Introduction: Hack a Flash Camera Into a Emergency Strobe Light

Picture of 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!

Step 1: Get the Things!!

Picture of 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.

Step 3: Modify the The Camera's Flash Circuit

Picture of Modify the The Camera's Flash Circuit

After you had discharged the capacitor, it is now time to modify the camera's flash circuit into a strobe!

First, remove the flash trigger switch, we don't need those.
Then solder one lead of the neon bulb to the gate of the SCR and the other lead of the neon bulb to the anode of the SCR.
Then solder the anode lead of the SCR to where the flash trigger switch A was, and solder the cathode lead of the SCR to where the flash trigger switch B was.

And you are done, you had modified the flash camera into a strobe!

Step 4: Putting It All Back Together

Picture of Putting It All Back Together

After you modify the camera' flash circuit into a strobe, you can put it in any case you wish to put in.
I decided to put my strobe back in the camera.
First I need to remove the lens because it is in the SCR's way. After I removed the lens, there are some bits of plastic in the SCR's way, so I have to break away all the bits of plastic with a pair of pliers. After I had done that, I can now put in the flash strobe circuit back into the camera's frame and clip the camera's case together, and I am done!

Step 5: Using It

Picture of Using It

After you had done all of that work making the strobe, it is now time to test it to see if it works... Push the charge switch and you should get an flash in a few seconds and another flash, if it does not work, go back to the flash circuit and find out what have you done wrong... (is the SCR soldered the wrong way round?)

It works well for me! My strobe flashes every few seconds depending how good the battery is...

Step 6: Going Further... Make the Strobe Flash Faster...

Picture of Going Further... Make the Strobe Flash Faster...

Okay, if you want your strobe to flash faster, you need to change the capacity of the flash capacitor to a lower rating.
You can change the 80uF capacitor to any capacitor that has a capacity from 80uF to 1uF as long as the capacitor has a voltage rating from 330v.
The smaller the capacitor you use, the faster the strobe will flash, but the dimmer the flash will be... Don't use a capacitor that has a capacity lower than 1uF because the strobe will make dim flashes.

There are two movies that you can watch, one movie (P3230005) is the strobe flashing with a 80uF capacitor and the other movie (P3230001) is the strobe flashing with a 1uF capacitor.

If you are going to watch the movie P3230001, the interesting flash pattern you see on the video, the strobe does NOT make that flash pattern! It is my video camera functioning improperly!

Step 7: Enjoy Strobing!

Picture of Enjoy Strobing!

Have fun with your new strobe! I hope you find this instructable any good to you.

Ideas, help, questions, or something? PLEASE COMMENT AND RATE! Thank you! :-)

Have fun!!


Free kill (author)2016-04-17


Aryadhani (author)2015-09-06

I am trying to make a magnetic pulser using a used camera like this one. I should connect in series a magnet coil to either one of the xenon bulb polarity, and when I push the trigger, the magnet coil should create a powerful magnetic pulse. Someone suggests that I can replace the xenon bulb with an SCR so there will be no bothersome flashing light. Can it be done?

zain_de (author)2015-08-23

i've destroyed my whole camera circuit!

sunwoongkim (author)2014-10-05

i'm from korea and i want to get a kodack camer but, it's not easy.... how can i get it?

Yonatan24 (author)sunwoongkim2015-07-28

Look for it on eBay

colin55 (author)2015-05-09

You can also put a 200v transistor (I used BD679) in place of the SCR and neon, and it will breakdown at 200v.

colin55 (author)2015-05-09

I think you have the LED around the wrong way.

TheKingCrafter (author)2015-04-18

Do you have to have the 200v strike neon bulb or could you use something else? I'm from UK and it's hard to find neon bulbs :( Please help bro

eswar.abishake (author)2014-10-15

i used

KODAK KB10 35mm Camera

how to use

eswar.abishake (author)2014-10-15

i used

KODAK KB10 35mm Camera

how to use

timcam made it! (author)2014-07-08

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

Bigones (author)2010-10-26

is really needed the 200v neon bulb? i dont know where to get it?

kyismaster (author)Bigones2010-12-16

- Neon bulb that strikes at 200 volts or something (I found in some other older disposable flash camera's circuit board).

timcam (author)kyismaster2014-07-08

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

dillonxti (author)Bigones2014-04-13

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

elkaddalek (author)2013-11-19

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. :)

Sethaulton (author)2013-09-19

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 wookie (author)2013-07-31

nice, but what do you think an 820uf cap would do?

Wyattr55123 (author)2012-10-28

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.

Wyattr55123 (author)Wyattr551232012-10-28

And discharge the excess power the way stated in the article.

starsareyummy (author)2012-08-07

can you post a instructable to make a mini one

somebody12345 (author)2012-02-19

i was wanting to use this for a bike headlight. is there any way to make the bulb contiuously burn?

Dodge (author)somebody123452012-02-25

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 (author)Dodge2012-04-02

actually i think it would be a race to see what caught fire first.the battery or the circuit

beehard44 (author)2011-11-13

I'm wondering if i can do the same but instead with a high voltage transistor
any ideas? SCRs are hard to find

Chu Guk (author)2011-11-04

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...

ahmedsbra (author)2011-10-18

شكرا ،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،،

ii_awesum (author)2011-09-25

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.


elimist (author)2011-08-03

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.

Swishercutter (author)2009-01-12

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

Erik J (author)Swishercutter2009-04-21

good idea

vincent7520 (author)2011-07-03

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.

Matrix-technician (author)2011-06-29

This might be brighter if you use a xenon tube from a disposable camera.

drzego (author)2011-05-29

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.

mischka (author)2011-05-16

Interesting, but I dont understand how it works. Can you please explain why the SCR and neon light make it flash?

oldmanbeefjerky (author)2011-05-03

the neon bulbs arent just in really old cameras, i found them in some of the really cheap more box shaped kodac cameras.

rdoyle-1 (author)2011-03-21

peoples; I love this site: My only wish is that I wish the hell I knew what you were all talking about! :<{!> ProfessorFeather

bogscdj (author)2010-10-17

ala itong video mga tol...?

someniceguyon (author)2010-01-25

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.

Khord (author)someniceguyon2010-10-04

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_nk (author)2010-02-10

how can u make rays neutralize?

qwertyzzz18 (author)naveen_nk2010-09-17

what do you mean?

jamwaffles (author)2010-09-02

OMG you got a component from Maplin? That is quite an achievement - congratulations!

bloke2022 (author)2010-08-21

How fast does this flash? If it is less then ~5hz, how can I speed it up?

gx27470 (author)2010-08-11

ive shocked myself multipple times

1spartan95 (author)2010-07-16

Do cameras have a 555 chip in them?

coilsinamotor (author)1spartan952010-07-18

no they use a npn trasistor to ocillate the transformer :D hope that helps

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