flash recommendations?

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hi folks---

wow. this board has really taken off in the past year!

every once in a while there are some nice discussions of equipment / film recommendations. i have always found these helpful, and based the building of my very small collection on these recommendations. i know there is a lot of subjectivity involved, but i thought maybe such discussions would be helpful to others.

so, now i have a question about flash on my T3 and TC. when i first started about 1.5 years ago, i bought a vivitar 2800 flash which has a tilt head. i since learned that by attaching one of luminquest pocket bouncer's, you can get some rather soft lighting. and it does a better job when i rotate the camera 90 degrees for a portrait shot.

does anyone have any recommendations for flash techniques?

o in what situations would you need the PC port? o can anyone recommend a flash that does different degrees of fill flash? someone told me the vivitar 285HV was too heavy for the hotshoe. is this true?

thanks, paul.

-- Anonymous, February 20, 2001


flash recommendations

Hi Paul,

I've used Vivitar 285s and 283s for years, both on the hotshoe & off camera (in which case I used the PC connection) on T3, TC, T4 & FT-1s. These flashes are a little larger than I like on-camera, so I usually use with a flash bracket. With heavy use, I can see where one might loosen the shoe on the camera, but hasn't happened on any of my cameras. But then, I usually use an off-camera bracket anyway.

Incidentally, Both these flashes are prone to a cracking plastic foot, so you'll see a lot of replacement metal feet avail., best price for them is www.micro-tools.com who offer for $9 (don't pay eBay prices!).

The 285 has a built-in diffuser/fresnel which modifies the flash to match 35mm to 135mm lenses, and usually came with a 28mm diffuser that can be slipped in the front. There are also optionaly wider lenses, and colored filters.

The 283 is basically the same flash unit, but doesn't have the light modifying head and uses a less controllable light sensor (although you can get accessories which allow nearly all the same features as 285). The 283 has to be one of the most commonly used flashes and is still made by Vivitar today. Guide number for both 283 & 285 is in the 110 range.

In case you don't know, guide numbers (GN) are used to compare how powerful a flash is, how far it can reach with it's light output. A simple formula can convert known GN to feet and aperture settings on a camera. But mostly I find myself using to compare one flash to another. Heads like on the 285 make for a variable guide number, so usually are stated at the 50mm setting. Additionally, GNs are usually stated for 100 ASA film and the synch shutter speed.

One reason you would use the flash off-camera, with a cable connected to the PC, is to put the flash off-axis from the lens to avoid red-eye. When using a flash bracket, Sunpak makes one I prefer because it has a button that releases the handle quickly & easily, if I want to hold the flash farther away than the bracket allows. Strobo-frame and others make more elaborate flash brackets that do all sorts of things.

I'm not familiar with the 2800 you mention, but personally use two Vivitar 2500s, mostly for macro-flash. These have adjustable diffuser/fresnel lenses like the 285, and also tilt for bounce flash, but the flash units are much smaller. GN is probably around 80-90. I really like one accessory that Vivitar made to work with the 2500s: a fiber-optic flash sensor which clips on the lens hood, helps get accurate macro flash exposures. The 2500 is the only flash I'm sure this will works with.

I also use a Sunpak 444D, which is "slightly" dedicated to Konica FT-1, FS-1, etc. (similar in operation to Konica's own flashes: X24 & X36) via an interchangeable module that allows "dedication" to other cameras, too. This type of dedication shouldn't be confused with current models of dedicated flashes which offer TTL metering and adjust the flash accordingly, are much more "automatic".

The 444 is simlar to the 285 in that it has a tilt head & built-in diffuser/fresnel lens to match lens focal lengths & is about the same size. Nice additional features are that the 444 head also swings right & left and the diffuser/fresnel snaps off to allow other accessories more easily fitted to the bare head (such as the Lumiquest softbox/bounce items you mention). I seem to recall the GN for a 444 is a little higher than the big Vivitars, around 120. I think Sunpak also offered a 422D which is basically the same but without the diffuser/fresnel (more like the 283).

I also use a selection of small, manual Vivitar and Sunpak flashes for various things. Smaller Sunpak dedicated versions are the 322D and 333D. One has a fixed head, the other tilts & has diffuser/fresnel. These are the smallest units I've found that offer easy, manual user settings to full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, etc.

I personally don't use handle mounted flashes (aka "potatoe mashers") made by Vivitar, Sunpak (511, 622) and Metz, etc. Many of these offer higher guide numbers, 160, 180, as high as 220. Also often will hold larger batteries, recycle a bit faster and work with a variety of accessories. Main reason I don't use them is they are heavier & take up more space in a camera bag, are less convenient to pack. Also tend to be more expensive, of course (a lot more, in the case of Metz).

One nice thing to have with any flash is a separate battery pack. It usually give faster recycling times and many more flashes that the AA batteries in the flash unit.

There are a variety of external batt. packs. The Vivitar offered the LVP-1 for the 285 which actually takes 4 "D" sized batteries, nice that they are available almost anywhere, but,. like the 285, are now only avail. used. The 283 uses an HVP-1 or HVP-2, which is a larger, rechargeable battery. Both the 283 & battery packs are still avail. new from Vivitar. There are a variety of other 3rd party battery packs available, i.e. Quantum and others.

Another item that is nice to have if you use multiple flashes is a slave unit (or units). The simplest type of slave either attaches to the flash shoe, or plugs in to the PC socket on the flash. It senses your "main" flash on the camera (or bracket) going off and fires the flash it's attached to, without wires! Of course, if there are other photographers around using flashes, you may have a problem with them setting off any slaved units you are using. For these situations, there are radio and infrared controlled slaves. Some high-end flashes have built-in slave units.

I find I nearly always use more than one flash, as this gives much more natural looking light. At the least this usually means a main flash above and left (or right) of the subject, and a fill flash at a lower setting used on the opposite side to prevent deep, contrasty shadows. A third (& fourth, etc.) flash can be used to light up a background, or provide key lighting on a person's hair, etc.

Finally, and especially if you start using multiple flashes or frequently using fill flash outdoors, I strongly suggest getting a good flash meter and learning how to use it. Minolta and Sekonic (and others) make good ones that can be used for ambient light as well. While a bit expensive initially ($200+ new, $100-150 used), it will make your flash photography much more accurate and enjoyable and save you a ton of film! It's especially important if you are using slide film, which is much less tolerant of incorrect exposures than print film.

There are some great books about using flashes out there, I suggest you get one or two. But, try to get an older edition, pre-TTL flash, or, once you read about all the things you can do with the current crop of flashes on today's cameras, you might find yourself wanting a bunch of the newest stuff!

Hope this helps!

Alan Myers San Jose, Calif.

-- Anonymous, February 20, 2001

whoops - flash rec.

Sorry Paul, I missed one item you asked about, manually setting flash levels for fill flash... the Sunpak 444D, 422D, 333D, 322D & Vivitar 285 all have this built-in. There is an add-on module for the 283 that makes this possible.


-- Anonymous, February 20, 2001



I use Sunpak 422/433 without a dedicated module (manual) so I can use 1/2 or 1/4 power and open up a stop or two and they will recycle quick enough to fire away continously with a FT-1. Just set the lens at whatever f-stop you need and the flash will correctly expose 3-30, 5-50feet, etc. as you choose. Also IMO the Sunpak's give a slightly better color rendering than the Viv's. Oh yes, the manual (non-dedicated) units make it easier to use as fill,too! You just have more control over everything. Guess I'm a control freak.

PS: I am currently using a Pentax module on one of my 433d Sunpak's and it works fine as a manual. They are easier to find than manual modules!..............later,jim

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2001

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