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Another Vivitar 285 ?


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Yes, I purchased another Vivitar 285 flash unit for $19.95 on eBay.  I already have 2 Vivitar 285's and 3 283's ! So why another one ? Well, the ready light on the last 285 I purchased,  did not blink red/green, it only stayed red. The flash worked fine otherwise, but something did not feel right to me... The way the 283/285's are supposed to work is that while the flash is recycling the ready-light is red, once the capacitor is fully charged it turns green, then it flashes red and green to let you know you can start shooting. 

The last 285 I bought only stayed red, so there was no way for me to know if the flash was really ready to shoot. I figured one of the capacitors blew and I certainly was not going to open up the flash to replace it.  I rarely use these flash units, they are more like a collector items so why the big deal ? Well you never know, I might decide to use them one day. They are not as big as strobes and setting lighting ratios is real easy on these units. Plus they put out a decent amount of light considering their size.

In any case, the other day I had a little extra cash lying around so I decided to take my chances and buy another 285. The seller on eBay said it was 'Tested",  so that gave me a little bit more confidence. Most of these units are listed as "Untested" so its like playing Russian-roulette. They mostly go for $25 or less, so shipping the item back to the seller because they do not work properly is a complete waste of time.

About 3 days later, my flash came in the mail. It was the Original 285 with grey back and thick plastic, not the newer model 285 HV with black back and toy plastic. I could not wait to throw in some new batteries to see how it worked. Unfortunately and to my dissapointment, the ready light on this flash also turned red and stayed red ! Frustrated I decided to Google the problem to see what would come up. I didn't expect to find anything because who would be so petty and nit-picky to worry about a ready light on a 30+ year old flash unit. 

After digging through some posts(not too many), I found a posts that said: "To form the capacitor after the flash has been sitting for a while: (1) set the flash to Manual/Full power, (2) throw in a brand new set of batteries, or use the SB-4 AC adpater. (3) Turn the flash on and leave it on for 30 minutes to an hour, or more". I followed these instructions and to my surprise, it worked ! Now the ready light on my flash blinks red/green when it's ready. Wow what a relief. It's not a Godox but I'm a happy camper !!   😊        

Edited by hjoseph7
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So if I ever want to fire up my ancient Vivitar 283 that has been sitting dormant for about 2 decades, it looks like a viable procedure. 

My 283 was originally purchased new by me in the late 1970's, a family heirloom!

Edited by Ken Katz
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10 minutes ago, Ken Katz said:

So if I ever want to fire up my ancient Vivitar 283 that has been sitting dormant for about 2 decades, it looks like a viable procedure. 

My 283 was originally purchased new by me in the late 1970's, a family heirloom!

If you don't have the SB-4 AC adapter, you can count on draining a set of 4 Alkaline batteries.

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7 minutes ago, Sandy Vongries said:

Just remember, there have been variations in power on some of these that can harm digital cameras. They can be tested.   I use my ancient 283 as a remote on rare occasions. 

I think the voltage on these are 250-275 so there is no way this flash will get anywhere close to my digital cameras... 

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Its nice that this site with a database of flash trigger voltage is still maintained!

https://www.botzilla.com/page/strobeVolts.html

It has instructions for testing the trigger voltage of your flash units.  My Vivitar 283 tested with a low value, but I still would not strap it onto any of my EOS film or digital bodies, but did used it with an optical slave trigger.  I doubt I will ever fire up the 283 again, since I know the Canon 550EX trigger voltage is safe, and it has variable manual power settings.

 

Edited by Ken Katz
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  • 2 weeks later...

Some 283s and 285s have low voltage triggers.

With that said, you can always throw a Wein Safe Sync on and use these on whatever camera you want without hesitation. I don't generally use Vivitars in this way, but I've done this with old Metz 45s and such. The safe sync can make a big shoe mount flash a bit more unwieldy.

Also, if you don't have an SB4, or want a more portable option, Quantum made cord for use with any of the Turbos. I can get the model if anyone wants. I managed to get a bunch of them when I happened into a big lot of bare-bulb converted 283s and 285s. I'd not want to run those on 4x AAs!

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On 6/27/2024 at 6:44 PM, Ken Katz said:

Its nice that this site with a database of flash trigger voltage is still maintained!

And it's still misleading and erroneous! 

The true trigger voltage of most old flashes can only be accurately measured with specialist equipment like an electrometer, oscilloscope or by dual-voltage measurement using a series resistor and a known input resistance voltmeter plus fairly complicated calculation. Just poking a digital multimeter across the trigger terminals will almost certainly under-read the true voltage. 

So without using specialist equipment or knowledge, most of those randomly submitted Botzilla voltages will be a complete underestimate of the true voltage. This is especially true of flashes showing trigger voltages in excess of around 120 volts. Those crude old trigger circuits almost invariably have a true open-circuit voltage in excess of 300 volts. 

I've fully explained the reason why you can't just stick a 10 Megohm multimeter on those old flashes and get an accurate reading in this thread, and again here.

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7 hours ago, Sandy Vongries said:

I would only use these flashes as a remote or on a film camera from their era.  Penny wise, pound foolish comes to mind.

Provided it is a newer, low voltage flash or used with a Wein Safe Sync, there's no reason why not.

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Reported Content Triggers are taken seriously and all are reviewed.

Review of Reported Content is independent of the Reporter and the Member who has had the report made against them.     

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In response to three (3) Reported Content Triggers from various posters, all the content of this thread has been independently reviewed.

Some posts have been deleted and/or edited.

This conversation is now closed.

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