Fancy Homemade Trigger Designed to Capture Lightning

IT consultant and photo enthusiast Viktor Takacs didn’t have much success when he tried capturing lightning on camera, so he decided to build this fancy do-it-yourself trigger (which he named “Zeus”) that automatically snaps a photo whenever the photodiode detects a flash of lightning. He even built a knob into the device that can be used to adjust sensitivity. The demo above shows the trigger reacting to manually triggered flashes from a strobe.

Takacs has a detailed post that walks through how he created the device. You can also email him for the code used by the microcontroller.

Zeus: Lightning Trigger for Cameras (via Hack a Day)

  • Zak Henry

    I could be wrong here, but I was under the impression that the lightning strike would have finished by the time the mirror had flipped out of the way? (well before the sensor started recording) I can only see this working when it is triggered by a lightning strike that is immediately followed by another.

  • Brett

    perhaps he runs it shutter only. But I was thinking the same thing. Lightening is too quick I would think.

  • Emanuele Meazzo

    If you have a recent canon DSRL just install Magic Lantern and use the motion capture feature, no external triggers, no hassle

  • Jason Playne

    well, there may be enough time to capture the re-strikes

    so the photo diode captures the first strike and sends the signal to the camera to open the shutter and with enough exposure time and good ISO performance you should be able to capture a decent shot of the lighting re-strikes.

    alternatively you can have your camera shoot continuously at a lightning storm and have the law of averages work in your favour :)

  • Jason Playne


  • Kjboorman

    Intriguing? Is this app free and for windows too?

  • Mal

    Ever heard of a long exposure….? Hahaha

  • Howard

    No this would work, on my little canon powershot A720IS I run a script using CHDK that catches lightning all the time, most flashes are actually multiple pulses of light. The diode could catch the primary pulse and trigger the shutter fast enough to catch the subsequent pulses, I always set the shutter to stay open for a few seconds afterwards as well and have caught a few additional strikes that way also. see my flickr stream for a few examples and look up slo-mo lightning on youtube and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Emanuele Meazzo

    It’s not “for windows” it’s for the camera, no external device required;
    Magic Lantern it’s ad add-on to the default camera firmware, adding a lot of features, it’s avaible for various Canon DSLR

  • Dave

    A commercial version at:

  • Greg Haycox

    Another one at:

  • Dana has various camera triggers to choose from as well.

  • Darin

    Long exposure is just about useless during the day; you can get lucky with it, but wasting 600 shots on a 5D II with no results isn’t worth it.