Using flashbulbs and electronic shutter.

Mack

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So my project has ended with a successful outcome. I wanted to see if one could use a fast f/0.8 Noct-type of lens at the base ISO 200 and the fastest electronic speeds in sunlight with a flash-fill. The end result would be the fast f/0.8 Noct lens would blur out more of the background (Increased bokeh.) too.

It is possible to sync old flashbulbs to our electronic or silent shutters at fastest speeds up to 1/32,000 second since the electronic/silent shutter's highest speeds have a much lower X-sync scan of around 1/50 to 1/20 second, and the flashbulb's longer duration burn will cover that slow scan time.

Below are two shots with EXIF data intact and is also shown under them. One was with the Olympus E-M1 Mark II with a Voigtlander 29mm f/0.8 Noct lens in sunlight, and the second one with the same settings along with an old M3B flashbulb that was five feet to one side for a flash-fill of the test mannequin and ColorChecker Digital SG card setup.

No flash:
A090901-No-flash.jpg
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M3B flashbulb added for fill. You can see a portion of the flashbulb reflector in the right lens of the glasses:
A090902-M3B-flahbulb-fill.jpg
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What my flash sync setup currently looks like:

Setup.jpg
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The holders:

Bulbs-and-holders.jpg
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The flashbulb is in a standard clamp 10" reflector from the hardware store. I used a E26 medium to BA15S bayonet base light socket adapter that can hold a #1156 (Clear 12v car bulb to test with.) or a FP26B flashbulb as both have the same BA15S bayonet base.

Adapter is here: https://www.ebay.com/itm/280748665480?hash=item415decaa88:g:n~kAAOSwB09YP1P0

The M3B has an adapter I made out of a 5/16" shaft collar drilled out to 3/8" to accept the M3B bulb's base. The outside 5/8" OD needed to be spun down a bit (Bolted onto a bolt and spun down with a file and electric drill.) to about 0.605" OD for the socket. For the pins, I drilled a 1/16" hole all the way through its middle, and then cut off two small nail or brad heads and glued the heads into the holes for the bayonet pins. The set crew that came with the collar holds the bulb. If you get lucky, it might even line up with the slots in the socket so you can change bulbs easier than unscrewing the entire thing.


Front and back of my re-purposed Nikon to Olympus flash sychronizer below. Its prior life was to fire long-duration (2 second) burn PF-330 flashbulbs for waterfall fashion shoots to keep the electronic flash unit's shorter burn duration from causing Frozen-in-Time water droplets which look like black and white pepper scattered on skin or clothing and ruin the shot.

It contains an Arduino Uno with a Arduino 4 Relay Shield plugged in on top of it. I used a rechargeable 12-14 volt battery to run it and the flashbulb's firing current. The Nikon push-button release has the familiar push halfway for the AF, and the rest of the way to fire the shutter. Olympus uses same three-conductor mini-stereo type of plug on the E-M1 II and E-M1X where the large part near the handle is Common, middle portion is the AF, and tip is the Shutter. Same as the newer Nikon Z7 II so the adaption to Olympus was easy. I have the Vello wireless trippers and they use the 3-conductor plug on all the transmitters feeding to the Olympus and Nikon.

One relay in the Relay Shield runs a relay for the AF (Common shorted to middle of plug.). Second relay trips the shutter (Common shorted to tip.). Third is 14 volts to the flashbulb (I used a 1000uf 15 volt capacitor in series with a 100 ohm resistor to charge it up, and it is discharged through the third relay to the flashbulb.). I used a forth relay for the oscilloscope trigger which isn't needed as it can be done easier with a 3-4 foot 12 volt LED automotive strip light mentioned below. Timing is dependent on the camera so delays have to be wrote into the Arduino Uno program for triggering the relays in the proper sequence. I put a USB programming port on the back so all I need to do is plug it into the laptop to re-program the delay timing - and no need to power it up as the USB from the laptop runs the re-programing of the UNO too.

Front-of-Arduino-Sync.jpg
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Rear-of-Arduino-Sync.jpg
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A shortcut to avoid the scope is to hang the LED strip vertical and use in it place of the flashbulbs as a test instead of wasting bulbs. If the timing is correct at 1/32,000 sec. you should see all the LED's lit. If one side is dark or you see faint black lines running through them at the top or bottom, then the sync timing is off. Mine worked out to be about 16ms after the shutter relay fires (Seems backwards, but some propagation is going on in the shutter opening and timing of the bulb.). You need to dial it in slowly and make sure it is 100% repeatable.

Below is a LED strip light (or flashbulb substitute) hanging vertically (It's cropped.) and out of focus to see if any faint black sensor scan lines show in the blur. ISO high at 25,000, fastest speed, and the Noct lens was wide open. It was also brightened up a lot to see the LEDs as it was dim. May take a few flashbulbs to refine it too, but it shouldn't be more than 10ms or so.

LED-strip-light-to-test-sync.jpg
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Lots of the electronic stuff I got from "All Electronics" in Los Angeles, CA and "Jameco Electronics" online.

