Vivitar 285 HV Flash
Sometimes people think with off camera lighting you need expensive, big gear to slug around all day with you. They get scared of off camera lighting because they think it is too difficult to learn or for wedding photographers that it will slow them down too much. Today we are going to review a classic flash unit that is inexpensive and very simple to setup for off camera light….. The Vivitar 285. This until was a classic years ago as a reliable and inexpensive flash until that was all manual so you have full control of the light. Vivitar discounted these awhile back but a few years ago re-released them as the Vivitar 285HV.
Even though I have a few Canon 580′s they rarely get used anymore. The TTL and auto features that these new flash units have never seem to work great, the exposure is always off and if you leave them on TTL you can’t get creative with the light. I bought a few 285HV’s a few years ago and now use these much more than my Canon 580′s. There are a few reasons why I really love these flash units:
1) They are totally manual simple to use flash units. There are only 4 settings for the flash; full power, 1/2 power, 1/4 power and 1/16 power.
2) They are a great deal, you can pick them up on Amazon for just $89. Vivitar 285HV Auto Professional Flash
For that price you can pick up about 5 units for the price of a normal Canon or Nikon speedlight.
Our normal setup for a wedding reception we will just use two of these Vivitars setup on light stands to light the dance floor and for a medium sized room they will give you plenty of light. We also use them for artistic night shots of the bride and groom or even during the day in full sun to get creative. I’ll be posting a entire series of articles on off camera light in the coming weeks with sample images and how we created those so stay tuned.
In addition to the flash until there are a few additional things you need to remotely fire these flashes (or any off camera flash) and these are where a little more of the expenses come in. We use basic 7′ light stands that are very lightweight and travel easy. These are fairly inexpensive you can usually get one for $30-$40. On top of the light stand we use a Multiclamp that rotates so we can adjust the angle of the flash and that connects to a hotshoe mount that has a miniphone jack which will plug into the pocketwizard. We use Pocketwizards transceivers to fire the flashes and just velcro those to the side of the flash unit. I know its a lot of stuff plugging into each other and can be a little confusing. Here is a photo of the setup so you can see how it all fits together.
You can also see from the detail photo that we use some gaffers tape on the hotshoe mount. Those never seem to have a good fit to the flash so we throw a little tape on it to secure it and make sure there is a good connection with the flash.
Here are some amazon links to a few products we use for our setup:
And finally for all of you tech people out there, here are the tech specs for the flash:
• Guide number 120 (ISO 100/feet).
• Automatic exposure range to 70 feet.
• Accepts optional high voltage power sources for faster recycle time and more flashes.
• Four auto f/stop settings for controlling depth-of-field and maximum auto flash range.
• Zoom flash head has three positions for covering 35mm, 50mm and 105mm camera lenses.
• Bounce flash capability for softer lighting.
• Removable sensor can be camera mounted with the optional sensor cord permitting automatic exposure when using side bounce flash photography.
• Built-in vari-power for convenient fill flash and rapid sequence photography.
• Auto Thyristor circuitry for faster recycle time and greater number of flashes.
In conclusion if you are looking for a really great way to get creative with off camera flash and don’t want to spend a great deal of money try adding a couple of these to your gear bags. The possibilities are endless with off camera flash!