A Repeating “Flashbulb” (Nov, 1941)

That’s quite a portable power unit there. Then again it’s also a pretty big camera. I think it’s funny that they always use female models for these things. While I get the “it’s so easy a woman can do it!” angle, it tends to make big things look more unwieldy.

A Repeating “Flashbulb”

THE dream of photographers for years, here at last is a repeating “flashbulb”β€” and it is an extremely high-speed flashbulb, too. Whereas ordinary flashes take photos at from 1/20th to 1/200th of a second, this shoots at 1/20,000th! Made by Edgerton, it uses a portable power unit.

  1. Jari says: August 31, 201110:06 am

    Charlie: The camera looks like a typical press-camera of the era. But think of that battery-pack filled with the lead-acid batteries…. That Edgerton could be Harold “Doc” Edgerton, who was a pioneer in high-speed strobe photography and eg. invented rapatronic camera used in A-bomb tests.

  2. Toronto says: August 31, 201110:20 am

    Jari: Didn’t have to be lead acid cells – even the dry cells of the day were failry bulky (a “#6″ screw terminal cell was about 6″ high, 2 1/2” in diameter and was 1.5v. )

  3. Hirudinea says: August 31, 201111:23 am

    “While I get the β€œit’s so easy a woman can do it!” angle, it tends to make big things look more unwieldy.”

    Hell that’s nothing, that woman is 8 feet tall!

  4. Rick s. says: August 31, 20112:33 pm

    Hi guys. I actually had one of those outfits. Mine was a more modern version of the one pictured which I got in 1954 and the power pack was somewhat smaller than the one in shown here. And mine DID have a lead acid battery in its power pack. The battery case was made of lucite so you could see the lead plates and acid level inside (pretty neat looking) and it was about 4 inches long by four high and about 3 inches thick. The power pack contained the electronics for charging and firing the strobe unit and also contained the trickle charger for the battery. I had to open the top when charging the battery (which took a whole night) so that the hydrogen generated by the charging could escape, otherwise the pack might blow when the flash was fired. And yes I used it with a Speed Graphic “press” camera. The flash unit itself was about half the size of the one shown in the picture and mounted on the camera’s right side, the same as the standard flash bulb unit did. I only had mine for about a year or so when I gave it up and went back to using flash bulbs. The thing was just too unwieldy and took too long to recharge the strobe between shots to be really practical. Popping out and changing flashbulbs was a whole lot faster, so the only thing it was really good for was for stopping motion in high speed photography and I didn’t need to do very much of that.


  5. Jari says: September 1, 201110:04 am

    Rick, Toronto: I do have two similar from the late 50’s (Metz) and early 60’s (Braun) in my “collection”. They have much smaller battery cases, slightly smaller than phone book. Braun still had it’s lead acid battery inside when I got it, but it was in a sorry condition…. Metz’s charging unit was actually bigger what the battery would have been. And the capacitors were huge, compared to the modern ones. I did wonder, why electronic flashes didn’t catch on this early (besides WW2 getting in way), but you provided nice insight about that.

  6. Rick s. says: September 1, 201112:34 pm

    Hi Jari: I might add that it wasn’t just the long interval between flashes that was not good but that strobe light did not cover anywhere near the area that a standard flashbulb did when taking a picture. There was a lot of underexposed surrounding background when using it and it was not good at all for shots where the subject was beyond about 6 to 8 feet distance. The kind of photography I was doing at that time (U. S. Navy photographer) required better distance coverage than that.


  7. Jari says: September 1, 20114:55 pm

    Hi Rick: Okay, so they were weak as well. That’s actually even worse. Now, I’m tempted to fire one (out of 5) of my big PF60E Philips flashbulbs. Just to see how much more light it creates when compared to eg. normal flashcube or a modern flash πŸ™‚

  8. Rick s. says: September 1, 20116:45 pm

    Jari: If you mean the big screw-based flashbulbs (I can’t recall the number designation on those), they were real powerhouses. Some of them had crumpled sheet magnesium in them rather than the usual spun magnesium which was also used in the smaller bayonet-based bulbs. However, you may well have the last five in existence. If so, please don’t waste 20% of the remaining stock. πŸ˜‰


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