The bullet-stopper: Ultra-fast Vela One strobe makes high-speed photography safe and affordable


posted Monday, December 1, 2014 at 6:40 PM EDT


Want to try your hand at really high-speed photography, but put off by the costs and dangers of an air-gap flash? (One such model, Maurice Ribble's Airgap, will run you US$2,000 and jumps 16,000 volts across two electrodes to create its brief light source.) Now, there's a much more affordable, LED-based alternative: the Vela One.

The problem with high-speed photography isn't just that you need a tightly-controlled, brief flash, but also that the flash must be very powerful, since the exposure is so short. To provide the right combination of speed and power, Vela One creator Matt Kane turned to architectural LEDs which are more commonly used to illuminate the outside of large buildings. And yet even with these, he had to figure out a way to overdrive them to get 20x their rated brightness without overheating or damage to the LEDs.

The Vela One high-speed strobe is based around nine architectural LEDs.

The result is a strobe with one million lumen output from just nine LEDs, and it allows not just for a single illumination, but also a stroboscopic pattern of up to six flashes with individually-controlled duration and interval. It is, says Kane, a much safer proposition than an air-gap flash, and it also looks to be remarkably user-friendly. Just hook it up to your trigger and if you want, daisy-chain multiple Vela One units together for greater coverage, or even to your standard strobe for background illumination. Insert four AA batteries, turn the power on, adjust a couple of dials and you're ready to go.

A flash speed that's 100x faster than a typical strobe at its fastest comes in handy for those oh-so-cool high-speed exposures of bullets demolishing baubles or tearing through fruit.

And compared to your standard strobe -- likely limited to 1/20,000 second or slower -- the Vela One will provide a staggering 1/2,000,000 flash speed, fully 100 times faster. That's sufficient to stop a high-velocity rifle bullet, or as you can see here, to get those oh-so-cool shots of bullets just launched from handguns, or ball bearings demolishing fruit and baubles.

One grape, one ball bearing and the Vela One make for a very cool photo.

As of this writing, you can preorder the Vela One through Kickstarter for £500 or thereabouts, a little less than US$800 at current exchange rates. And if you're wanting two, £800 will US$1,260 will get you a pair of Vela One strobes plus sync cable, for extra illumination. More details can be found on the Kickstarter project page for the Vela One, and £25,000 will be needed to see the project to completion -- a figure that is very likely to be reached, given that Kane has already raised 80% of the total with 16 days to go.

The Vela One connects via cable to your trigger, and optionally to another strobe. It is simply controlled with three dials and two buttons.

(via Petapixel)