Done! :yahoo:
 
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Mack

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Just curious, after all that work, where do you find the flashbulbs? Is anyone still making any?
eBay to the rescue! Not hard to find them there. :dance4:

I just bought a package of 36 M3B bulbs for $19. They have a larger box of 72 for about $35, but I've gotten using these bulbs down to a science now so I don't waste many. Any pop coming off them now as a fill-light seems to work knowing the distance, reflector, and bulb used. Funny part of using them is people seem to think I must be a real pro just by using them as "All I need is just one shot" instead of spraying off a bunch of shots. Guess that came from the old newspaper photographers who shot Speed Graphics with pack film and a flash holder. Least I can charge a lot more using them too!

Last box of bulbs came from some light bulb warehouse in AZ. Guess when photo shops closed up their warehouse then got a lot of unsold stock. The FP-26B, a larger one and a bit brighter too, are a bit harder to find but they do pop up occasionally on eBay. Some still have the price tags on them from the stores and they may sell maybe for a couple of dollars more than they did in the 1970's-80's - and some offer free shipping too.

There is one outfit still making flashbulbs in Ireland, Meggaflash: http://www.meggaflash.com/ . They might be some older glassblowers doing it since the area is famous for glass and crystal. They are not cheap though, i.e. "Request a quote" but they are all the normal E26/E27 screw-in base and fit the hardware store lamp fixture above. I have some PF-330 bulbs that run about $60 each so you need to have everything in order before you fire one off. Those burn for a couple of seconds and a lot of light, and mostly used with high-speed still cameras and the people who shoot in caves and need a flood of light everywhere.

A source for flashbulbs that Hollywood uses for movies is Roger George Co., Van Nuys, CA who carries three different ones from $4 to $55 each. Interesting catalog to look through as they deal with the pyrotechnic guys too. https://rogergeorge.com/search?q=bulb but eBay is cheaper for the M3B and PF-26B ones that show up.
 
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exakta

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Jun 2, 2015
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Thanks!

Sometimes I get nostalgic about using bulbs. Sure, no auto exposure, but GN calculations worked well for me even with slides. Even bouncing and bare bulb were easy. The biggest advantage though was the sheer light output dwarfed camera mounted strobes. I finally stopped using them when I couldn't get a replacement for the weird 15V battery used in my Canon fan-fold gun. I mainly used AG3B and M3B whcih worked OK with FP synch.
 

Mack

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Thanks!

Sometimes I get nostalgic about using bulbs. Sure, no auto exposure, but GN calculations worked well for me even with slides. Even bouncing and bare bulb were easy. The biggest advantage though was the sheer light output dwarfed camera mounted strobes. I finally stopped using them when I couldn't get a replacement for the weird 15V battery used in my Canon fan-fold gun. I mainly used AG3B and M3B whcih worked OK with FP synch.
On the 15 volt battery, there is a 23A battery - or sometimes called a 23A - that some have used in their Honeywell Tilt-A-Mites to replace the odd 15 volt flash battery. It's a bit shorter so I put a small nut on the top post and wrapped it with a bit of posterboard and tape to size it for mine. A lot of drug stores seem to carry that battery too.

I found later that Amazon shows a 15 volt 504/220A which is the exact flash battery replacement. https://www.amazon.com/Loopacell-Al...s=15+volt+flash+battery&qid=1633963129&sr=8-6

Yeah, I don't know why it seems easier to use a flashbulb than an electronic flash. Part may be the electronic changes too much and depends on its output wavering in conjunction with its burn duration in HSS or TTL modes. A friend never does get his Fuji XT flash setup to work well so he abandoned flash altogether. Bulbs are constant. Plus, according to my color meter, they do not push out as much UV and favor more IR which makes people's skin color look better and warmer than the bluish electronic flash. I was sort of surprised at the improved color when I used bulbs verses electronic flash.

As to exposure, I expose a test shot without the bulb to the point I get the Olympus red blinkies on the white foam ball in sunlight (As shown above, or my histogram's ETTR ball.) and back it down a third EV, and then follow with the bulb shot as I know it will add a little more to the base exposure. Distance with my current M3B and reflector stand can be 5-8 feet and I'm done (FP-26B can be a bit more.). I plan to polish the aluminum reflector and see how that goes, and I have a deeper one on order from China which appears will take forever now with the current shipping problems.

Another thing I've discovered with my bulb setup is I do not need to mess with the wireless transmitters since the setup is hardwire. Less fiddling with a menu full of settings and the wireless TX and RX batteries. I got into trouble once on a commercial shoot when my wireless channels and group settings went into a sequential firing mode like some old Thunderbird car's sequential blinking rear turn signals where one strobe fired, and then the next, and next, etc around the room. I've also fought the optical triggers of Nikon speedlights (I hate them things!) as well as the old Buff White Lightnings in the bright desert sun where they get blinded and fire repeatedly, or not at all. Nothing worse than trying to sort out transmission/firing issues on a paid gig with people standing around while you scratch your head.

