DougBPhoto 4:23am, 13 August 2010
So, a friend of mine (back on the east coast) is trying to get more into photography, but unfortunately she pretty much just has a DSLR and basic lens... nothing beyond that... and NO budget.

Thus, I'm trying to figure out the best cheap options to get her some strobist capabilities...

She has a Canon Rebel XTi....

it has been ages (15+ years) since I've played with any Vivitar flashes, so how would an old Vivitar 283 work versus a 285HV.

I'm not looking for something that will give her TTL, rather something that can be used on a bracket or bounced into an umbrella.

I am sorry, but I'm a Nikon guy, I don't know Canons at all, and Canon speedlights (or speedlights for Canon) are well beyond her budget... even the Vivitars are a stretch.

So, I'm wondering if like a 283 can use a PC cord to the XTi (does the XTi need a shoe to pc adapter)

whats gonna be the best, CHEAPEST option for her, ideally wired at first and maybe finding her some cheap cactus or povertywizards later.

Thanks - DougB
ShutterCraze (NUEL) 8 years ago
When people ask for an opinion on a purchase and they include the words "best" and "cheapest" into the same question then you are going to get a million different answers. My opinion is wired you can do easily with cables and adapters like you mentioned, but does your friend understand what the limitations are by going wired? I think by the time she invests in 10-25 feet custom cables and adaptors to go wired, she can go out and pick up inexpensive wireless triggers and be done with it. My feeling is the real money is spent on the flash head, the light stand, the umbrella adapter, the light modifier, the gels, etc. How she will trigger should be an easier choice by her understanding what she wants to accomplish.

My 2 cents. Good luck.
dath1974 8 years ago
If it was me (and I'm generally a "cheap" guy), I'd get a hot-shoe to PC adapter, such as this (just one example, I'm not specifically recommending this one):,12111.html

Then I'd get a PC cable (actually, I'd hack up my own since I have a bunch of PC junk around I never use as my flashes use 1/8" mini or optically slave):,12326.html

I would do it this way as opposed to radio triggers for a couple of reasons:

1 - It will be very reliable (well, as reliable as the crappy PC connector, which I personally hate) and you won't need to figure out what the best *cheap* radio triggers currently are.

2 - This will be the least expensive way for her to try off-camera flash, so there won't be a huge commitment to something she may not enjoy or continue with.

3 - This will give her the option of putting the flash directly on the top of the camera (why anyone would do that in manual mode I don't know, but the option is there with the adapter between which acts as a safe-sync).

4 - This method will give her a fantastic backup sync method should she ever invest in radio triggers and fine one not working or dead batteries, or find a case where she is one trigger short. You can use a cable and put a radio trigger on one of these adapters at the same time so you can trigger one flash with the cable and other flashes with wireless.

That's my $0.02 worth. ShutterCraze does have a good point about inexpensive radio triggers, I just think that the cable method has some merit in her case. Also, like I said, if she or you are handy and already have some cables around, you could just buy the adapter/safe-sync gizmo and make or use a cable you already have. Manual sync cables are *very* simple two-wire cables. You just have to have the correct end on each side of virtually any wire that has two conductors. Obviously some wire is a better choice than others;->

DougBPhoto 8 years ago
Thanks guys..

I only have SB800's and Pocketwizards, although I did used to use a PC cord before I got another PW (back when I had an SB28DX)..

I wish I could remember what the 283 and 285's were like, if they had manual variable power settings or just "auto" reflected light modes.

At ShutterCraze, I could probably rephrase to say best for cheap or something like that... because say for $50 you can buy pure crap, or you can buy something used or better quality for the same amount.

The main thing is I don't want a flash to fry her DSLR, and I'd prefer that she learns how to control the flash rather than having the camera control it or as I think of it, having the camera/flash control you rather than the photographer making the decisions.
ShutterCraze (NUEL) 8 years ago
Here is a decent video to answer your 283 questions:
pdxblazer503 Posted 8 years ago. Edited by pdxblazer503 (member) 8 years ago
Niels has a great solution check it out

Yongnuo is your friend !

I like my Vivitar 285 a lot, simple and powerful. the only drawback is its plastic shoe, but I have replaced it with metal shoe now. perfect !
the_original_funkytoaster Posted 8 years ago. Edited by the_original_funkytoaster (member) 8 years ago
As the resident cheapskate, I think I would like to chime in on this one. I've also bought a lot of cheap crap and cheap gold in the last year and a half since I started doing this

I own and love a 283, but as is they are crippled. They lack manual control unless you buy the vp-1, which is a varipower adapter. The 283 is great and affordable, but the vp-1 is not, these days i've seen the adapter go for as much as $80-$90.

