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Thread: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

  1. #1

    Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    I received this as a gift from a coworker of mine and it does work on my D3000. However, I just want to know if anyone can tell me if this particular model is well suited for modern DSLR.

    I'm not good with these voltage regulations on flashes and this is pretty much my first flash ever. I know many earlier flashes does not contain some form of dedicated circuitry, and some are manufactured with high voltage trigger circuits, is this model one of them?

    Note: I dont have any volt meter--let alone know how to use one--to be able to measure the sync voltage with my D3000.

    Here's a picture
    http://www.freestylephoto.biz/images/prod/28522.jpg



    Min




    Thank you in advance for those who took their time to answer my questions!

  2. #2

    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    I contacted Nikon and this was my reply:

    Nikon cameras can handle up to 250 volts through the hot shoe or sync terminal so I think your Vivitar should be fine.

    I hope this helps with anyone who as this particular model and was wondering!

    Min

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    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    250 volts seems a lot; my flash is 6 volts. Anyway I found out while looking at wireless triggers that anything above 12v may be dangerous. All this electronics stuff is a bit of a mystery to me though.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    The flash tube itself requires several thousand volts to flash (when triggered), but it is quite a low current and only for a very brief period - it has nothing to do with the battery voltage, although that is where it is generated from. This isn't what comes out the bottom of the flash though.

    Never-the-less, the older style flashes such as this can have a hundred or two volts on the contacts, so care is needed when handling an X-sync lead or you can give yourself a jolt. The hot shoe is designed so you can't touch 'both sides' (of the circuit), but it is just possible with a lead.
    It's not hugely dangerous in itself though, but modern electronics avoids the problem and only exposes the likes of 6 - 12v on terminals.

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    Hi! Sorry if i'm getting into an old thread. If i may ask though, i started using my old vivitar 2000B flash on my canon 1000D and it seems to work just fine, but i came across this blog regarding trigger voltage that it gives off. It said it will fry the unit sooner or later due to high trigger voltage (56 volts).
    Will appreciate inputs on this. Thanks.

    Yen

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    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    Chuck Westfall says that, apart from the first generation of Canon dSLRs (D30, D60, 10D, 300D), which were limited to 6V, all later dSLR models (i.e., anything later than the original dRebel, the 300D) have a limit of 250V across the hotshoe. So, you're probably fine.

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    Sorry, only just saw this thread.

    BE CAREFUL, and if in doubt, measure it. Some of the early 285's had trigger voltages as high as 350 volts, whereas some of the newer models were <12v (also, don't confuse any of this with the 285HV "High Voltage", which in fact has a low trigger voltage!)

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    I think there's a risk i have to consider here but with inputs that i need to weigh coming from you all made me feel better. The best thing to do is to upgrade to the same brand...that will come later though.
    Thank you so very much.

    Yen

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    I had bookmarked a website giving the flash voltages for specific flash units. I started in DSLR photography using a Canon 10D which had a maximum sync voltage capacity of 6V. Later Canon cameras and (I believe) all Nikon DSLR cameras are safe with higher sync voltages.

    Here is a chart with sync voltages measured from many flash units. These measurements, however, were not done scientifically, but were done by individuals owning the flash units. I might take these voltages with a grain of salt.

    http://www.botzilla.com/photo/strobeVolts.html

    Here is a website with some tests of flash unit sync voltages, including the Vivitar 285HV. The tester holds a degree in electronics so I would be willing to trust his results.

    http://aaronlinsdau.com/gear/articles/flashvoltage.html

    The caveat is that there are many-many variations of units within the Vivitar line, including variations (within the same model designation) of the 285HV. If it were my camera and flash, I would either test the sync voltage according to the instructions posted in the above websites or use a Wein Safe Sync.

    http://www.botzilla.com/photo/strobeVolts.html

    The Vivitar (series) flash units, although not capable of through the lens exposure control are viable flash units. The exposure can either be controlled manually or using the built-in Thyristor exposure control. This was the state of the art in the 1970's and provided quite decent exposure control once the control system was mastered. I definitely prefer through the lens exposure control but, would not be frightened to revert back to Thyristor exposure control if I had to.

