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just to exclude anything faulty, start with the flash on the camera and check if it works. Also check the camera settings. On your Nikon you can chose flash off. Don't do that. If you get the flash working on the camera then you starts with the extension cord and it still should flash in the same conditions.
Sorry to hear about it not working at the graduation. Are in the correct position (I am sure you did but, we must start someplace). Look inside, see if there is battery acid in there.
If with new/fresh batteries it still does not work call Nikon. You have a warranty on it so it should be covered.
Nikon digital 1-800-645-6689
No, the Vivitar 283 does not have TTL (Through The Lens metering capability) and the voltage in the flash may be much higher than that in the camera. Some of the old 283 flashes had a very high operating current that, when the flash is left one and removed from the camera can damage the camera operating circuts. Find a Nikon SB 400, 600, 800 or 900 speedlite, or a Promaster 7200 or 7500 for a great less expensive flash for this camera.
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.
Nikon hot shoe is rated up to 250V (canon's is rated up to 6V) so you can use almost any tipe of flash, except maybe for old studio flashes. Vivitar 283 (older versions) is ~200V rated, and much lower on newer versions. It should work.
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.