DaddysAgeek 6:28pm, 8 May 2008
Why do all the Strobist kits from mpex come with the Vivitar 285HV Flash? I also read lots of other threads about this flash, why is it so poular? It's just a $90 manual flash with 4-stops... Actually, it's kind of loud and annoying. And isn't it no longer supported by Vivitar anyway?
I wanted to get a good flash for a shoot-through umbrella triggered with a PW and everything points here.... Your thoughts?
BenFaulkner 10 years ago
Hmm. I thought my 285HV was pretty awesome till I picked up a used SB-24 for the same price. And WOW. The SB-24 is so much smaller, sturdier, better made, faster, quieter and easier to use. So to be honest I don't really know why when there are much better flashes for much less money.
nadtz 10 years ago
The 285hv and Sunpak 383 are popular because you can still get them new with a warranty which isn't the case with used *. If I had the capital Id put out the perfect Strobist flash (but alas I don't).
285HV is cheap and has most of the features strobists need: manual mode, variable power, variable zoom, etc.
amuck paper [deleted] 10 years ago
I like mine.
Simple, powerful, cheap.
msvphoto44 10 years ago
I think the reason the strobist methodology has promoted the Vivitar 285HV is because of simplicity and only until recently they have had a very good reputation for sturdiness at a low cost. When you buy a Vivitar you get more than most flashes in the past.
- Color filter options
- PC cord in the box
- Shoe lock
There were also far more accessories for strobist going back to the seventies but have slowly been discontinued. I have had several and they have always treated me well.
Almost all of the flashes by camera manufacturers out there have simalar basic functions but until this recent dump of analog flashes they have retained their value. Take a look at the resale value of a SB80dx and a SB800 bought only within a few months of each other. The SB80dx is now very affordable by comparison and although it is still very odd for me to see a Canon shooter with a bag full of new or old Nikon flashes it works. So in a long drawn out reason why mpex (or most people) would promote the Vivitar for a strobist package:

-Vivitar is probably the most universally recognized flash for this application
-Mpex is putting together a affordable new kit (old Nikon or Canon flashes would not be acceptable)
-I’m sure they would build a package including a Sigma, Nikon, or Canon but it would not be as affordable

And yes that little ready beep drives me up the freaking wall, I have risked life and limb stopping on the freeway because I have left one on in my bag. I am currently replacing my Viv’s with SB600’s but its sell 2.5 for every one of them.
Entropy512 10 years ago
OK, if not the 285HV or the Sunpak 383, what would you reccommend as an alternative?

The alternative must be still in production and available new, as the 285HV and 383 are.

Really, the only flash I know of that can compete with the 285HV and 383 in power/price ratio is the Quantaray QTB-9500A/9550D (same as Promaster 5700/5750 except usually sold for MUCH less) combined with a "for manual focus" module. This configuration is limited to only full and 1/16 power though, which kills it for Strobist use. If Promaster/Quantaray released a module for their modular flashes that had more manual control it would make a GREAT strobist flash. It's cheap, widely available, and well supported. Plus it has tilt, swivel, AND zoom.

As to the rumors of the 285HV being "unsupported by Vivitar" - I think the flash has some sort of weird status within Vivitar that results in a "right hand doesn't know what left hand is doing" phenomenon.
Spundun 10 years ago
I just bought a brand new 383 TODAY and a Wein Peanut IR sensor to work with my Panasonic FZ18 with no hot shoe/pc socket. It works!! so I am very excited. But I'm wondering if I bought the wrong flash.

The strobist blog talks about focusing the flash, and I don't see the focus option on my 383. It's got 5 stops on the power (full-1/16) which seems nice enough. I was just about to start a new thread about this but this seems like a perfectly right place to ask, whether I got the wrong flash. How important is this focus feature and whether I can work around this.
Airchinapilot PRO 10 years ago
I hardly ever remember to use the focus on the flash. I think only two of my flashes even have it.
@Spudum you dont need a focus for the flash I have 3 of the sunpack 383's and they work fine, have adjustable power and will make you happy.
Spundun 10 years ago
Thanks for the quick responses, now I am looking forward to taking some pictures. :)
DaddysAgeek 10 years ago
Wait, I shouldn't really care about zoom in the flash if I'm going to mount it behind a shoot-through, right? I figured it would just be set as wide as can be...
Entropy512 10 years ago
Sometimes you don't want full coverage of the shoot-through - mainly for changing how specular highlights appear.

