Once costing hundreds of dollars, the high-powered green laser is now an affordable, amazing gizmo that the determined hobbiest can afford. This review covers a 50 milliwatt 532nm green laser from Vavolo.com.
I can remember when the first green lasers hit the “normal” retail channels. They were several hundred dollars and only had a 3-5mw output power, which is similar to the power of a common, cheap red laser pointer. The novelty of a green laser was not worth the money.
Now, however, you’re able pick up green lasers ranging from about $30 for the low powered versions up to the ungodly expensive mega-power units. I recently got a 50mw laser pen unit from Vavolo.com for review, and at around $140, it’s half the cost and 10X more powerful than those first green lasers. It’s also a lot of fun!
The Vavolo.com laser arrived in a small spring-top case padded with foam and included instructions and a couple of AAA batteries. The unit is made entirely of metal with most covered in a black textured paint. There is a small button to momentarily activate the laser located towards the emission end. The unit has a solid feel and good heft due to the all-metal construction.
Installing the included batteries was trivial and involved unscrewing the two sections of the pen and inserting the batteries. The instructions which are included cover several models of lasers made by the same manufacturer, so they are not the clearest on which direction to install the batteries, but it’s easy enough for anyone who’s dealt with battery powered devices before.
Safety note: The unit has up to 50 milliwatts of light output, which is enough that you should be careful and never aim it at other people to avoid inflicting eye injuries. Of course, if you were to get the even higher powered units that Vavolo.com or other companies sell, you need to be even more careful and possibly invest in a set of laser eye-protection goggles.
Testing a laser like this is somewhat difficult for an amateur hobbiest as the beam is difficult to photograph, distances are hard to measure, and above all, how do you quantify “fun”?
I started by standing back 30 feet and shooting a wall-hanging of the Enterprise I have. The hanging is made of a nylon-like cloth which is somewhat shiny. As you can see, it would appear that the Borg are attacking the Enterprise once again… Uhh… Yeah, I’m a nerd. Anyway, even from 30 feet away, the beam spot is incredibly bright as you can see.
To give you an idea of the spot size from this beast, I stood 25 feet back from a piece of white posterboard and shot. Note that the camera is zoomed-in somewhat, so I included a CD-R for size comparison. Also note that these photos are taken with the equivalent of 200 watts of ambient lighting (fluorescent) and another equivalent 100W in a reflector shining from directly overhead the posterboard.
Here, you can see the 50mw green laser compared to the 3-5mw laser from the USB Handheld Laser Presenter review I complete recently. Feel free to ignore the paint buckets on the floor 😉
Now for the real fun! The weather last night was cold and brought a typical Colorado winter fog bank with it. Shooting the green laser into the sky on a regular night is OK, but add a bit of fog, and it’s like blasting a giant light-saber into the sky. These shots show the beam just shooting upwards into the night sky. Note how you can see the fog droplets in the beam as bright sparkles in these and the upcoming shots.
I realized that I could fiddle with the auto-focus/auto-exposure setting on my camera to get better shots. Here you can see me Borgifying (oops, there I go again) the uninhabited neighboring house with the 50mw green laser. The fog sparkles are even more visible in these as well.
Now, I take to shooting the beam several hundred feet. You can see the fog a bit more here. It’s interesting how the beam, when aimed up into the sky rather than at an object, just seems to end abruptly at some consistent point. I’m sure there’s a physics explanation for this, but who needs that when you can wave a thousand foot bright green light-saber around the night sky? 😀
As you can see, the 50mw green laser pointer has a ton of “wow!” factor and is very fun to play with. For those of you wondering, 50mw is not enough to pop balloons or burn paper, so you’ll want to step-up to more powerful versions which might do that. However, for a relatively safe gizmo that will have all of your friends amazed at the heretofore unseen brightness of the beam, you cannot go wrong. Vavolo.com even has the 50mw green laser pen on sale right now for a few bucks off, so head over and pick one up. If you like geeky things like lasers, this one is hard to beat!
Special thanks to Cassily at vavolo.com for providing the review unit!
Here is a quick video showing a couple of the scenes in the photos above:
You can also download the video: Some scenes from the green laser pen testing