A Blast From the Past: Flash Bulbs

Say you have to light up a large area and you think your trusty SB-24 might not hack it - even on full manual.

Who you gonna call?

Meggaflash, that's who.

They are the last company still quietly manufacturing these anachronistic little one-shot lighting wonders. But business is good enough so that they are working with a backlog.

In a world of TTL do-everything, computer-controlled strobes, flash bulbs are still being used for a variety or purposes.

I knew that they were still around. They are used as props for period movies - and just about any other movie that requires the effect of a shooter's flash. The brightness lasts long enough to be convincingly captured on the 30-frames-per-second film.

But these babies have some qualities that their more recent, electronic successors can only dream about.

The power is chemically built into the flash bulb. That means no (big) batteries to lug around. The flash holder/reflectors take small batts that provide just enough current to light one of these babies off.

And light off, they do.

They'll give you enough lumens to light darn near anything you can imagine, if you use the right model.

I'd like to see someone light up this valley with an electronic flash, for instance.

In addition to being favored by architectural types who need to "add a little fill" to the side of a large building at twilight, they are also highly prized by spelunkers, who use them to light huge, underground caverns.

You can see a lot of cool stuff on a site run by caver Chris Anderson, who also has a very good primer page on flash bulbs that will point you in the right directions if your imagination had started to redline like mine has.

There's also a gallery of his stuff to give you some ideas.

I don't know what I am going to to with these things yet, but something is gonna present itself soon.

And I really like the idea of combining the high tech of a new digicam with the old-school brute force of a flash bulb to get a photo that just not be done any other way.

Chris' primer and gallery are really worth checking out.

If any of you are using this stuff - or have idea for what they would do with such an insane amount of power in such a small package - I'd love to hear about it in the comments section.


New to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist
Save Money: Browse MPEX Weekly Strobist Deals