Hack a flash camera into a emergency strobe light

Well... Very easy if you know how to solder and know a little bit about electronics.
On this instructable, I will show you how to make an emergency strobe light out of a disposable flash camera. You can use the strobe light in the forest if you get lost or to warn other people about something.

Please note that I am only 15 years old and I am not good at grammar so if you find some parts of the instructable confusing, please let me know and I will try fix it.

This instructable involves modifying a device that operates on 300v DC, so I am NOT responsible if you injure or kill your self and/or any body else from any of your actions messing around this device. So be careful what you are doing, be safe and have fun!

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Step 1: Get the things!!

Not many things are needed to build the strobe light...

- Disposable flash camera (I used a Kodak camera with an LED light).
- TIC106M SCR or equivalent (5A, 30A surge, 400v)
- Neon bulb that strikes at 200 volts or something (I found in some other older disposable flash camera's circuit board).

Heres a data sheet for the TIC106 SCR

If you don't Know where to buy the SCR, try those two sites... (Thats where I brought my SCR)

And the tools...

- Soldering iron/gun
- Flat-head screw driver
- Desoldering pump (optional, but it makes desoldering easier)

Step 2: Hack open the camera!

Picture of Hack open the camera!
Start hacking the camera open with a screw driver and be careful not to damage the camera's flash circuit.
Once you got the outer camera's case off, be careful not to touch the circuit board as the capacitor may still be charged, discharge the capacitor by putting a screw driver across the capacitor's terminal and you may get some bright loud sparks.
After you discharge the capacitor, take the flash circuit out of the camera's frame.
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timcam made it!13 days ago

For anyone looking for the elusive Silicon Controlled Rectifier (SCR), I found one that works for this project on Digikey:

Bigones3 years ago
is really needed the 200v neon bulb? i dont know where to get it?
- Neon bulb that strikes at 200 volts or something (I found in some other older disposable flash camera's circuit board).

If you get the neon bulbs from Radioshack, remove the bulb from the housing and cut or desolder the resistor.

get a 120v neon indicator lamp at radio shack the sell them 2 for 2$

elkaddalek8 months ago
Is it posible to make a two seting strobe? The first seting gives off a single flash evry time it charges & you pull the trigger, & the the second gives a constent strobe as you hold down the triger.

I like to make this disign of flash for a ray gun project im working on. :)
Sethaulton10 months ago
Hi, is there any way to "transplant all the components to a perfboard, as i need this circuit but on an smaller scale as well as a different shape? Thanks!
my wookie11 months ago
nice, but what do you think an 820uf cap would do?
Discharge it with less Risk of damage by setting off the flash. The two metal pieces next to the capacitor make up part of the flash's switch to set it off. Connect those two and cover your eyes.
And discharge the excess power the way stated in the article.
can you post a instructable to make a mini one
i was wanting to use this for a bike headlight. is there any way to make the bulb contiuously burn?
Unfortunately no. The flash bulb is a xenon gas tube. They are only capable of short bursts. If you were able to get one to light continuously, it would kill whatever batteries you use incredibly fast and the tube would probably melt from the current.
lennyb Dodge2 years ago
actually i think it would be a race to see what caught fire first.the battery or the circuit
beehard442 years ago
I'm wondering if i can do the same but instead with a high voltage transistor
any ideas? SCRs are hard to find
Chu Guk2 years ago
Hi, this instructable is so awesome, I've been looking around for such a circuit. I'm just wondering if there's any component that could replace the TIC106M SCR, as I couldn't find find that one...
ahmedsbra2 years ago
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ii_awesum2 years ago
Great Instructable!

For those wondering how to get "free" disposable cameras, just go to your local photo store and ask if you may have any used disposable cameras. They remove the film canister for processing and pile up the camera bodies for recycling, so if they have none currently just ask if they can save some for you.
ring where to

I landed about 2 dozen on my first trip to the store. Bonus, most often they leave the AA batteries in them so you might end up with a lot of spares for other daily uses. For the most part there are 2-3 different circuit boards used across all the brands, boards may vary slightly in layout but essentially all use similar parts.

elimist2 years ago
If you have problems finding the neon bulb, they can also be found in fluorescent light starter, it looks diffrent and are slightly bigger. Works wonders, though.
There are only two parts in them, so it should not be difficult to figure out what is the bulb.
I would discharge the cap with a resistor and some alligator clips to keep it from sparking. I used to use 1 farad caps on my car stereo and this was the best way to discharge/store them. I think it should be noted that after discharging the cap you should short the leads with a bit of wire (or a resistor) to keep the capacitor discharged. Caps will establish a charge from ambient voltages in the air and can charge up to full potential over time. You never know if the circuit that was discharged yesterday is still discharged. I do not remember seeing this in any of the instructables dealing with high voltages so I figured I would point it out.
Normally in capacitors that big people connect a high value resistor to the capacitor terminals permanently and then it makes it safe to work around because it is discharged
good idea
vincent75203 years ago
Interesting … would this idea work as a safety item at sea (or do you think the flash wouldn't be strong enough to be seen at a distance and / or the battery would be discharged very rapidly) ?

I do know there are strobe lights used as safety items on yachts, so this is NOT my point.
What is interesting here is that you can AIM your flash at a ship or any other potential rescuer AND flash a light when you think it will be seen … As opposed to strobe lights that flash continuously, thus wasting energy for nothing, or flares that only last a couple of minutes and that a boat has only in a limited number.

If any reader could contribute to this question this would be great, as safety at sea always needs to be perfected as human lives are at stake.
This might be brighter if you use a xenon tube from a disposable camera.
drzego3 years ago
a strobe uses a RELAXATION OSCILLATOR to trigger the flash. A flash circuit uses the same oscillator to indicate the charge is ready, so, a simple SCR can convert a disposable camera in a Strobe. The neon lamp have an interesting characteristic (and an interesting glowing also). This gas conducts electricity IF the voltage is greater than 75 volts, so when the capacitor charges, the voltage rises until the neon conducts the electricity that triggers the SCR.
mischka3 years ago
Interesting, but I dont understand how it works. Can you please explain why the SCR and neon light make it flash?
jpoopdog3 years ago
the neon bulbs arent just in really old cameras, i found them in some of the really cheap more box shaped kodac cameras.

rdoyle-13 years ago
peoples; I love this site: My only wish is that I wish the hell I knew what you were all talking about! :<{!> ProfessorFeather
bogscdj3 years ago
ala itong video mga tol...?
the second one does look a great deal brighter, but it also looks like you put it in paint and erased a portion of the picture to make it look brighter. Idk what the point of that was since seeing the outline of the flash itself, it really is brighter
Lol, I completely forgot about this whole thing from what? About 10 months ago? Anyways, thanks guys for reminding me of this sweet site. I don't think you meant to, but that's what happened lol.
He captured the flash pictures from a low quality video source that couldn't handle the intense amount of light, and therefore showed plain white at the brightest spots where it flashed out that area of the CCD. Typically phone cameras or webcams do this, and can even break if exposed to bright light like that for more than a few seconds.
He did not put it in paint. It is just lens flare
naveen_nk4 years ago
how can u make rays neutralize?
what do you mean?
jamwaffles3 years ago
OMG you got a component from Maplin? That is quite an achievement - congratulations!
bloke20223 years ago
How fast does this flash? If it is less then ~5hz, how can I speed it up?
gx274703 years ago
ive shocked myself multipple times
1spartan954 years ago
Do cameras have a 555 chip in them?
no they use a npn trasistor to ocillate the transformer :D hope that helps
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