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Vivitar 283

Reviews Views Date of last review
6 19,323 Mon March 7, 2016
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $10.00 8.50
Vivitar 283

Guide number of 36
4 auto modes and a manual mode
Illuminated dial for aperture guidance
Price History:

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Registered: December, 2015
Location: Goldsboro North Carolina
Posts: 296
Review Date: March 7, 2016 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: $10.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Output power, available accessories, reliability
Cons: foot can break, high trigger voltage on some versions

With a guide number of 120 at ASA/ISO 100, this is a fairly powerful flash. With the 135mm concentrating lens accessory, this number goes up to 174! The thyristor module has five modes: manual (full power), and four auto modes for four different aperture settings. A lighted dial shows ISO/aperture settings for distance ranges. There is a test flash button, and a green light indicator when the thyristor senses sufficient light. Among the accessories available is a variable power plug-in module that replaces the thyristor module. You can dial in power levels from full down to 1/64th. This is very handy for either fill flash outdoors or when using the unit in multi-flash setups to dial in lighting ratios. When the unit is set for 45, 60, or 75 degree bounce flash, a special compensating circuit automatically adds extra output power to make up for light loss from bounce surfaces.

Accessories include a cord that allows the thyristor module to be mounted on the hot shoe while the unit is off camera. Also available are wide-angle, telephoto, and colored lens attachments, an AC power adapter, and a standard white/gray card holder for bouncing off the white side of the card.

I own two of these 283s. I bought one in the '70s and one recently on e-bay. The older unit has a trigger voltage of over 300 volts, which would probably fry a modern DSLR camera. I only use it off camera with the Vivitar SL-2 slave trigger, which was designed to work with these voltages. NOTE: even when using the off camera cord mentioned above, the voltage is still transmitted to the hot shoe. My newer unit has a trigger voltage of 8 volts, and I have used it mounted directly on my Pentax K10D.

The mounting foot is plastic and the unit is relatively heavy, so care must be taken not to stress the foot or it will crack. For example, if changing the bounce from 45 to 60 degrees, grab the body of the unit instead of letting the foot take the stress. I've been using my older one for over 30 years and have not had a problem.

For a fraction of the cost of some modern, dedicated flash units you can buy 2 Vivitar 283s with all accessories. Each 283 will have more light output than many of the new flashes on the market. (You have to read and interpret the specs very carefully; many ads are misleading or incomplete regarding output.) I decided to build my flash kit around these venerable, rock-solid reliable units. You give up some of the automatic function of the newer units, but that just means you actually have to know what you are doing when you use these!
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: January, 2013
Location: Dayton, Ohio
Posts: 69
Review Date: January 9, 2013 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very easy to use
Cons: none I can think of.

I have been using this for many years, it has been a real dependable unit. I love it.
Senior Member

Registered: May, 2009
Location: Newbury, Ontario
Posts: 268

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: May 5, 2011 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Solid build quality, great power output
Cons: Lacks variable power output

I still have my orginal 283 from 20 plus years ago. I am using it on my Pentax K-m with no problems. This flash is built like a brick and has retained it solid quality for the time I have had it. Other then the lack of power reduction feature, this flash is well worth the money if you can find on in good condition.

The battery life is great as well. It can be powered by an SB-4 power supply so it can be plugged into the wall. This means that there are no worries about the lack of battery power in some picture taking conditions.
Senior Member

Registered: January, 2010
Location: Gothenburg, aka Göteborg
Posts: 216
Review Date: April 8, 2011 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Sturdy, with a lot of assessories included! And lots of options!
Cons: Makes most cameras top heavy, so ideally you need a flash bracket!

I used mine a lot for party photography, with a bounce card on top, and attached to a Minox 35 - the original FF compact camera :-)!

After some time I added a second flash tube (salvaged from a Bosch unit), for macro photography, which eventually killed it!

Compared to the Metz AF-1 I now have it wasted batteries, while powerwise they are similar!
Forum Member

Registered: January, 2009
Location: Medicine Hat,Alberta
Posts: 68
Review Date: January 12, 2011 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Great power range,efficient & reliable
Cons: rather large,factory shoe/foot can break if abused

I`ve had four of these units over the last 20 odd years & have nothing but good to say about them.Very reliable,excellent exposure modes (with film),recycle times are consistent,used for weddings & portrait photography with Quantum battery pak & shot all day....
Recently found a "newer" unit in pawn shop for $10 .... yep,had to have it !!! I tested it for voltage & found it safe for my K20D .... great results when shooting on flash sync .... still consistent with the auto thyristor modes!!!
Also good for off-camera with slave ... even thru umbrellas,very user friendly!!!
Site Supporter

Registered: August, 2009
Posts: 383
Review Date: November 15, 2010 I can recommend this item: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: Eye popping power, flip lock foot
Cons: high foot voltage, whines like a dog

Classic flash which started production in the 70's and is, I believe, internally the same as the more sought after 285. Produced for 30 years. I couldn't believe this was not in the database, so I have uploaded a quick snapshot. The 4 auto settings are great, and this is how I shoot.

This does not have half the functionality of a modern flash like the AF360, but in comparison to a Metz 36 C2 which I used in the past, this is a far more powerful flash. Makes an fantastic popping sound when shot on full manual. The size of a brick. Just brilliant in tandem with an old school manual SLR. Dwarfs the ME.

I've got the Vivitar flash slave and mount the 283 on a tripod to be triggered by the flash and combine it with the 550fd, which puts out less light. This set up is working well with film.

Its worth getting a reasonable multimeter to check the voltage at the foot of the flash, as there are reports of old 283's creating massive (several hundred volts) potential differences which would burn out the flash circuitry in modern digital bodies. Mine is reporting a safe 10V, and works fine on the ist DS.
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