In general, for off-camera, I think zoom + tilt are far more important than tilt + swivel - If off-camera, you can easily swivel just by turning the shoe the flash is mounted to.
ac12basis Posted 10 years ago. Edited by ac12basis (member) 10 years ago
About the swivel. That is why my event flash is an SB24, so I can swivel the head to bounce off walls. If not for that, it would have been the 285HV.

About the 285HV vs the SB24. There are tradeoffs. I can adjust the zoom on my 285HV faster than I or you can adjust the zoom on the SB24. I just grab the lens and push or pull it...done! It is a simple to use flash where everything you need to adjust is easy and fast to do. Oh and I can change a full set of batteries faster on the 285 than most anyone can on an SB24. The only way you can change batteries fast on an SB24 is to make yourself a battery pack, which will then make recharging a PiA because you have to take the pack apart to charge it.
Marsh Rabbit Posted 10 years ago. Edited by Marsh Rabbit (member) 10 years ago
I like 285s cause they're old and clunky like me. Actually they work good and are cheap. At least the old ones work. If I was buying new and had money I'd get some big Metz's. Sunpak 383s are supposed to be good.
Riiv 10 years ago
Did the quality problems seem to get solved with recent releases? MPEX and BH both have the 285hv in stock for the time being.
noisy card [deleted] 10 years ago
And because the 285hv are beautiful with their boxy 70s look. =)
tdn9 10 years ago
I like my 285 because I got it for 10 bucks, and you can put this one trough some serious abuse ;)

Also, the filter slot is pretty handy.

jeffegg2 PRO 10 years ago
The Vivitar285hv has been the "workhorse" of photographers for many years. I had one from my previous camera, and bought two more to use with my Nikon D40 off ebay for cheap. The last one was 26 bucks including shipping.

a little bulky, but powerful and sturdy. the guide number I think is 120, for the SB800 is I think 130? so they are pretty close.
snikksnakktullprat PRO 10 years ago
how fast does the 285HV recycle?
when I put my Canon 580 on 1/8 power I can shoot indoor sports as fast as my 30D lets me (6,5 frames/sec.). could I do that with a 285HV?
Phil Wilks 10 years ago
Simple, powerful, cheap, well built.
Entropy512 10 years ago
Supposedly there was one bad batch (but a very large one) last year. Units bought before that batch are fine, new units are also fine. MPEX is supposedly testing each and every one prior to shipment now.
midwestphotoexchange 10 years ago
We are testing each flash before it goes out. We are showing a DOA rate of around 1-2%, another 1-2% die within a few months.
There are definitely more reliable units out there but it's hard to find anything new for under $100.
We are currently in the middle of producing our own flash which I hope to have out on the market in around 2 months. I will keep you all updated with specs and details when we get closer.

Midwest Photo Exchange
rudy__ 10 years ago
While no failures would be desirable, a 2% failure rate is not bad although nobody wants to be in the 2%.
Ed_Z 10 years ago
short answer: if you dont want to buy used (sb-28, sb-26 etc...) the vivitar is the best "deal" in terms of price:performance for strobist-type applications.
ac12basis 10 years ago
As I recall, Dave originally recommended the Nikon SB24.
But, because of his recommendation, the price of the used SB24 pushed up to about $75. At that point a bunch of us started looking for cheaper alternatives, and the Vivitar 285HV came up as viable alternative for less than $50. But with the added publicity, like the SB24, the 285HV started going up in price. Then with Vivitar re-releasing the 285HV, it was a NEW flash for about the same price as a used SB24.

Similarly for the Sunpak 383, a NEW flash for the price of a used SB24.
Someone also mentioned buying used sb 24-28's for around 100$ also. if you watch around for used Vivtar and sunpacks you can pick them up for real aforable, my last one was only 34$ :)
NabityPhotos 10 years ago
I regularly find used Vivitar 285(HV)'s in the $30 range. Mostly these are the older, sturdier versions. I figure at that point, if they're still firing, they're pretty good. (For the heck of it, I got out my digital postal scale and weighed the different versions of the 285/285HV. The newest batches weigh more than a pound less than the older ones.)

