Vivitar 385HV fill flash in auto mode?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by vdonovan, Jun 28, 2012.

  1. vdonovan

    vdonovan Subscriber

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    For years I've used a Vivitar 283 in auto mode as a fill flash in full daylight. That flash finally died so I bought the latest and greatest, the Vivitar 385HV. To my surprise, when in auto mode, the flash won't fire at all in daylight. It seems to think that there is plenty of light, so why would you use flash?

    I thought this was a defect, so contacted Vivitar. They told me to send it back and they sent me a new one. Well this one does the same thing, so now I'm thinking it was designed that way, that it's a "feature", not a bug. But this seems really strange to me: I don't want the flash deciding wether it should fire or not, I want to decide!

    Anyway, has anyone else used this flash and had this problem? Has anyone used the 285hv in Auto mode in daylight? Does it do the same thing?
     
  2. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I have used 285s as fill flash. In auto mode you set up the indicator dial for a film speed one or two stops faster than the film you are actually using and set the colour on the dial relevant to the f stop being used.


    Steve.
     
  3. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    In order to ascertain if this flash is functioning correctly we need to know what camera are you using this flash gun with to see if it's compatible with it .
     
  4. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    Compatibility isn't the problem in this case.
    How about if you fire the flash by pressing the button on the flash? Would it fire? or course I meant in bright sun light.
     
  5. B&Wpositive

    B&Wpositive Member

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    You've got to be kidding...I was about to purchase one of these for daylight fill flash in auto sensor mode! I have had a 285HV for years, but want a second unit that also has swivel ability and more power ratio settings and auto f/stops. The 385HV looks perfect on paper. And now you tell me that it won't even fire in daylight?! And you've gone through two of them, and neither one works in daylight?! If all of them behave like this, this is one of the worst design defects I've ever heard of!

    If there really is such a design defect on all of them, I'll start looking for a used Sunpak 120J instead!

    Anyone else used this flash unit?
     
  6. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

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    You will have to check your manual to be sure. I am not sure about your 385HV but on my 383, which I believe is similar, I have to be in Manual flash mode and adjust my flash via the power settings. Under most circumstances I use 1/4 or 1/8 depending on the situation.

    This may or may not help. I love my old 283 and my 285, but I do know that the 383 works differently then either of those flash units. They were much more autonomous and worked off the feedback from their own thyristor. The 385 was really designed more for the modern camera systems. Your own camera may be the problem if it is not set for using flash all the time. It may not even be sending a signal to your flash to fire at all. You may have to go into the flash settings on your camera and set it so the flash always fires. It is not quite as convenient but it still works quite well. If your camera allows flash compensation, which would work well for daylight fill, then the 385 may be expecting that signal from the camera itself.

    I don't know if this makes any sense, and you probably know all this, but these are the things I would try first.
     
  7. B&Wpositive

    B&Wpositive Member

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    The Sunpak 383 won't fire in auto sensor mode in bright sunlight either?!?!?!?!

    What's the deal with all these flash units not being usable for fill flash in bright light?
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    This is a guess.

    It may be that the sensor in the flash is too sensitive - bright sunlight may influence it.
     
  9. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

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    Vivitar Series 1 PF 383 Pen

    Ok, this is what I have learned about the Vivitar Series 1 PF 383 Pen on the Pentax K7. I don't know if it is the same as the Sunpack or not.

    Although the manual is less than helpful, it will do fill flash on automatic. In the past I have always used it on manual because that is what I am familiar with. I am not terrifically satisfied with all the results I got but it is not too bad.

    I set the flash at TTL, which according to the manual will interface with the Pentax P-TTL system. I set the camera on the Program mode. I then used the camera and set a -1.3 exposure compensation for the flash by using the camera flash controls. I took several pictures of myself at arms length in the afternoon, both in the shade and in the sunlight. The flash worked perfectly every time and the power level was appropriate. I then reduced the compensation further to - 2, and again it worked as it should, the power was visibly reduced both to my eyes, and to the results.

    The shadows under the brim of my ball cap were alleviated in both circumstances. However, and this is where I still need to do some more work, the exposure to the sunlit,lower part of my face is definitely over exposed.

    However, at this point I can state that the Vivitar PF 383 Pen does do fill flash automatically. As I said, it may take a bit more playing to get it where you want, but it will work.

    Obviously I cannot say that the K5, or the 385HV, will work identically because I am unable to test that combination.

    You will pardon my not posting the images right now as they probably are not fit for human consumption. :smile:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 23, 2012
  10. B&Wpositive

    B&Wpositive Member

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    Several comments:

    -383 was an ambiguous number. I thought it was in reference to the Sunpak 383 (similar to the Vivitar 283/285). I now realize that the "383" flash in question is a Vivitar. Please ignore the comments about Sunpak.

    -The Vivitar 385HV is not a TTL flash. It's only auto sensor/thyristor. Just like the 285. In theory it (or any auto thyristor flash) should fire in auto mode regardless of ambient light level. There are many situations (not just fill flash) in which one might wish to use flash in high ambient light levels. Often, auto sensor flashes don't put out enough light in bright conditions due to being overwhelmed by the ambient light. But they do (or should) fire no matter what. I've never experienced one that wouldn't fire at all. Again, please remove the flash from the camera and fire it using the test button in auto mode to determine the issue. If it actually does fire, but at a low level, that is expected behavior. To compensate, a smaller auto f/stop power level should be set. It may be impossible to use for main light under bright conditions. But it should at the very least work for fill.

    Does anyone else have the Vivitar 385HV and can test it in auto sensor mode in bright light?