Good 50 years ago but can damage a modern camera.

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Vivitar 283
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Duke_Nukem's review of Vivitar 283

“Good 50 years ago but can damage a modern camera.”


written by Duke_Nukem on 11/05/2021

Nothing special now but the Vivitar 283 was a ground-breaker when new in 1970. However, for decades now its reputation has been largely self-perpetuating.

Fairly powerful (paparazzi liked it once) and electronically reliable, but so big and heavy the plastic foot is prone to break off.

The head can tilt but not side-swivel, so no bouncing flash off ceilings in portrait format. There is only one manual power level (full) unless you buy a separate module (not cheap) but then you lose auto. There is no dedication to particular cameras, and the highest ISO you can dial into the calculator is 400 - the 283 was designed back when ASA/ISO 400 film was still considered amazing.

Worst of all, the trigger voltage on the foot of earlier models is very high (200 volts or more) and can burn out the circuitry of modern cameras. It was designed for mechanical cameras. Later models did have lower voltage, but there is no way of knowing which is which when you buy one. Some people will tell you it is OK on their modern camera but that's just by luck.

Later flash units of the film era improved significantly on the 283, learning to avoid its shortcomings. Even Vivitar's own similar 285HV was an improvement, but some users seem to lose their heads over the 283. It was the most numerous flash unit ever sold, but that does not make it the best any more than the most popular car is the best.

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