My Vivitar 283 (with metal shoe that has AC plug) works fine when fired by itself -- but when I want to use it on my new Pentax K100d (with new wein high voltage protector) using a known to be good Paramount heavy duty PC cord will not fire when camera exposure button is actuated.
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Since the flash is working on test, it means the connection to the camera via the hotshoe is not working. With the flash on and ready light showing that the flash has charged, take a small thin copper wire and short between the the metal spring on the side of the hotshoe (in the slot) and the round metal contact tip of the hot shoe. This should cause the flash to fire if the internal connections to the shoe are working.
If the shoe is working then it must be the camera that is not working. Many modern digital cameras cannot fire older flashes directly, because the voltages on these older flashes are too high. This could damage the camera or if the camera has protection against the high voltage, that will make it impossible to fire the flash. In that case you need an adapter. These are available cheaply. You should try borrowing a modern flash to test that your camera is still working and has not been damaged, if it is a modern electronic 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.
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
I also own a Vivitar 285 that i used with my Canon F1 manual 35mm camera. Most older cameras before the advent of digital, had a hot shoe on top of the camera, or like in my case, the hot shoe went over the rewind knob. I also had to plug in a power cord from the 285 flash foot and the cameras PC connection in order for the flash to work on some other cameras. The Canon Rebel XTi has a TTL (through the lens) hot shoe usable with Canon's own EX flash units. You can buy a "hot shoe to PC connector" if the TTL camera hot shoe doesn't work, but be extremely careful, the only problem that exists with the older manual flash units was the trigger voltage is as high as 200+volts which would fry digital camera hot shoes. I tried my unit with a Wein flash trigger device on the PC cord of the flash and my Canon D60 with it's own flash. All shots were overexposed and washed out highlights. Here's a copy of the hot-shoe review:h The EOS 400D's hot-shoe can be used with Canon and third party flashes (although sync only on most third party units). The hot-shoe is E-TTL II compatible. Compatible flashes include Speedlite 220EX, 380EX, 420EX, 430EX, 550EX, 580EX, Macro-Ring Lite, MR-14EX, Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX and Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2. The Canon Rebel XTi doesn't have a PC socket to plug in a manual flash trigger cord which common sense tells me there is no provision to step up the voltage to trigger manual flashes - so my answer is this combination is not a good idea on a Canon Rebel XTi. Hope this helps.
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.