    The one problem with the Vivitar 283 and 285 (series) flash units is that they tilt for bounce use but, cannot rotate. This may or may not propose a problem when bouncing the flash in the portrait configuration depending on the flash bracket you are using. A camera-tilt bracket will solve the non-rotation problem in the portrait configuration while a flash tilt bracket or shooting with the flash on the camera hotshoe will suffer if you cannot rotate the unit.

    BTW: I am not a fan of the Strobist doctrine of using jury-rigged hotshoe flash units as pseudo-studio strobes. However, if a person wanted to set up a Strobist lighting group, older Vivitar 285 (series) strobes are excellent candidates for this use. I am not sure of the prices of used Vivitar strobes in areas other than the USA but, these older 285 and 285HV (either type is fine for this use) units can be had for ten to twenty U.S. dollars on the used market. The Vivitar flashes have many useful accessories which can also be found at very low prices including a/c adapters which allows you to eliminate using AA batteries which have slower recycle times as they grow weaker from use.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 16th January 2011 at 02:50 PM.

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by edrtatad View Post
    I think there's a risk i have to consider
    Hi Yen,

    Not really ... I'm sure that if you don't have a digital multi-meter, you could pop into any electronc repair store in town and get them to check for you ... takes about 5 seconds.

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    The one problem with the Vivitar 283 and 285 (series) flash units is that they tilt for bounce use but, cannot rotate.
    Actually, I'd add two more notes, although they may be more annoyances than flat-out negatives, which is that the 285HVs are missing the 1/8 power setting (the settings go 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/16), and the sync port is proprietary, not a PC port or 1/8" minijack. If you want to do the Strobist thing with speedlites, the LumoPro LP120/160 or a Yongnuo YN-460 II/560 might be better candidates to consider, simply because they tilt, swivel, have all the manual power settings, and also have PC ports and built-in optical slaves.

    In addition, the new Vivitar 285HVs aren't actually made by Vivitar. They're made by Sakar and Cactus and those guys. The Cactus KF36 is pretty much the same flash as the 285HV.

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    I would be VERY wary of the table of flash voltages, they have been measured by many different people with who knows what meter(s) and experience.

    The voltage on the hot shoe connector will be at a high impedance; and that means that the impedance of the measuring instrument can drastically affect the measured voltage, some meters are better than others, but even then it can depend which range you use to measure with.

    Analogue meters are liable to be the worst offenders, but even the cheaper digital meters might cause a problem.

    One way to spot this is to start off with the meter on a high voltage scale and attempt to read it, now, assuming it'll still not overload the meter, drop a range, say the 300v (DC) range down to the 100v (DC) range, if the reading is numerically different*, you are not going to get a reliable measurement - although the one on the highest voltage scale is more accurate than the lower ranges.

    * e.g. it measured 50v on the 300v scale, but less, say 30v on the 100v scale - that kind of thing.

    Now; when you connect the flash gun to the camera, the camera's electronics will also 'load' the flash gun and may cause the voltage to drop to a lower level, but we can't easily predict or measure that, so best to play safe and assume the higher value measured will be what might cause damage.

    It is also possible the voltage from the flash gun might depend upon the manual power setting or other unpredictable things.

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    Hi everyone!

    Suddenly i'm into sort of, "the more you learn the more you know then the more you do not know" thing...kidding aside, i appreciate very much your taking time giving personal and educated inputs about my concern.

    I learned a lot! Thanks.


    Yen

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    This from http://www.botzilla.com/photo/strobeVolts.html:

    " Alan Latafat Correa checked with Vivitar and they clarified:
    The 285HV has a voltage of 12V. The 285 has a voltage of 350V. Hope this helps you."

    However, my 25 year old 285s both measure c.6V so it's worth measuring them - a meter from, say, Maplin is only a few pounds.

    HTH

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by proseak View Post
    " Alan Latafat Correa checked with Vivitar and they clarified:
    The 285HV has a voltage of 12V. The 285 has a voltage of 350V. Hope this helps you."
    I did a bit of Googling too - from what I read it seems that some models of the 285 are 350V, but others aren't. Personally I think I'd simply measure the one I had, and until I had, assume it was 350V and don't use it.

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    ...or use it with a Wein Safesync.

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    Re: Vivitar Zoom Thyristor 285 Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    ...or use it with a Wein Safesync.
    Or replace it with 4x Canon 580ex II units, complete with matching PocketWizard TT5's, and CP-E4 High voltage accelerators

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