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03-21-2012, 06:26 PM   #1
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vivitar vs Pentax flash

I'm leaving tomorrow for the desert and I'm looking forward to some low light and night photos with my new K5. I'm relying on the forum here because I don't have time to learn the finer points of flash photography so I'll just ask and hopefully won't be scorned for not researching first.

I just bought a Vivitar flash (285-HV Flash with Zoom Thyristor) along with the Elinchrom EL-Skyport remote transmitter and receiver kit. I needed something quick and found these locally, sort of on a whim even, at a place that doesn't carry any Pentax stuff (Samy's in LA). Now that I'm home I'm researching the Pentax options and I'm wanting to know more about them.

This line on the Amazon reviews caught my eye "First of all for all K10D owners, this flash will work as intelligent remote flash controlled by your camera's flash or in combination with it. It does it simply AWESOME! You have now two flashes and possibilities are endless. For the money I ordered two of the flashed instead of one of their more expensive model and I have complete professional three point lighting solution for about $360!!! In wireless mode it supports advanced functions, allows all adjustments etc. This flash supports superb Hi Speed Sync and I mean it is superb! The flash is so precise it capable of preserving the most delicate shadows if you need it. The wide angle adapter along with white board is so nice to have handy!"

Does this mean the Pentax AF 360 FGZ has it's own radio remote control built in?

I thought this Pentax flash was out of my price range but I just spent over $225 on the Vivitar and EL-Skyport system. It's not too late for me to return this though and if I can get the same setup for roughly the same money, with built in radio remotes (I'd love to have less pieces) then I may consider just returning this to Samy's, special ordering the Pentax flash, and doing without a flash this weekend.

Thanks for helping me understand the pros and cons of the two piece system I bought compared with a Pentax solution.

Last edited by Motoservo; 03-21-2012 at 06:41 PM. Reason: typo
03-21-2012, 07:40 PM   #2
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No, the 360 FGZ does not have radio built in, it has an optical slave that receives (or transmits depending on how you set it up) the sync and TTL info from the camera through the use of short preflashes before the main flash. It has to be able to "see" the commander's preflashes or it won't work. In my experience it works just fine in indoor shoots, not so much in outdoor, sunny locations with distance or obstructions between the flashes. For this reason I use radio triggers which I have found to be more reliable, I don't have to worry about the built-in flash adding unwanted on-axis light (or wasting a flash mounted on camera as a commander when it could be placed elsewhere).
I would certainly recomend you get a Pentax or Metz dedicated flash if you plan to shoot with the flash on-camera, but otherwise you're better off with manual control and radio triggers.
FYI I have 2 Metz 48-AF and 2 Vivitar 285-HV. The Metz also have the same wireless functionality and HSS as the Pentax models, the 48-AF is priced to compete with the 360 from Pentax, but has a tilt and swivel head as opposed to the tilt only head of the 360 (not having a swivel head doesn't matter much when shooting with radio, but it sucks big time when on camera). The Metz are my go-to flashes when shooting with the flash mounted directly on the camera, otherwise I set them all on lightstands, use umbrellas or softboxes and fire away with my radio trigger. The Vivitars are dirt cheap so you can buy a couple for what you would pay for one 360 or 48-AF.
03-21-2012, 07:50 PM   #3
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Ah, thank you so much for the quick reply. I can push on now without buyer's remorse. Headed next to get some batteries for this thing and start practicing for this weekend. Fun, fun!
03-22-2012, 05:21 AM   #4
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Sure, I use eneloop rechargeable batteries on my Vivitar, it recycles much faster than if you use regular alcaline (plus you won't break the bank buying batteries).
The Vivitar's power control is a bit different than more "modern" flashes, it has several "auto" modes (uses the thyristor circuit to measure the light levels) and the manual modes, I always shoot with manual mode because I have total control over flash output.
I say it's different because the controls are on the thyristor circuit that "plugs-in" to the front of the flash, you change settings by turning the ring on the thyristor and you see what mode it's in through a cut out window on the side of the circuit


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