #25
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Quote:
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Flash bulbs have a wonderful magical power, they are slow. So slow that you can actually paint with them. Takes some practice but you can change the look of shadows by moving them in an arc rather than keeping them still.

I've been wondering with LED light sources if I could do the same with a digital camera and a slower shutter speed.
LED's have a strobing duty cycle that can be tricky to sync to a digital camera. The cameras in mobile computers I test at work usually have that sync problem on early builds, usually because the junior developer is assigned to camera and flash integration. The pictures end up with horizontal dark bands.

I think (and hope) that the photo flood lights using LED's have been specially developed to always have some LED's lit while others are turned off and cooling.

Scott
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Old 06-26-2017   #26
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When I was at the DOE I did some ultra high speed motion picture work. I shot many assignments at 44,000 frames per second looking at explosive detonations. To give you an idea of how fast this is the shutter speed was 1/100,000 of a second and 400 ft of film would go through the camera in 1/10 of a second. Fast? Yes! .
High speed Mitchell?
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Old 06-26-2017   #27
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I have a Navy photographers mate 2 manual and they warn against having flash bulbs in your pocket on the flight deck.
There can be no other place in the world where it is quite as likely to walk into a high power radar beam at that close a distance...
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Old 06-27-2017   #28
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Amazing the number of people who don't read the instructions on the pack ;-)





Sorry about the poor lighting, I didn't want to use flash just in case my last box of vintage bulbs went up in flames...


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Old 06-27-2017   #29
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High speed Mitchell?
Redlake Hycam. Also used a Wollensak Fastax but it wasn't nearly as fast.
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Old 06-27-2017   #30
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There were different "classes" of bulbs. Each class had a different ignition time to reach peak and a different peak duration.

Common types were M class which were used with leaf shutters mainly. You'll notice on older leaf shutters both X and M sync. Sync was usually selected with a small mechanical switch.

There was FP bulbs that had even a different ignition time to peak and a very long peak for use with focalplane shutters.

There also was S class which were gas filled rather than magnesium or zirconium. S class were again different rise to peak times and duration of peak. These were common but used more in commercial applications. I've owned older view camera lenses in Wollensak and Ilex shutters with S sync on them although I've never used them.

I think there were even a couple more classes of bulbs but I've never seen any that I was aware of.

The small bulbs with bayonette bases like the #5 & 25 were designed to be triggered with voltages up to 22v roughly. Screw base bulbs like the #3 and #11 could be triggered with up to 115v.

A word of caution if photographing people with flash bulbs. Bulbs can burst when fired. I've had it happen several times. There's a plastic coating on the outside of the bulb but occasionally they burst sending fragments of glass at your subject. In the day several companies made flipup acrylic protectors that mounted on the reflector of your flash.
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Old 06-27-2017   #31
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Redlake Hycam. Also used a Wollensak Fastax but it wasn't nearly as fast.
There was a super high speed camera that didn't have any claws. The film just traveled through the gate at high speed. I'm not familiar with those two you mention. Was one of those that type of camera?

I was told a story about a guy who had a case of 50B bulbs in the back of his car. He was on a highway that passed through an antenna field that belonged to a radio mfg company. The bulbs went off and he got out of his car before it burned up. The radio company wrote him a check for the damage (cost to replace his car) on the spot.
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Old 06-27-2017   #32
David Hughes
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Just remembered this photo:-



The big blue bulb came out of the pack in my previous photo; they came in packs of four that I photo'ed and three packs would then fit a sleeve to sell you a dozen. There were also capless bulbs even smaller than the on the left.

I also remembered that there were bulbs with blobs of a sort of paste in them that were filled at low pressure with oxygen.

Regards, David
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Old 06-27-2017   #33
MrFujicaman
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Why, what could happen?
\

The radar on the flight deck of a carrier might set them off.
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Old 06-27-2017   #34
PKR
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\

The radar on the flight deck of a carrier might set them off.
Ya think..?

