‘Cause splosions are cool.

Capacitors are Fun
  • Take a part a disposable camera, desolder the capacitor and rig up a charging circuit.
  • Charge the capacitor
  • Turn off the lights
  • Set your digital camera on a 5 second exposure*
  • Use a bit of metal to discharge capacitor at the focal point of the camera
  • Upload photo to flickr

That is all.

*Digital is key. You want to have zero guilt about wasting a shot or 10 doing silly things. Oh, and get one of them null glass filter thingies that screws onto your lens in front of the front element. Much better to have that shatter when a stray bit o’ something hits the lens than, say, the front element.




13 Responses to “‘Cause splosions are cool.”

  1. Garrett Albright says:

    Just to clarify, when you say “set camera on a 5 second exposure,” you would be referring to a camera besides the one you’ve just taken apart, right? I was a bit confused by that step.

  2. bbum says:

    That’d be correct.

  3. Ben Holt says:

    Shooting digital also gives you immediate feedback as to whether the silly things you’re doing actually make interesting pictures.

    Also, 1-hour photo places and such are generally happy to give you as many *spent* disposable cameras as your little heart desires; my little heart has desired rather a lot of them over the years…

  4. Techzi » Blog Archive » Capacitor Discharge in Action says:

    […] ‘Cause splosions are cool – Link […]

  5. K says:

    Are digital cameras with five second exposure times really that common?

    It always pays to have lots of cash and expensive gadgets when you’re making all these money-saving Make projects…

  6. bbum says:

    Yes, quite common. Any basic Digital SLR camera — many of which can be had for less than $600 — can do multi-second exposures.

    If that is still too pricy for you, a quick search of DPReview’s buying guide (http://www.dpreview.com — link on left) reveals more than a dozen sub-$200 cameras that can do 15+ second exposures. All are 4MP or greater, too.

  7. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » Digicams with five second exposures? says:

    […] the spark post, K asked: Are digital cameras with five second exposure times really that […]

  8. Skazz says:

    Out of curiosity, what does this do to the capacitor? Can you do this forever with the same one?

  9. bbum says:

    It puts a hell of a lot of stress on the capacitor. I’m sure it will eventually fail, possibly catastrophically, probably just by no longer holding a charge because of an internal short.

    Given that used disposable cameras are free by the dozen (seriously — go ask any one hour photo place for cameras… tell ’em you are doing a science fair project with the flashes) and there is one good sized capacitor per camera, you’ll likely run out of things to zap before you run out of capacitors to zap with.

  10. Ben Holt says:

    I’d be very curious to learn how stress it does put on them, some measure of life expectancy and whether these are all that much worse than the normal stresses it goes through driving the flash…

    FWIW: I have never had one fail, but I’ve only driven any single one something on the order of dozens of cycles and I’ve never yet hooked one up to the charger backward. Also, because the charging circuits from the cameras are slow, I generally batch up a half-dozen or so charged caps, so that distributes the load as well…

  11. When You Take Apart Cameras - Discharge the Capacitor to Avoid Injury! at I Make Things says:

    […] Some people like to take photos of the sparks, Link. […]

  12. blog on blog » Blog Archive » Capacitor Discharge in Action says:

    […] ‘Cause splosions are cool – Link […]

  13. Magnet Schmuck says:

    This could also be done in a manual camera using a slow shutter speed. I like the effects on the photos. at first glance, it looked like a firecracker.

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