Friday, December 5, 2014

That which was foretold

Ages ago, I recall stating on various online forums and in my two books on high-speed imaging that the future of high-speed photography lay in LED flashes. I recall being thoroughly pooh poohed by the denizens of those online forums whose vision never seemed to go much further than their next beer or doughnut. Indeed, it could be said that online forums attract those with limited intelligence and limited foresight - hence I tend to stay away from them these days.

A few days ago, a kick starter project came to my attention. This was for an LED flash designed for high-speed photography with a flash duration of 1/2,000,000th of a second. With a flash that fast, it's somewhat surprising that the inventor chose to show photographs of a BB going through an apple rather than a .223 bullet exploding on impact with a brick. A BB travels at 250 - 750 feet per second. The lower speeds are more common. A .223 bullet travels at 2,500 feet per second. Thus at 500fps a BB will travel 0.00025 of a foot or 0.003 of an inch. At 2,500fps a bullet will travel assuming 1/2,000,000th flash - about 0.019 of an inch.

In the end, it's all about perception. Seeing a slow projectile frozen is probably a better sales gimmick to sell a product to the uneducated masses. To somebody that knows what they're doing, it's little short of asinine. The creator makes some good points that his product will:
1. Reduce the cost of ultra-high-speed photography.
2. Be inherently safer due to the lower voltages.
3. Be cheaper to produce.

The creator has added some interesting features to his flash unit though what he has created is little more than 9 Cree LEDs with a transistor, a mylar capacitor and a couple of resistors. The stroboscopic effect produced is interesting as is the ability to link several units together. Otherwise, it's little different from what's currently available.

The high-speed images on the high-speed page of this blog were all taken with a 580EX2 at 1/128th power or around 1/38,000th of a second. While the creator has identified a gap in the market with his Velo unit, he has created something which is so niche that it will be very hard to sell. The hobbyist into electronics will build their own for the heck of it. People without too much money will use a regular flash instead and produce images like mine. The market he's aiming for is very small - people with enough money to spare that they can buy single use things that won't get a lot of use anyway.

Still, not wishing to be a complete wet blanket, it is something I would buy if it was good value. At the moment, I really don't see the value over an ordinary multi-use unit such as a 580EX2 or even a Vivitar 283 set to use as a single use unit. The big problem for the fellow will come when hobbyists come out with an open-source version and when the Chinese start making and selling them for far less money.

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