Some need a bit of cap forming. And I always test the synch voltage before buying. After buying, I immediately replace the foot with a metal one that has a PC jack, so no proprietary jack for me.

I like the fact that I can change the power setting, zoom and tilt without pulling it down on a lightstand and looking at it. The filter slot is great for gels and ND filters. The power knob has a little click at each power setting, so I can change it without looking.

At that price, they are simple, powerful, affordable......and disposable.

- Ron
DaveStef 10 years ago
does the 285hv work well with the gadget infinity cactus remote trigger/receivers? or the other cheap triggers like the ebay ones?
mrchuckles1 PRO 10 years ago
Yup, I use the 285hv with the Cactus V2s. Works like a charm.
grave.robbers 10 years ago
We are currently in the middle of producing our own flash which I hope to have out on the market in around 2 months. I will keep you all updated with specs and details when we get closer.

If it has a 3.5mm mono TRS sync plug I will love you forever.

Other than that, similar manual settings as 285, decent recycle time, and solid build is all i ask. :)
Since too many bad copies of 285Hv's lately, Sunpak 383 seems better option.
midwestphotoexchange 10 years ago
It will have a 1/8" miniphone mono jack, a PC jack and an optical slave built in. Similar power to the 285. I should have a working demo in my hands in 2 weeks. Production from there will likely be 2 months.

Midwest Photo Exchange
megapixelguy 10 years ago
Sunpak 383 have been discontinued.
bob_mcbob 10 years ago
I looked at the price of getting new 285HVs vs. used SB-28s when I was ordering from B&H, and I ended up with the SB-28s. Does the 285HV have 1/3 stop output control?
Joss Reeves 10 years ago

Take whatever number you've got in mind for your initial production run and double it. I guarantee you once DH posts about it on the blog you will be sold out within 24 hours. I wish I'd known about it before I bought my second Vivitar 285 HV the other day. I'll still probably buy one later once the hoopla dies down.

Post a pic of the prototype when you get it :-)
eos_shooter 10 years ago

This sounds great! Hopefully it is going to have manual power settings also. I can't wait. I'll start saving enough money for gas to make my 50 mile trek to your store. I figure that with the way things are going, in two months, gas should be about $8.00 per gallon!

Entropy512 10 years ago
"If it has a 3.5mm mono TRS sync plug I will love you forever."

FYI, Mono is fundamentally not TRS.

Stereo - TRS
Mono - Just TR - mono plugs/jacks don't have a sleeve. :)
grave.robbers 10 years ago
Arg, I got my acronyms mixed up, but it appears that you have aswell... ;)

TRS = Tip Ring Sleeve.

A mono jack is actually a TS plug, not TR.

Both stereo and mono jacks have a 'tip' and a 'sleeve', only the stereo jacks have the 'ring' between the two.
jeffegg2 PRO Posted 10 years ago. Edited by jeffegg2 (member) 10 years ago
All three of my old build vivitar285HVs work great with my V2s Cactus Triggers/receivers!

@Benfalkner photog

"""Hmm. I thought my 285HV was pretty awesome till I picked up a used SB-24 for the same price. And WOW. The SB-24 is so much smaller, sturdier, better made, faster, quieter and easier to use. So to be honest I don't really know why when there are much better flashes for much less money. """"

You bought your SB-24 for less than 24 dollars delivered??? Hey where do you get them? I'll buy a dozen!!
James Cubed Design 10 years ago
I just bought (2) two new Vivitar 285HV's from Adorama Camera for about $90.00 each. I hope they live up to expectations. Thanks to all the strobist posts. 10 years ago
I bought two 285HV's also from Adorama, I love the free shipping, although I upgraded to 3 day, so I should get them tomorrow.
OB-PHOTO.COM 10 years ago
How do the 285HV's compare in regards to output?
jeffegg2 PRO 10 years ago
repeat.... The vivitar285hv has a gn of 120, the sb800 about 130, I think the new sb900 has a wopping 170?
VibrantPhotographs 10 years ago
It will have a 1/8" miniphone mono jack, a PC jack and an optical slave built in. Similar power to the 285. I should have a working demo in my hands in 2 weeks. Production from there will likely be 2 months.

