Bomb Proof Flash
16 Dec 2007
Do a quick search for the Vivitar 283 and you'll find a plethora of links and information, it has been a mainstay for professionals for over twenty years. Amazingly these strobes have held up well and are still giving great results, with a powerful guide number in a small package it is hard to bear.
I'd been shooting mostly natural light images for years, only playing with off camera lighting once or twice. When it came time for me to shoot some macro and studio shots I knew I wouldn't be able to afford a fancy light set up so I went in search of some inexpensive strobes. I came across two Vivitar 283s, some light stands and an umbrella by accident on Craigslist and have never been happier.
At less than fifty bucks each they are about the strongest, and most bomb proof flashes I've ever used. Combine two of them with a nice umbrella to diffuse the light and you have a great set up that won't break the bank. Add a variable output sensor, and you can adjust the output from full power down to 1/64th, with 1/4 stops in between.
The only problem with the Vivitar 283 is that it has a trigger voltage that will fry the circuitry of your new fancy DSLR, so you need to trigger them with a radio trigger, or a slave shoe. I've been using them with slave shoes, and have had great results in the studio, but for outdoor day time fill flash a radio trigger is a much better idea.
Unfortunately Vivitar has discontinued the 283, in favor of the slightly larger 285, and the current iteration, the 285hv. I've recently gotten my hands on the 285hv, which has a trigger voltage of around 6 volts which is safe for use on your DSLR without a slave shoe. The 285hv is a good strong flash, but doesn't have the same bomb proof build feel that the 283s do. The venerable 283 is a great investment, that will give you years of service no doubt.