View Full Version : Is a Vivitar 283 or 285 OK for this?

6-Nov-2008, 05:09
I want to try using flash occasionally with a 4x5 (Ebony) and possibly with a Mamiya 7 also, and I've never used flash before.
Was thinking about a used Vivitar 283 or 285 - will this work alright? Is one better than the other?
I will start with a few still-life close-ups, and see where I go from there.
Do I need to get anything extra to use in manual mode? At the moment I use a Pentax Spot so presumably I'm going to need something else to meter the flash with?
Will the voltage be OK with the Mamiya 7?
The last question is having read that the 283/285 can fry the circuits in some cameras - can well do without this happening to the Mamiya!
Thanks for any advice on this.

6-Nov-2008, 07:16
I don't know exactly what the output of the 283/285 is, but you might run into issues with power. With a 500 w/s Novatron pack about all I could got to is f16, with a 2000 w/s pack I was able to hit f32 (both at ISO 100, these are both using umbrellas, direct would have been more powerful). My point here is that both of these setups have a lot more power than either of the vivitars, so depending on your subject matter you may not be able to get enough DOF. Faster film will help of course.

What is your subject matter?

Ron Marshall
6-Nov-2008, 07:34
You will need a flash meter. KEH has used ones.

You probably will need more output than what you get from these. If I remember correctly, at three feet my 283 gave me f8. So at 1.5 feet (for a close-up) you could get f16, but if you add diffusion you are back to about f8, which will give tiny depth of field for close-ups on 4x5.

Look for used lighting, such as Speedotron, at least 500 watt-seconds.

6-Nov-2008, 08:02
Flash meter is best, but you can always use the old "GN / distance = aperture" calculation wit the flash in manual mode. As Ron said, if adding diffusion or bounce you'll need to make adjustments.

Pat Kearns
6-Nov-2008, 11:45
A vivitar 283/285 is usable on either camera. IIRC the guide number is around 160 with iso 100 at 10 feet. It is usable with either camera but is going to be weak with the LF. Those flash units have an auto shooting feature that monitors the light intensity at various f stops. If you buy a flash meter make sure it has a corded flash feature. It makes life easier.

Michael Graves
6-Nov-2008, 15:17
I have a Sunpak 422, which is virtually identical to the 285 in terms of output. I don't think I'd ever recommend using it for large format, but I've shot quite a number of photos with it and my Mamiya 7. On the other hand, reading this thread reminded me of a photograph John Sexton made with a 4x5 view camera and an unidentified "hand-held" flash. It is a large boulder, brightly lit, against a large landscape at dusk. Beautiful image.

Dennis Mollura
6-Nov-2008, 18:21
The 283 and 285 will be fine with your Mamiya 7 or any other camera with single hot shoe contact or PC connection. No danger of frying your circuitry.

May be risky with cameras with modern multi-contact hotshoes that utiliize dedicated flashguns, although I have used the 283 extensively with Olympus 5050 digital. Maybe I've just been lucky.

Recommend the 283. Have used it with excellent results on my Mamiya 6.

Agree it's probably not the best choice for LF especially outdoors.


7-Nov-2008, 21:25
The vivitar is a reliable flash, but a little outdated and hard to use.