28 March 2011

Low-Cost High-Speed Photography - Part 3

Find this and other photos HERE.

The Final Hardware

And here is the final part of the entry, starting with the schematic that I finally used. The core is the same as before. But now there is a linear voltage regulator for the controller. Also shown here is the serial interface and most importantly, the sensor circuit.

The sensor circuit consists of two parts. First, the reference voltage on PB1 is generated with a variable voltage generator. The voltage can be varied between 2 and 3 volts. The second part is the signal input, also a voltage divider at 2.5 volts and the transducer. I adjusted the reference voltage so that the LED just stops flashing without any input activity.

There is no voltage regulator on the LED. The circuit has to be operated with 7.2 volts.

Possible Improvements

Everything works. The main improvement would probably be on the sensor. It has to be very sensitive, and this leads to false triggers. E.g. switching the room light on or off trigger it. Perhaps an amplifier would help. As a work-around I set the dead time parameter to four seconds, so it would only trigger once per photo.

Other sensors could be interesting, like a sound trigger.

To improve the brightness you could use several LEDs in series. You'd have to increase the operating voltage of course.


I was able to take a few really interesting pictures. It is quite amazing how water behaves and the stroboscope makes it possible to explore that. I put a few pictures on flickr and there will be more. It is quite useful to look at some howtos on water drop photography. And of course you can experiment quite a lot.

The software is written in AVR studio assembler and can be downloaded here: Source


  1. Umm did you check light output with pin photodiode or voltage on LED with a scope to verify your vaweforms.
    Driving mosfet with just uc is kinda tricky it causes delays because of huge Cgs some driver would help (if us matters for you, if not forget about it).
    Working with fast cameras and overdriven LED systems, it matters.
    Also you can overdrive LED significantly up to 10x with these pulse width and low repetition rate...

  2. Thanks for your suggestions. I did check current through the LED. I was concerned about that myself, since I do not have too much experience with high power transistors.

    I used a scope to measure the voltage over the resistor in series with the LED. The waveform was as expected, the current in the right range.

    I didn't dare to overdrive the LED that much. I kept to the maximum value from the data sheet. But it might be possible to overdrive the LED further.

  3. What was your source for the Cree XM-L? I've Googled the thing a few times and have only come up with flashlights.

    1. I got it through a mail order shop in Germany. Try googling "XM-L T6" and add either "star" or "PCB"!