Strobe Trigger Voltages

English: Comparison of Vivitar Model 2000 (lef...

Not the Vivitar 285. English: Comparison of Vivitar Model 2000 (left) and Model V2000 electronic flash units. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been purchasing flashes off of eBay for about a month, trying to built up four or five manual flashes for some upcoming school work.  Cost is a major issue, so I have turned  my attention to older, used, film based flashes such as the Vivitar 285.  If you are patient, you can pickup a working 285 for under $30, and if you are lucky, possibly even cheaper.

One of the big concerns using older film flashes is the trigger voltage.  You will need to check your DLSR manual/vendor website and determine how much voltage your camera can handle at the hot-shoe compared it to the flashes trigger voltage (most modern DSLR’s require  v<=6V).

A great site for determining the flashes voltage is  http://www.botzilla.com/photo/strobeVolts.html  but I strongly suggest that you learn how to check the voltage yourself.  Some flashes can very greatly in voltage depending on manufacturing date.  Fortunately, Jeff Geerling has written a voltage checking tutorial for the Vivitar 285 at http://www.lifeisaprayer.com/articles/photography/measure-voltage-vivitar-flash

Even if you know the voltage it can be a little scary mounting and using the used flash on you high dollar camera.  I also suggest protecting your equipment with either a Hot-Shoe Safe Sync, or triggering with remotes.  You will still need to check the voltage on both the flash and the remote, but you get the added benefit of a remote trigger and an air-gap between your DSLR and the flash.  If worse comes to worse, you fry the trigger, not your camera.

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