Hey Moishe - I never saw this before this thread was pulled from the past.... this still in the works or has this fallen away??
KluZz 10 years ago
I originally purchased two brand new 285HVs. 50% of them went up in smoke after about 6 months (lots of pops, smoke and bad smell). They're also big, heavy and bulky, and they're rather limited when it comes to power (1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/16) and light dispersal control.

The guide number of the 285HV is actually 140, but this doesn't really matter that much unless you plan on shooting on full power all the time...

I've since started using second hand Nikon SB-{25|28|28DX} flashes, and I've found them to be a lot more versatile, and the price range is just about the same.
Michael Zampelli 10 years ago
Mine is so much easier to set and use than my $400 Canon flash that it's silly. Love the quality of light out of the thing too.
noisemedia 10 years ago
id have to say i prefer my 285hv over my SB-600 any day. it feels sturdier, stronger and alot simpler to use. i like its boxiness and that little filter slot. the only thing that sets the SB-600 apart for me (IMO) is the TTL feature.

i would like to see more variable output control on the 285...but for the price im not going to complain.
vcallaway 10 years ago
I bought a 283 in 1980. I still have it and use it. I added a 285HV a few years later. Still have and use it as well.

I used the piss out of these things for many years shooting weddings. Neither flash ever failed me.

It is probably not nearly as important with digital, but shooting E6 these put out the cleanest color of any flash I've used. It is why a generation of people photographers chose them.

The variable range of the 285 and the 283 with the VP1 may not be infinitely adjustable, but the distance from flash to subject is. Need to change a 1/3 stop. Move the light.

I think sometimes people get too hung up on technology and forget about the light.
marcschneider 10 years ago
If one does not need the hot shoe mount (because he uses other attachment options or uses it always off camera or off whatever) and is willing to solder some sort of sync plug to his flash (either directly to the hot shoe or to the already existing (but also proprietary) sync plug or to the internal circuit board OR spends some extra $ fpr an additional adapter the Minolta 5400hs (and non-hs) could be a cheap option: nobody uses them any more since they are no longer compatible with the new DSLRs and have a proprietary hot shoe and thus can only be used on newer Minolta film cameras. It goes down to 1/32. Same applies to all other newer Minolta flashes that are not compatible with DSLRs (so everything besides the 5600 and 3600)

but IF you buy one look for a deal including the stand (which has a thread). If someone needs a ISO hot shoe there are adapters available on the used marked (FS-1200 would be the right one, but is quite hard to find). If you don't want to solder directly to the flash look out for the Minolta sync cables (can be bought new from Sony), cut it in half and attach the desired plug.

At least thats what I did: had bought two and added the circuit from the German guy so that the flash would work with the Maxxum 7D, but now I have an alpha 700 and can't use them any more (alpha 700 uses other timings).

But you are right: it isn't a true alternative to the 285hv: only used and works only with some DIY-work.
fumbling cat [deleted] 10 years ago
I got my Vivitars because of the 1/1000 at full power :)
DaveStef 10 years ago
whats the significance of that?

mpex! its been two months? i jus picked up my 285hv today, but just wondering whats up with that flash you guys have been working on..
DaveStef 10 years ago
and quick question.. does the 285hv have the 1/8th power setting or not? its not written there.. i dunno..
Josh Bowers PRO 10 years ago
Also wondering how the Mpex flash is coming along? This still being done? Really hope you are since Vivitar has been sold and I read rumors they might not continue with the flashes anymore?
KluZz 10 years ago

Nope, just 1/1, 1/2, 1/4 and 1/6. I've seen people mod their 285HV to achieve different power levels, though.
Tom Legrady 10 years ago
Hey Moishe ... two months is up!

How is the new MPEX flash?
DanMoralesPhotography 10 years ago

What's up? Where is the new MPEX flash?
You were expecting a release about 5 months ago.
David Sr. - 10 years ago
Moishe recently stated in a different thread he is expecting the new flash in February as I recall. slow boat... ya know..

