Norman 202

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by tjackson, Jul 28, 2018.

  1. I have an older lighting system, Norman 202. My father purchased this equipment many years ago and they never failed him. It is a wonderful system. The lights have been sitting idle for just as many years. I have someone that would like to bring them back to life. My question is; will this system work with todays digital cameras, specifically a Canon Rebel T5I? Will it connect and work like my fathers Canon EOS? If not, is there any type of connection that will allow it to function for the digital world?
  2. AJG


    Assuming that they still work, it should be easy to adapt a radio transmitter/receiver to your Norman system and any camera with a hot shoe (both your Canon models have this) . I use and like the ones from Paul C. Buff, but there are also cheaper ones form Yuongno and others. I don't know the sync voltage for your Norman system, but older strobes frequently have high sync voltage which can damage electronic cameras--1980's and 90's film cameras and any DSLR. For this reason I wouldn't recommend a simple hot shoe to PC cord adapter which would be the cheapest way to do this.
    tjackson likes this.
  3. All of my lighting equipment is Norman-I think I have 5 power packs of varying sizes/powers and vintages, along with 16 heads. Yes, that's overkill and even though the stuff never dies, I figure having some redundancy isn't a bad thing.

    A quick look tells me that the 202 doesn't look to be compatible with the ubiquitous LH900 light heads-that's a shame as I'd see myself buying what looks to be a nice, compact little pack to add to the rest of my "collection." In any case, Norman stuff is virtually indestructible.

    On the front panel, you'll see something that looks like a 2-prong AC power plug. This is actually called a "household" plug and it was once ubiquitous on lighting equipment. Use caution, though, as it's NOT 120V-this is the "sync" port for the power pack and will allow it to work with any type of camera with flash synchronization. It's actually quite simple-any time the two terminals are shorted, the pack will fire the flashes. I've used my Norman lights with everything from 1940s view cameras to recent model Nikon DSLRs.

    You will probably want to get a "household to PC" sync cord-this should be inexpensive. PC is short for Pronto-Compur, and is a defacto standard for external flash connections to cameras. It's a tiny plug(maybe 2mm in diameter) with an outer "barrel" and central pin. To then connect to your camera, you have a couple of options:

    1. Direct connection to the camera-since I don't THINK the Rebel cameras have PC sync sockets, you will need an inexpensive hotshoe to PC adapter. For a couple of reasons, this is a bad idea. As AJG mentions, the pack likely has a sync voltage in the hundreds of volts and can fry your camera. Even if that weren't the case, PC connections aren't that robust(there have been attempts to make them sturdier or reinforce the attachment-none have really become common). The barrel wears and becomes loose or the cords break internally if they are handled a lot. Plus, having a wired connection snaking across your studio is a recipe for disaster. I do not do long runs of PC cords for this reason-I keep min as short as possible.

    2. Use your camera's built in flash to trigger it optically. To do this, you'd attach something like a Wein "peanut" slave to the end of the PC cord attached to the power pack, and then fire your camera's built in flash. The optical slave will "see" the flash and trigger the strobes. Depending on your studio layout, the reliability of this system is anywhere from about 10% to near 100%, but usually 90% or better as long as you have the slave placed properly. USUALLY the power of the on-camera flash is so insignificant as to not affect your image, although this may not be the case on a 200 w-s system. In any case, when I'm doing this I often prefer to use a shoe mount flash with the power dialed WAY back and pointed as directly toward the slave as I can(I usually work with the pack behind me, so I fire it over my shoulder). Also, regardless of the source of flash, I'll often throw an IR gel over the flash. This is probably your least expensive option, and for most uses is good enough.

    3. The often preferred solution is to use radio triggers. I use Quantum 4s that are probably from the 80s or 90s, and despite being old they they never miss a beat as long as I make sure I have batteries in them(they can eat 9Vs if I forget to turn them off, and the ones that attach to the pack take two of them-I change them before anything important just to be safe, but typically use cheap carbon-zinc "heavy duty" batteries since they have a long shelf life and the power demands aren't that great when actually in use).

    If I hadn't bought the Quantum outfit(several transmitters and receivers) with my first batch of Norman lights, I probably wouldn't have gone seeking them but since I have them they work great for me and I'd trust them for any use.

    The gold standard are Pocket Wizards, but they are complete overkill for you. There are a lot of inexpensive ones on Ebay that are probably fine. Yongnuo is a popular brand around here, and they look fine to me

    rf 603ii N-3

    Typically, you'll have a "transmitter" that fits into your camera's hotshoe and a "receiver" that connects to the power pack. Many of the ones that you see now use the same unit for both roles and are set-up with a switch. Note that if the receiver DOES NOT have a PC cord, you'll need a PC-hotshoe adapter-this should be a $10 or less Ebay piece. Even the Nikon branded one I have(AS-17), which I didn't buy specifically but came in a box of other stuff, retails for $30 or so new.

    Once you've worked out triggering, these are NOT straight forward plug-and-play items to use. There is no automatic flash metering on them-everything is totally manual.

    Once the lights are set up and your trigger hooked up(however you choose to do it) you'll want to set your camera to manual mode then set the shutter speed to the flash sync speed or slower(1/250 is PROBABLY safe, but check your manual). Fortunately, once again, the flashes are powerful enough that the shutter speed isn't THAT important as they'll likely be more powerful than ambient light indoors. In the old days or when shooting film, we'd use a flash meter to determine the aperture to set. Fortunately, with digital, you can pick an aperture and look at the histogram to get the correct exposure. You'll probably find yourself setting your camera to its lowest ISO unless you're lighting a big area(like a large group) and need the depth of field. Fortunately, you can play around and get instant results.