A friend was a radar tech on a Navy surveillance ship posted in the Pacific. He said the radar was so powerful that if seagulls were in the antennas path as it made its sweep of the horizon... that they would explode in mid air when 10m or nearer the main antenna.
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Old 06-27-2017   #35
sevo
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There was a super high speed camera that didn't have any claws. The film just traveled through the gate at high speed. I'm not familiar with those two you mention. Was one of those that type of camera?
Most ultra-high-speed cameras were permanent motion, the image being stabilized by rotating prisms or mirrors - no perforation would survive the acceleration and deceleration needed to step film frame-wise at a rate of 400ft a second. Conventional pin-register "high speed" cameras ("speed" Arris and Mitchells) did not go beyond 500fps - and would only achieve that with Estar base film (the specified safe limit with acetate was something like 1/4 of that).
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Old 06-27-2017   #36
JoeV
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Originally Posted by PKR View Post
Ya think..?

A friend was a radar tech on a Navy surveillance ship posted in the Pacific. He said the radar was so powerful that if seagulls were in the antennas path as it made its sweep of the horizon... that they would explode in mid air when 10m or nearer the main antenna.
I remember operating a portable Sony Betacam video recorder/camera on the flight deck of the Connie. The ship's radar atop the island would cause the tape transport to flake out and rewind/fast-forward itself intermittently, as the EM radiation induced stray signals into the circuit boards. I suppose they were unshielded circuits.

And it's best not to think of the effect upon biological systems. But that's why we have the Veterans Administration, right? Yea, right!
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Old 06-27-2017   #37
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Most ultra-high-speed cameras were permanent motion, the image being stabilized by rotating prisms or mirrors - no perforation would survive the acceleration and deceleration needed to step film frame-wise at a rate of 400ft a second. Conventional pin-register "high speed" cameras ("speed" Arris and Mitchells) did not go beyond 500fps - and would only achieve that with Estar base film (the specified safe limit with acetate was something like 1/4 of that).
How big were the film magazines? At a super high frame rate a lot of film must pass through the gate. My knowledge stops at 400ft (Arriflex 35 & BL). I've seen Mitchell HS but never in use.
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Old 06-27-2017   #38
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I remember operating a portable Sony Betacam video recorder/camera on the flight deck of the Connie. The ship's radar atop the island would cause the tape transport to flake out and rewind/fast-forward itself intermittently, as the EM radiation induced stray signals into the circuit boards. I suppose they were unshielded circuits.

And it's best not to think of the effect upon biological systems. But that's why we have the Veterans Administration, right? Yea, right!
My friend said corrosion would build up on the antenna driven element and techs would climb up to the antenna and while in a fixed position at (I hope) reduced power file the corrosion build up off the element while it being monitored below. Not a job I would want. I also heard stories from a photographer friend who was stationed in Greenland's over the horizon station. He said personal would stand in front of the antennas to "warm up" in severe below zero temps when having to work outside on repairs .. scary.
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Old 06-27-2017   #39
sevo
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How big were the film magazines? At a super high frame rate a lot of film must pass through the gate. My knowledge stops at 400ft (Arriflex 35 & BL).
1000ft magazines are common, and I've seen longer ones listed at high-speed rental places. Quite often it was only 400ft though. Most things photographed at that speed have a very short duration, so that the action would cover less than a minute worth of film at 24fps in any case. The most complex features of these cameras are its trigger computers that start the experiment timed so that all the action occurs in the brief moment when the camera has accelerated and the film has not yet run out.
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Old 06-27-2017   #40
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1000ft magazines are common, and I've seen longer ones listed at high-speed rental places. Quite often it was only 400ft though. Most things photographed at that speed have a very short duration, so that the action would cover less than a minute worth of film at 24fps in any case. The most complex features of these cameras are its trigger computers that start the experiment timed so that all the action occurs in the brief moment when the camera has accelerated and the film has not yet run out.
Yes, I imagine sensor and sensor placement are critical.

I helped a friend rig a Champaign bottle to trip flash units for the Christening of a ship. We taped a piece of copper that was wired to a time delay and taped to the bottle. Contact with the hull made the circuit and fired the flash and shutter. We found that contact to hull (the other half of the circuit) was good enough to make the very sensitive circuit. We had a programmable time delay built in to wait micro seconds for flying glass. It worked well after many set-ups. It was shot 8x10.. lots of fuss for the big format.
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