Of course, if they move to higher x-sync speeds with the global shutters then this bulb thing all will be a wash and make electronic easier to shoot with too - maybe. Other than color which could be gelled, or a bit of a warmer color gas (neon or strontium nitrate?) added to the current xenon tubes to cut-down some of the UV output which also combines with the UV brightners in clothes and some paints which can make them really blue. The Neewer (brand) Gray Card (behind the x-rite ColorChecker Digital SG card above) has the RGB numbers on the corner. It passes a lot of blue, maybe a poor quality ink or the card's base white passing some UV, and it really isn't a gray at all but just serves as a reference as I know what it measures out to be. The x-rite cards are a lot more accurate for gray, imho, but they are costly.
 

Mack

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** Later notes on the Nikon Z7 II and M3B flashbulbs:

Short answer, it failed against the Olympus.

Trying the M3B bulbs on a Nikon Z7 II at its maximum silent/electronic shutter speed of 1/8,000 second it failed to sync well. Outcome was it exposed properly in the middle third of the frame, and it was evident that the bulb was ramping up and burning down in the full-frame image due to the longer sensor scan time at 1/8,000 second.

Specs:
Nikon Z7 II sensor horizontal scan lines 5,504. Electronic shutter X-sync 1/15 second.
Olympus E-M1 Mark II sensor horizontal scan lines 3,888. Electronic shutter X-sync 1/50 to 1/20 second dependent on shutter speed and ISO.

Given the Nikon has more lines to scan, and a subsequent longer scan time for its electronic shutter's X-sync, the M3B flashbulb's duration will not cover the entire frame, only a third.

The Olympus does much better even up to 1/32,000 second in silent/electronic mode with the M3B flashbulb. The bulb's relay timing was 16ms behind the shutter relay shield in the Arduino Uno setup. On the Nikon Z7 II, I had to put the timing further out to 88ms which placed the bulbs peak burn in the middle of the frame with the top and bottom edges being dark or unexposed. The Olympus seems to run faster in the firing of the shutter than the Nikon which has more area to cover which makes the bulbs more suited to the Olympus for coverage.

Olympus for the win! :thumbup:
 

Mack

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Bought a parabolic-shaped reflector for $25 that might supply more output of the flashbulbs than the hardware store one. Took a month to get from China, and the box was dented and the reflector a bit out of round too. Cardboard box was even wet and soggy so who knows what happened to it, but it was in a plastic bag so it was dry. It was raining (rare here) and maybe it got wet loading the delivery truck. Never had that experience before. I did manage to get it back into a round shape with a bit of squeezing.

New-Reflector-and-M3B-Bulb.jpg
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Source: https://www.ebay.com/itm/27cm-Lamps...r-Photo-Studio-/382151880068?oid=191132816532 The aluminum reflector is a press-onto-the-socket affair. If removed, there is thumbscrew and hole in the handle to hold an umbrella.

Got it wired for the Arduino triggering box with a 1/4" phone plug from a guitar shop. Weight is only 12.7 ounces for the entire thing with the M3B bulb and adapter in it. Beats a speedlight in weight!

In use, I placed it about 6 feet away from subject which resulted in shots below. I could go out to maybe 8 feet or more for a bit more ratio and shadow on the fill side. It is much brighter than the hardware store reflector above so I had to also close down 1/3 stop so I moved shutter from 1/26,000 second up to 1/32,000 second with the Voigtlander 29mm f/0.8 Super Noct lens left wide-open at f/0.8 at ISO 200 on the E-M1 Mark II in sunlight.

No flash at 1/26,000 second:
_B171204-Flash-off.jpg
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Flash on at six feet at 1/32,000 second. I placed the flash so it shows better in the glasses:
_B171207-Flash-on.jpg
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Now if some electronic flash maker would make a slower burning - but yet still bright - xenon flash that would work with these slow-scanning electronic shutters at their fastest speeds and for these fast speed Noct-type lenses now appearing on the market. A long duration burn of maybe 1/20 second might do it. Old flashbulbs do that still.
 

Mack

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Jan 14, 2018
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Saw this video on the Sony A1 which was working with its electronic shutter at 1/32,000 second and a Godox AD200.

It syncs at 1/32,000 second, but he did crank the ISO up to 80,000 and it was indoors so you can see the flash. I think the old flashbulbs will work at the camera's base ISO (Base ISO 64 ??) on the Nikon Z9 -- maybe -- and outdoors in sunlight.

So where's a Nikon Z9 at? :confused-53:

Was reading old bulb info and Sylvania M3 Clear puts out about 16,000 lumen-seconds or 1,000,000 peak-lumens overall in their burn duration. A M3B blue daylight balanced bulb puts out about half that.

I don't know how to equate those bulb lumen numbers to an electronic flash, or if any can supply those lumen numbers and burn duration too. I know if the capacitor storage farads go up, the burn duration gets longer. It might take some seriously large caps to do it, and then the heat and damage to a xenon bulb if it wasn't capable of handling it. PerkinElmer used to have a flashtube section for science, but sold it off to a flashtube maker Strobelamps: https://www.strobelamps.com/ . They even had a water-cooled flashtube at one time that might have approached a flashbulb's output.

Interesting flashtube info: https://www.perkinelmer.com/PDFS/downloads/dts_applicationnotehighperformanceflash_final071004.pdf
 
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