Light transmission through a laser formed bubble (LFB) following ablation of a metallic target inside water was studied. During the early expansion and late collapsing phases, the refraction index nb of the hot high-pressure vapor bubble is higher than 1.23 and close to that of the surrounding liquid. The cavity growth lowers nb down to 1.00 and causes strong defocusing of the incident laser beam with consequent enlargement of the ablation crater diameter, here overcoming factor two. Inhomogeneous water vapor clustering inside the cool expanded bubble further perturbs the light transmission and induces irregular ablation by the successive laser pulse.

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