UK firm Vela Labs have published the schematics and instructions on how to build a cheap camera laser trigger costing just $2. This type of trigger is perfect for taking photos of bullets in the air or colliding with objects, such as the above photo showing a BB, shot from an air gun, hitting a crayon. When a bullet breaks a laser beam (in the photo below they are using the laser sight attached to the air gun’s picatinny rail, along with a mirror to angle is downwards) it tells the camera to take a photo.
Vera Labs have been testing the trigger with an Olympus Micro 4/3 camera (here at TFB Micro 4/3 cameras as used by Phil White, James Reeves and myself) along with an Olympus flash/speedlight. The problem with this setup is the flash unit which simply cannot fire fast enough to get a blur free photo of a bullet. Flash’s these days use xenon flash tubes which can, at best, put out a burst of light lasting 1/40,000th of a second. If a bullet is traveling at 3,000 feet per second, it will travel almost an inch during the time it is lit up, giving a blurry image. What is required for bullet photograph is a flash lasting 1/1,000,000th of a second or less.
The usual way to create a sub-microsecond burst of intense light is using an Air-Gap flash. I tweeted Vera Labs and they told me they are working on designing an ultra fast flash, although they did not say if it would be an Air-Gap design. There are some DIY designs out there, but these use very high voltage and current, making them exceptionally dangerous, and use exotic parts such as 35,000 volt capacitors.
If Vera are able to create a safe, easy to use and affordable ultra fast flash unit, it could put bullet photography within reach of the average gun and photography enthusiast (and bloggers).