Don's Xenon Flash and Strobe Page

Updated 10/27/2023, most stuff here is 20-plus years old.

Plenty of stuff is here.

Some xenon flash basics, helpful hints, precautions, and tons of actual schematics from Sam Goldwasser, and a few more from his correspondents. Sam Goldwasser's xenon flash stuff.
(Updated to v. 2.63 on 7/24/2008. Long, 320K.)

Sam Goldwasser's Xenon Strobe/Flash Stuff, RECENT OFFICIAL VERSION at the Wayback Machine as of 5/17/2022, at the site.

Sam Goldwasser's page of links of accessory files to his xenon "FAQ" file, OFFICIAL VERSION at the site via the Wayback Machine.

Some xenon flash safety hints. Slightly long winded (15K), may not cover absolutely everything, but please read this before working on any strobes. At least see the cute shocking artworked photo of ME being a shock victim! (Slightly updated 5/29/2006)

How to build your own trigger coil.
I have constructed a few as I describe here, and they all worked. NOTE - Now that I know places to get trigger coils (see my parts sources file) you probably would just rather buy them. A basic trigger circuit schematic is now included! (updated 5/26/96).

A repetitive trigger circuit based on the 555 timer IC, useful for strobe lights. NEWLY ADDED - a bit on the 4017 counter IC for multiple flashes and sequences of flashes - added 10/17/2000.

Mad ideas for blacklight strobes. (CAUTION - May be both hard on your eyes and a bit disappointing.) Substantial new stuff on UV strobes added 12/15/2018, updated slightly 12/19/2021.

My top page for working do-it-yourself strobes from Kodax Max disposable cameras and using fluorescent lamp ballasts or available compact inverter boards for miniature cold cathode fluorescent lamps. Look here in the future for the mini strobe to put in a model rocket!

(Sorry - the model rocket strobe has been falling by the wayside due to heavy workload!)

One trick for simplicity at the expense of timing precision - use of "sidac" devices for triggering. Putting one or a series pair of around 200-280 volts across the "trigger" contacts of some photoflash units and some camera flash units will work - including on the flash board of the Kodak Max disposable camera! NEW FILES 11/3 and 11/10 2000, slight update 7/15/2001.

A slave flash trigger circuit is now here! (New document 2/24/98, with some refinement in mid-March 1998)

Instead of reinventing the wheel, you may want to use or hack a commercially available strobe or camera flash. Here are some sources, with catalog numbers and descriptions of several strobes, camera flash units, partial strobes/flash units, as well as just parts. Many work on low voltage DC. You can also look here for sources for flashtubes, trigger transformers, capacitors, and even reflectors. (updated 10/12/2023, may need more updating)

If you need to build your own DC-DC converter, you might want to try Some guidelines for estimating appropriate voltages and energy levels for flashtubes if you can't find the flashlamp's actual ratings. (updated 12/17/2018.)

A couple of dirty tricks using fluorescent lamp ballasts.
These will help you develop strobe lights that avoid the flashtube failing to extinguish after flashing. These tricks will generally result in storage capacitor voltages around 450 volts, but there is plenty of use for this. For one thing, you improve efficiency at lower flash energy levels if the voltage is higher than the flashtube normally takes in camera flash use.
(mostly from 6/30/97, minor update 10/13/2023)

Ratings and data of some specific flashtubes.
Also a few things you can probably get away with using some of these. Also, how much energy you need to get decent efficiency with some of these, how much capacitance is needed to efficiently produce daylight-like continuous spectrum with good color rendering, and what voltage results in some of these lamps not being too blue for color slide photographs.
(Updated 10/27/2023.)

Circuits using only unmodified Radio Shack parts. These cheap and dirty circuits should work for experimenters. Higher power non-100%-Shack inverters are now here as well. (Big update 8/21/97)

Flashtubes and capacitors for making big xenon strobes.
(updated slightly 7/9/2018)

Making a flashtube brilliantly glow continuously or appear to do so - and why this usually does not work. (updated slightly 3/23/2009)

Those xenon automotive headlight bulbs - here's some info. For one thing, these are metal halide lamps more than they are xenon lamps. (new file 2/15/2000)

Xenon lamps that are actually incandescent such as some flashlight bulbs and some car headlight bulbs. NEW FILE 10/4/2000, slight update 10/5/2000.

The Mini FAQ, with my answers to the questions I get the most.

Links to other xenon strobe related sites: The great electronics repair site, including some general theory and even some schematics of all sorts of things including camera flashes and strobes.

EG&G, which had the Electro-Optics Division (primarily linear quartz flashlamps suitable for laser pumping and the like) and the Heimann Division (more ordinary flashtubes) is now Excelitas.

Please note that last time I checked (1997) the Heimann division caters to industrial customers. Minimum order of any product priced near or below US$ 30 will generally be 100 pieces. I do not yet know the minimum for higher priced products, but expect it to be at least equally prohibitive to casual enthusiasts. And they are very stingy with samples, so don't even try the "engineering sample" route just to get for free a piece or two of what you can't buy from them. Other manufacturers and suppliers of small flashtubes also normally cater to industrial customers and will probably have large minimum orders and be stingy with samples unless you are a serious industrial customer. Don't try to fake being one; the suppliers know who the big boys are. Instead, look for comparable products (sometimes actually Excelitas, etc.) from other sources such as Electronic Goldmine and Digi-Key.
( Amglo, a maker of all sorts of flashtubes.

Speedotron, a maker of some serious photoflash equipment.

Lumedyne, who sells pro photoflash equipment.

B&H Photo, a supplier of pro photo equipment as well as audio, video, and imaging equipment.

Written by Don Klipstein.

Please read my Copyright Info.

Please read my Disclaimer.

Back up to Don's home page.