I have an old 283 that when it works it works like it did when new. However, for every 3 to 5 times it is flashed, either by the test button or by camera contact, it might set off the flash tube.
I can hear the flash charging and when the flash goes off I can hear the spark, but most times nothing happens.
I would assume that there may be a bad solder joint somewhere or loose contact.
Any help is appreciated.
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The 283 and 285 require an adapter to hold the 4 AA batteries. This is because there is an available battery pack NC-3 (NiCad) that works with the Charge-15 rapid charger. Loose AA batteries cannot be used without the adapter known as AP-1. They are all over eBay and quite reasonably priced.
If you don't use the flash for a very long time the flash capacitor can degrade and need reforming or even develop a short. In the cases the capacitors develops a short either in storage or on first "forming" charge up, after long storage, there is nothing you can do except replace the capacitor and the cost of doing that is prohibitive, even if the spare were available. The device that works partially after using the external high voltage power supply, sounds like the capacitor might be ok, except the low output may mean it is arcing internally and preventing the capacitor charging fully. If this happens you can usually hear the arcing as the capacitor arcs internally.
Best place for finding Vivitar 283 anything is on e-Bay, I use a gang of them doing my location photography and have several holders preloaded with batteries so when the cycle time starts to get more then I can bare I just switch out the holders.
the nikon D80 has a 250 volts safe range and i have the same issue but readin on the internet i learned that yo can now the voltage of your flash with a voltage metter ond the hot soe.
Vivitar 283 has diferent ranges of voltages depending on the year of fabrication so older ones can achieve 300 volts and earlier have 230 volts so the best is to get a vivitar 285hv for about 75dollars or a safe sync for about 55dollars, you can find all on ebay or other brouser the safe sync converts up to 400 volts to a safe 6 volts that are yust the normal voltage for digital flashes.
if it is a Japanese 283, CAREFUL, you are working with ~300V
remove the sensor from the front. Short out the terminals at 7 o'clock and 11 o'clock with eg a paper clip, and then charge up the flash . Short the centre terminal with the one at 7 o'clock. If the flash fires, then it probably needs a replacement hot shoe from ebay. If it doesn't, it is a simple job to fix for an electronics worker. Manuals are available on ebay.
I repeat, careful with the Japanese flashes, you will have ~300 volts near you fingers, so if you are less than 100% confident that you won't blow the top of a finger (or worse), get an electronics worker to look at it.
Don't use the ebay hot shoes on a 300 volt flash, you will have the 300 volts out in the open and ready to bite you - have a look how well hidden the second contact is on the Vivitar plastic hot shoe.
the Feral Photographer
The Vivitar 283 was manufactured in China & Japan over a number of years & the specifications did change over this period.
The older Vivitar flashes had a voltage on the shoe which could reach 150 volts whilst the later ones had voltages of only 5 to 9 volts.
If you have, or can get hold of, a small voltmeter then you can measure this voltage.
Turn on your flash & let the unit charge up to 'ready' & connect the meter between the contact in the centre of the shoe & the little contact tucked away in the lip of the shoe. (DC volts not AC) There is no danger to you in doing this!
This should tell the voltage on the shoe of your unit & if it is 15 volts or less, it will be fine with your digital Nikon camera. If more than 15 volts than best not to use it.
Please check the trigger voltage. What, how do I do that, you said!!!!!!!!!?
Here they are:
1. Four fully charged or new batteries into 283. 2. You needs a DVM (Digital Volt Multimeter). 3. Set DVM: DC scale, higher than 10 scale. 4. Black Lead to black DVM and Red Lead to red DVM. 5. Turn ON the Vivitar 283 and wait until light turns Green. 6. Place Black Lead to Outside Silver Contact of the flash. 7. Place Red Lead to Center Silver Contact of the flash. 8. What is the voltage reading? Read the max. V. 9. Anything under 8VDC will be fine. 10. Some versions will be high.