Toronto. In the early days of flash, these high speed demons emulated flash bulbs – you set the aperture, and shutter based on subject to camera distance, film speed rating and shutter syncronization maximum speed. All this changed with Honeywell’s iconic Strobonar 660 (if you used battery power). The elegantly designed flash series used automation to control the amount of light hitting the subject, stopping when the right amount was detected – whether on camera and directed at the subject or bounced off a light wall or ceiling to give a softer modelling light.
This was a terrific accessory for most cameras, allowing good exposure both at night and indoors. An ad from the November 10, 1967 issue of LIFE (page below page 80) illustrates this beautiful flash. I had an Ultrablitz Reporter IIa with a large reflector and lots of power but no automated control so subject to camera distance always had to be calculated and the aperture adjusted to control the light intensity. Most 35 mm cameras with focal plane shutters would only synchronize to flash at or below 1/25 or 1/50 second, sometimes leading to ghost images from natural lighting. So called focal plane flash bulbs (not electronic flash) allowed for faster shutter speeds by staying illuminated for a bit longer than normal flash bulbs.
My thanks to good friend and PHSC member, George Dunbar, for sharing this bit of photographic history and thanks to Mike Butkus for the flash manual. Be sure to check out Mike’s site for any photographic manual – both pdf downloads and paper copies.