Friday, 21 September 2012

Workhorse. The Vivitar 283

A couple of weeks ago I needed to take some pictures in a hurry and what's more, they had to be illuminated by flash.

No problem. I have two Speedlite 430 EX II's at my disposal. Except I didn't! I had got in late the night before and left my camera case in my car. My camera case is full of the extras that I don't need to carry around all the time in my rucksack. To compound matters, my car was being serviced.

Oh well. There are always solutions that can be found if you think hard enough.

I remembered that I had a Vivitar 283 in my loft. The 283 has been in my possession for over twenty years now. I used it when freelancing back in the UK in the nineties.

A quick trip up a ladder to retrieve the flash and I was soon installing four penlight batteries into it.

I switched it on and was pleased to hear the high pitched whistling noise that denoted the capacitor was filling up. After ten seconds I was rewarded with an orange light which meant that the flash was ready for action.

I set the flash to manual and activated it four or five times to let the flash "*get used to" being on active service again.

Next I had to test it with my EOS 5DII. A quick search on the 'net informed me that the shortest flash synch speed was 1/200sec for shoe mounted flashes. Studio strobes apparently need a slower speed.

I mounted the gun on my camera and took a series of test pictures of Viktoria and Nikita who were on the couch next to me. I began at 1/60 sec which was fine. The flash covered the whole of the sensor without any curtain cut off. 1/125 sec was the same, as was 1/250 sec. The curtain only showed itself when I shot the two children at 1/320sec as you can see from the illustration.

1/125 sec @f5.6

1/250 sec @ f5.6

1/320 sec @f5.6

So anyway. I could use the flash on camera outside at a speed of 1/250 sec without any fear of curtain cut off.

I shot all the test images with the camera set at ISO 400 and an aperture of f5.6. The Vivitar is simplicity itself to use. First you "tell" the unit what film speed you are going to be using. The ISO speed ranges from 25 to 400. Then choose which of four apertures best suits what you're going to be photographing.

Apertures with ISO 400 are 5.6, 8, 16 or 22

 With yellow selected, the aperture to use is 5.6

As you can see, the apertures to use are coloured either yellow, orange, blue or purple.  After choosing a suitable aperture, you select it on the sensor ring which is on the front of the body under the flash head, and take the picture.

The unit can also be used off camera when coupled with the off camera cable.

As I mentioned earlier, I've had my 283 for many years. I'm sure that it's stuill be going strong ten years from now

A quote from Wikipedia which mentions the 283: "
The Vivitar 283 quickly became the number one professional and enthusiast flash unit, outselling all its competitors combined and selling 3,000,000 by 1973. In production for over 30 years, it was twice returned to production after being discontinued in response to customer demand."

There's a very nice review of the 283 to be found here and here

* I know that flashes don't really need to "get used" to anything but I was always told in my younger days to fire the flash a few times if it had been stored for any length of time. Old habits die hard.

Thanks for reading