The 285 is fine, but not really a budget flash anymore. You used to be able to find them for $10-$25 but ever since the strobist explosion they are priced $50-120.

The best bang for the buck would have to be the sunpak 422d, 433d and 444d. They have manual power down to 1/16 and they're still pretty cheap, although the word has caught on lately and their ebay price is around $25-$50. BTW these flashes have a different name if they came from overseas, I think it is the auto30dx , but I would have to double check.

So how do you find the crazy deals? Well ,people misspell this stuff all the time, go on ebay and search "sunpaCk instead of "sunpak". See what I mean? Lots and lots of auctions that most people aren't going to see. Try it with "vivatar" instead of "vivitar". I snagged my vivitar with the varipower for about $30 total and my sunpak 444d for $12. I use those two flashes for 90% of my work strobist stuff.

Also look for photography equipment that hasn't been properly categorized, I purchased my d300+ 18-135mm lens on ebay for $950. I just sold it last week after a year of use for $1200, so I was basically paid $250 to use the D300 for a year.

Don't go too cheap on the triggers. I bought the cactus triggers a while back and they died on me after about 6 months. I bought cybersyncs since then and have been completely satisfied.

For stands there are a few deals on ebay, but alot of that stuff is crap, unless you know what you are looking for. I just purchased 2 "scratch and dent" stands from photographer's warehouse for under $50 total, and one of the stands is seriously heavy duty, it actually handles my 64" plm without a hitch. Don't use the website though, that hasn't been updated in ages, instead call them directly.
And as far as frying her flash is concerned, avoid the 283's and 285's built in japan. They have the higher voltage.
DougBPhoto 8 years ago
I had not thought about this before, but will they (283's and 285's) still have a potential damage issue if fired off a PC cord and PC adapter from the hot shoe?

I've always thought of the issue with them as shoe mounted flashes, but I've never heard if the pc sync cord is also a problem.

I'll definitely look at the sunpaCk :)

For light stands, I need to replace mine with air cushioned (now that I own some AB's) so I am thinking of just sending her one of my old stands if I don't find a good deal online.
dath1974 8 years ago
If you use some kind of safe-sync adapter, the high voltage won't be an issue. I believe it will still be an issue with direct PC cord attachment though, so make darn sure you know what you're doing if you don't use a safe-sync (such as what I linked to before). The issue otherwise is that you could potentially damage the camera as many (maybe most) bodies these days are only rated for low voltage-low current flash trigger.

Also, I didn't realize the 283 didn't have full-manual control as Mr. Toaster pointed out. . . His advice is spot on, but I wish he hadn't posted it;-> I almost bought some very expensive electronic test equipment once just to resell it because of a typo. I decided to just let it go though instead. Searching for misspellings on ebay could provide a nice income if you're willing to buy and resell stuff for a living...

I picked up some reconditioned Quantaray PZ-1 DSZ flashes for $25/each from techforless dot com many months ago. They have full-manual control and a built in optical slave, but lack a PC or other sync port, so you either have to use the shoe, or modify them. They also have TTL, but I got the Nikon versions before I realized they actually had Canon as well. . . Not a huge deal to me as I don't really do the TTL thing, but it can be nice for quick shots while moving around crowds. I can't say how fantastic they are or aren't as I honestly don't use them too often (usually just when I need some accent here or there), but they were cheap and I don't worry about them much. . .

DougBPhoto 8 years ago
Daniel, awesome prices, but they don't seem to have that model, and I can't see if the ones they do have include full manual options.
the_original_funkytoaster Posted 8 years ago. Edited by the_original_funkytoaster (member) 8 years ago
Be careful with the PZ-1's, they don't seem to play nice with my hot shoe adapters, but ymmv. Also, I've broken the feet on both of my pz-1's and they are permanently relegated to "flash on the ground" duty. BTW the ttl on PZ1 is useless on digital, sorry;)

Quantaray also makes one called the 900wa, it has digital TTL that works quite well, and it has a metal foot, but both copies of mine are...quirky. One doesn't always fire when it's supposed to and the other one sometimes buzzes...Once again, ymmv. Personally, if I were picking any of these up second hand, I would certainly choose the sunpak flashes before anything else.

I've considered reselling ebay schwag on the side for years, but maybe it's time...

Another fantastic flash to keep an eye out for is the quantaray q383. It's a rebadged sunpak 383 super, and we all know how much ass those bad boys kick, right?

DougBPhoto 8 years ago
Hmmm, I was just looking up the Sunpak 383 and saw a stat on one page saying recycle is 8.5 sec... is it really THAT slow?

(obviously not as slow on partial power settings)
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