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How I made a DIY compact flash from a disposable digicam’s flash module

A little bit of background

Lately I purchased a movie digicam from the 1970’s – the Canon A-1. Contemplating that the digicam is nearly 3x older than me, it was no shock that there are a couple of points with it. The primary digicam I received jammed earlier than I even loaded in my first roll, and the substitute digicam had a battery drainage concern (which took an nearly full disassembly to repair).

However anyway, that isn’t the purpose of this weblog publish. Electrical issues apart, my predominant concern with this digicam is its lack of a flash. Unbeknownst to me after I purchased this digicam, movie cameras can’t actually function with no ridiculous quantity of sunshine (a minimum of by fashionable digicam requirements). Even in a fairly lit room, the digicam struggles to take pictures with out the assistance of a tripod. This led to me attempting some artistic options, with restricted success.

Attempting to take a photograph in a dimly lit McDonalds. The setup & the consequence.

I attempted to discover a digicam flash on-line, however all of them have been large – like nearly larger than the precise digicam. I didn’t precisely wish to present as much as events trying just like the paparazzi, so I made a decision to make my very own small flash module.

Why doesn’t anybody make a small digicam flash??

Making the flash

PCB & 3D recordsdata:

The digicam flash I constructed makes use of the flash circuit from an inexpensive Fuji QuickSnap disposable digicam which I received for less than 50hkd ($7 USD). Ensure that to discharge the capacitor earlier than dealing with the circuit! It’s charged as much as 300v, so you actually don’t need it to the touch it whereas it’s nonetheless charged.

Flash pcb from a disposable digicam. Don’t neglect to discharge the cap!

There are two switches within the circuit: one to cost the cap and one to set off the flash. For the charging swap, I merely connected a toggle swap as much as it. The set off swap was a bit extra sophisticated, nevertheless. It needs to be wired as much as the digicam’s sizzling shoe in order that the flash will set off precisely when the picture is taken. Nevertheless, wiring the set off on to the recent shoe would trigger a few hundred volts to move via the digicam, frying it. (Notice: Some older cameras could be effective with this voltage as a result of they’ve bodily set off contacts, nevertheless newer digicam would positively get broken).

I as an alternative designed and ordered a pcb based mostly on this schematic. You’ll find the pcb recordsdata on my github. This circuit takes within the ~300v set off voltage and turns it right into a 5v for the digicam’s hotshoe. Click on on the hyperlink for the schematic for a extremely good rationalization on how the circuit works.

I then modeled up an enclosure for the circuits, together with a hotshoe with contacts. The contacts used within the 3d printed hotshoe are taken from the copper contacts on the disposable digicam’s pcb. And that’s it! I now have a small digicam flash.

Contained in the flash. Please ignore that I soldered on to a battery.

The ultimate product. Notice the charging toggle swap on the left.

Methods to use the flash

You could have observed that there aren’t any settings on the flash in any respect. The large cumbersome flashes permit you to choose the gap of your topic and let you know what aperture to make use of, however my flash has nothing like that in any respect. I merely simply use the disposable digicam’s mounted settings of f/10 @ 400 ISO (alter aperture relying in your movie’s ISO). You must also hold the topic inside ~3m. This provides the flash a theoretical information variety of 50, however who is aware of how correct that’s contemplating it’s an inexpensive disposable digicam.


I ended up assembly all of my preliminary objectives for this challenge. I now have a “discreet” flash for my movie digicam that works completely for my functions. The hotshoe contacts are a bit bit finicky, so I’d purchase a computer sync twine so I can use the computer socket in my digicam which may have a way more dependable connection.

Concerning the Creator

Joshua Hen is an newbie photographer and avid maker presently learning Pc Science on the College of Cambridge. You may take a look at his different pictures and programming tasks on his website. This text was additionally printed here and shared with permission.

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