    One last thing-Normans lack some of the safety features built into newer power packs. The guy who sold me mine spent a lot of time going over "break down" and reconfiguration with me. I was taught-by a long time Norman user-to power off the pack and discharge it(mine all have a "test fire" button on them-on yours activate the trigger) before unplugging a head from the pack. I've been told that-if you don't do this-you can get a spectacular spark that can also fry parts in the pack. I have a 3-light set semi-permanently set up now and that's how I shut it down even if I'm not breaking it down(although sometimes I do plug or unplug one of the three lights depending on whether my subject needs it).

    One really final thing-if the kit has been sitting a while, you'll probably want to spend some time "reforming" the capacitor to get it back up to full output. Flip it on to the higher power setting, then discharge the pack, let it sit a few minutes, and discharge again. Do this several times over the course of an hour or so. I'd suggest having the power cranked all the way up when doing this. Since you can't control the modeling lights independently on the 202 pack, you might want to remove the modeling bulbs from your flash heads while doing this to keep the heat down and avoid burning one out. Just don't touch the modeling bulbs with bare hands, and it's a good idea to use a rag to wipe off both the modeling light and flash tube after setting them up but before powering up. Modeling lights are tungsten-halogen bulbs in a quartz envelope, and finger oils on the outside can cause issues(plus they are hot enough that any dust on them will stink).
    tjackson likes this.
  4. AJG


    @ben--As I tell my students, PC does stand for Prontor Compur, but it really stands for Poor Connection. Decent inexpensive radio triggers are one of my favorite technological improvements of the last 20 years.
    tjackson likes this.
  5. Definitely go with radio triggers. Hard cabling was always a total PITA; aside from presenting a trip-hazard, the darn things were so unreliable you always needed 2 spares as insurance you could finish the session.

    You also need to ensure that the polarity of the trigger is correct. Old clockwork film cameras used a simple switch inside them to trigger the flash. Today's electronic cameras and triggers will only work if the 'ground' is negative and the 'fire' pin is positive. Therefore you need to find out which side of the reversible 'household' synch socket is positive and which negative; then wire the plug to the trigger appropriately. Sticking a bit of black or red tape on both socket and plug would be a good idea.

    Nearly all radio triggers now have a hotshoe-foot as their synch input. So a P-C to hotshoe adapter is going to be needed. Then you need a short household-to-PC cable..... messy!

    Anyhow. I'd test that old flash gear thoroughly before throwing any money at it. Capacitors can go leaky and flashtubes can lose their gas over time.
    tjackson likes this.
  6. Thank you so very much! I am going to get the lights out this evening and go through your suggestions. This makes me very happy. I was afraid that they were no good and worried they become floor lamps. lol.
  7. Norman equipment may not be particularly refined, but it IS about as close to indestructible as you can get when it comes to flash equipment. It's also so plentiful, durable, and out of demand that you can get it for a little of nothing. That's how I came to assemble a monstrosity of a 16 head(not counting the background projector, which plugs in/operates like a light head), 5 pack kit with almost every modifier Norman cataloged plus bunches of stands, soft boxes(with Norman rings) and plenty of other odds and ends for under $1K. The only thing I've bought separate was a 24" reflector-I use it all the time, and it was well worth the $10 the local shop asked for it after I-quite literally-tripped over it.

    Heck, if it weren't for the fact that I actually have a couple of them, I could call up Norman or even go to B&H and order a new flash tube for an LH2500 head. There again, I have a big stash of them, but the model lamps on LH2500 are a readily available bayonet base tungsten-halogen bulb that Eiko and a few others make.
    tjackson likes this.
  8. "I could call up Norman or even go to B&H and order a new flash tube for an LH2500 head."

    - I'm curious how much that would cost you though Ben.

    I was recently handed two Bowens monolights that have smashed flashtubes. The cost of replacement tubes makes them BER unless I buy cheap tubes of dubious quality. And if I'm going to do that, I could just as well buy complete Chinese-made monolights for about the same cost.

    So unless someone also hands me a box of compatible xenon tubes, I fear those old monolights will end up as landfill.

    Also, no electrolytic capacitor ever made is immune from drying out or de-forming. I would always be very wary when using a pack or head that had lain unused for a while, especially if it was also made a long time ago. Any hissing or loud humming noise should be a prompt to pull the mains plug as quickly as possible.
  9. More than a good used head, but less than a new 900-series head from Norman(yes, they're available too). The last I looked, they were around $225.

    There again, it's not relevant to me as I have replacement tubes on hand and if a head did die, I'd just retire it.

    Still, though, the chances of a randomly selected Norman head being bad are pretty low. The tubes are rated to 2500 w-s, but very few Norman packs can send that much power to a single head(I can go to 2000 on a single head with two of the packs I have, but only did it when I was buying the kit to test that and haven't since) and realistically few folks are going to run a single head that much. With blower on the head, I don't know that the packs even recharge fast enough to overheat a tube-especially if you're like me and rarely run one over 800 w-s or so(that number isn't to protect the equipment, but rather a practicality of having a usable aperture).
  10. Yes they would ! When I was photographing youth sports, this is the power pack we used. We used it with film then digital without any type of safe-sync. Actually I have 3 of these units at home and never used a safe-sync with my digital cameras. The light from these units is much better than hot-shoe flash. There is no comparison.

Share This Page