Vivitar 283 Auto Thyristor flash, and Vivitar SL-2 slave trigger
In a recent previous post, as a reply to another member's post in "Trip Reports..." , "Oakdale Under The Lights", by PGupton, which is about a new flash and night photography, I explained that I had used Vivitar 283 flashes and a Vivitar SL-2 slave trigger for cave photography, and still use them now and then for other type photos with a digital camera.
The first photo shows the SL-2 mounted on the flash foot, which is "hot", and a PC cord plugged in. The slave can be electrically connected either way, but that flash doesn't work well with a hot shoe connection, so I have to use the PC cord. For some situations, such as some methods of close-up photography of objects, a PC cord would be more suitable. The photos included here were made with one or the other of the slave triggers I have, except the photo showing both. The SL-2 slave, shown above, has a tripod socket. It is plastic.
For train engine photos, close-up photos aren't an issue, but I wanted to mention that. The cords can be used for various reasons, and may be needed for some reasons.
If you have a digital camera, and don't have a modern flash compatible with digital cameras, you can use an older flash made for film cameras, by using a slave trigger. Trigger voltage is an important thing to consider, and I'll get to that shortly.
As I mentioned last time on this subject, there are numerous slave triggers on the market. Here is a link to one website:http://dpanswers.com/content/optical_flash.php
Vivitar, which used to produce good products, was bought out by another company, and then maybe another, and then the photography products became lower in quality. That's basically what I read recently in a history of Vivitar, which has a lot to it. Wein is big name in slave triggers, but they aren't cheap. The Vivitar SL-2 that I have cost me $52 back in 1996, so it wasn't cheap either. They can be bought for around $15 on Ebay now, some with shipping included, and some with it added.
Vivitar SL-1 slave trigger
This SL-1 by Vivitar, from 1970 I think, is different, and does not have a hot shoe connecion. A PC cord is necessary. I just bought this one recently, on Ebay, for under $10, shipping included. Price was a big factor to me, so I bought this one. I already have one slave anyway, but wanted another one for a back-up, and maybe to use two remote flashes for some situation.The coiled cord shown in some photos here came with that slave, but was probably not issued with it originally. If it had one, it was probably a slim, short, non-coiled cord, like the other one shown in these photos. One reason I bought this particular slave was to get the longer, heavier, coiled cord.
The rubber black item in the box is a hood, to shield the slave from flashes on other people's cameras when making pictures. Other flashes might set off your extra flash, by triggering your slave, and then the flash it is attached to.
Here is another view of the SL-1 and box, with a Sunpak Auto 322 flash, which I mentioned last time. It has its own PC cord attached, and it fits in a grove on the side not shown. I made some photos using that flash this evening, in conjunction with one or the other slave. This is the only flash I have seen with its own PC cord. There must be others, by Sunpak at least. I bought this flash in the latter '90s for $5, at a flea market. It looked like somebody had spilled 7-UP or something on it, but I took a chance. It is a good flash. By the way, at a cave one time, I dropped one of my 283 flashes in a stream that runs through a certain cave. The flash was loaded with batteries and hooked to my camera with a different kind of coiled cord. I pulled it out of the water, drained it, and then unhooked it, and removed the batteries. Back at home, I opened the cover, and let the flash dry for a couple days, then put it back together. I finally tested it, and it still worked. A flash can fall in water, and still be good, if not fired while wet. That was my experience. Those 283s used to be expensive. I paid $100 for one, new, at a camera store, and $70 for a used one at a camera store, years ago. Now, they can be bought on Ebay for around $35, plus or minus.
Both Vivitar slave triggers I have:
Minolta Auto 132X
This is another flash I have, a good Minolta flash made for film cameras, bought at a yard sale I think. Not sure now. It was a few years ago. I have bought and sold other flashes, cheaper ones, that I found at yard sales. I rarely see one now days, at a yard sale or a flea market. I used this Minolta for an experimental photo session at home this evening, with slaves. It probably has enough power for a night photo of a train engine, combined with the on-camera flash. For two engines, a bigger flash would be better. A stronger flash might be better anyway.
Here is a web page about older flashes, slaves, and PC cords. It is also about "trigger voltages". http://silverbased.org/vintage-flash/
One issue with using digital cameras and slaves, is the pre-flash, for red-eye reduction. This can be a problem with some equipment. There are slaves that handle this. Not all digital cameras do a pre-flash. These articles linked here have info on all that.Flash Trigger Voltage
I thought I had read something a few months ago on this forum about flash trigger voltage. I tried a search last night, but found nothing.
Older flashes, made for film cameras of years ago, have a trigger voltage much too high for digital cameras. According to what I have read, and I'll include some links here, flashes connected to digital cameras should have a trigger voltage under 10v. The number I have seen associated with digital cameras is usually 5-6v. Many old film camera flashes have a voltage of 100v or more. Some are over 200v, and even higher. They will fry a digital camera, if put on a hot shoe and used, or connected with a PC cord, if that is possible with a digital camera. To use an old film camera flash with a digital camera, a slave would be necessary, unless you get a step-down device, such as a Wein "Safe Sync." There are other brands available.
Some people might just go buy a modern flash compatible with a digital camera, but if you can't spend that much, or want to use one of your old, powerful flashes, it can be done with a slave or voltage step-down device. Here are some links to web pages about trigger voltages, slaves, and flashes.http://www.shutterbug.com/content/using-older-electronic-flash-digital-cameras-what-works%E2%80%94what-doesn%E2%80%99t
This is on the Shutterbug magazine website. Good article about using older flashes with digital cameras.http://www.botzilla.com/photo/strobeVolts.html
This page has a list of flashes and the trigger voltages as reported by other people, and other information.http://www.botzilla.com/photo/g1strobe.html
This link is on the page above. I'm including it here in case somebody wants to go there first. It tells about testing a flash for voltage, and other information on this subject.
That ought to cover it well enough. I hope this is useful. There are plenty of old flashes for sale that are still good, and can be used with digital cameras, and there are numerous models and brands of slave triggers available, both new and old.
One related bit of info is that the Kodak z7590 digital camera, released in 2005, has a PC cord socket, and the camera is rated safe for up to 500v. That is one reason I bought the one I have, off Ebay. A digital camera, moderate size, with a PC socket, is rare, as far as I know. I haven't hooked an old flash to it, and won't, just to be safe. I can use a slave, but if necessary, I could use a PC cord and connect it to an old flash. The older Vivitar 283 flashes made in Japan are rated at more than 250v.
I want to add one more photo, as an example of using a small-moderate digital camera with an older strong flash and a slave.
This photo was made inside the north portal of tunnel #8, on the CNO#TP. There is no way the tiny flash on one of my digital cameras could put out enough light for a good photo inside a tunnel. With, a big flash and a slave, it is no problem.
In the last few years, I made photos inside a couple of caves with a digital camera, and the 283 with a slave attached. The tiny flashes on my digital cameras are useless inside a cave, or a train tunnel, except for something very close.