Not to speak for MPEX but my assumption is that 285's are the best (most cost effective/ bang for the buck). When the LP120's are in good supply, I would expect to see those in the kits.

You can always buy the kits without the 285's if you prefer.

midwestphotoexchange 10 years ago
I think I wrote David Sr. before to say that I'm starting to sympathize with Kevin from RP on the release process and expectation. It's not just 5 months ago that I said they were coming, I think I said so 5 months before that, and probably 5 months before that. I've been working on it for almost 2 years now.
The flashes have almost finished production. They are scheduled to ship (notice my careful choice of words) at the end of this month so I expect to have them in-stock around the 3rd week in February. I have 1,000 pieces on order which I expect should last me a couple months, enough time inbetween to restock.

I'll come back and update this post in a couple months to let you all know it's coming 3 weeks later ;)

As soon as they are on the boat, I will open preorders. I don't feel comfortable doing it before that.

celticview 10 years ago

Are you talking bout the new batch of Vivitars? or a completely new flash unit? thanks! anticipating for it
christophercraig PRO 10 years ago
On a positive note, in November they were the same two months out they were in August, so at least it's now down to one month. Maybe in another couple months you'll have it down to a few days :-P
David Sr. - 9 years ago
... As soon as they are on the boat, I will open preorders. I don't feel comfortable doing it before that.

I wonder if they've got that boat gassed up yet? :›)
I want on the pre-order list please.
[note to self: don't get a whim to develop a product that has to be built across an ocean]
Roger Blackwell 9 years ago
I think that the market is still open for this kind of flashgun and if manufacturers produce a better specified non-dedicated flashgun then I'm sure there would be a lot of demand for it.
midwestphotoexchange Posted 9 years ago. Edited by midwestphotoexchange (member) 9 years ago
On the slow boat...ETA March 7th. Should be opening preorders 1 week short.

Midwest Photo Exchange
Connahhh 9 years ago
I like that I didn't find this post until today. I get to look at everyone else biting their nails waiting for this flash while it's the first I've heard of it. :)

I hope Hobby writes up a review of it that makes it scream buy me! If the price and specs are right I certainly will.
mjpatey 9 years ago
Wonderful news! I'm excited. In recession mode right now, but still excited!
Fargo Photog 9 years ago
Moishe, can you post more specs on the flash? I might wait if it's something I could use, otherwise I'm looking at either used NIkons or more 580 ex II's (after new PW release came out, having all ETTL could be cool).
afterhoursproduction 9 years ago
funny.. slow boat
kevinlaunius 9 years ago
When my newspaper switched to digital years and years ago, we discovered that all of our 540EZ flashes didn't jive well with the cameras so we took them home and stashed them in our closets. Now I've got 4 mint condition 540's that do well with optical slaves/Crap-tus triggers/and finally my CyberSyncs. More powerful and quieter than Vivitar and great recycle times.
mjpatey 9 years ago
Moishe, has the slow boat made land?
kraig7777 9 years ago
I don't know, but I'm sick of the dang proprietary Vivitar plugs never making a solid connection the first time I plug them in. I have two SB's now, one more and I can park my Vivitars forever.

In other words, this new flash better have a real PC sync connection and not that funky proprietary junk.
endoshoots 9 years ago
@kraig7777 I'll buy any Viv 285HV's you have. I convert them to the metal feet with standard headphone jack females attached.

Battery packs are superior. I love hearing them whine. The SB's are nice, but the battery door is crap.
midwestphotoexchange 9 years ago
All LP120 info can be found here:

few purpose [deleted] 8 years ago
I have three Vivitar 285HVs. They are perfect apart from just one thing...

I measured the recycle time at full power, on one of mine, and it was 12 seconds!

12 seconds makes for a very tedious time shooting people.
Tim Kamppinen 8 years ago
This thread was started three years ago...
few purpose [deleted] 8 years ago
Yes and so? Vivitar 285HVs were started in 1972! And they are still used today.

Surely it's better to stick to a thread and keep it as a reference than start a new one at every new thought?
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