Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How do spark cameras work?

  1. Jun 18, 2011 #1
    I’m not sure if they are even used anymore, but back in the day engineers used spark cameras to capture very brief timescale events.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2011 #2
    They were used only until Harold Edgerton showed he could take an aerial photo of MIT at midnight using a flashtube mounted on the belly of a B-18 in 1941. See

    http://invention.smithsonian.org/resources/online_articles_detail.aspx?id=618 [Broken]

    Also see http://www.springerlink.com/content/k96yxljy0tt29rgx/

    Henry Talbot is purported to be the first user of spark photography in the 1850's.

    Bob S
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  4. Jun 19, 2011 #3
    Thanks, I wish I could read that Shock Waves journal article. It looks really interesting. Another question: did X-ray radiography replace spark photography?
  5. Jun 20, 2011 #4
    By the way, how do spark cameras work?
  6. Jun 20, 2011 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    When you call it a "spark camera," what exactly do you mean? Do you mean a conventionally shuttered camera with a fast flash which exposes the object while the shutter is open?
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  7. Jun 21, 2011 #6
    For a camera with a shutter, the shutter is in T (time) mode, in a dark room. For view cameras, the lite-tite dark slide on film holders is pulled out. Sparks in air generally do not give a uniform spectral (white light) distribution. Electronically triggered flash lamps were a major upgrade. Triggering a spark discharge in air was usually done by manually discharging a capacitor bank, so synchronizing with a shutter was difficult.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook