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11-22-2013, 02:21 PM   #1
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*ist D external flash

Afternoon gents. I just got my first DSLR, a *ist D, and I'm loving it. I'm a bit puzzled by how to use an external, off-camera flash on it though; I have some old 35mm external flash stuff I never could figure out how to get working properly (coming as part of a lot) and was wondering if I would be able to make it work with the *ist. Before I go plugging things in randomly and possibly frying stuff, what is the X-synch port for? I have a cable where one end fitsinto an old Viv flash and the other into this mystery port -- am I on the right track or am I on the road to exploding my camera? =)


Thanks! All this crazy new ten-year-old techmology throws me off sometimes. If I can get an off-camera flash going I feel I will have OOLTIMATE CAMERA. (Only being a little facetious; the *ist is just the right level of complexity for me, I love it.)

11-22-2013, 02:33 PM   #2
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Be careful with old flashes, the trigger voltage might be much higher than your camera was designed for. That could damage your camera.

The X-sync port is one way to trigger a flash off camera, it is great if you don't need much distance. There are similar cables that go on the hotshoe, in case your flash or camera doesn't have that port.

I prefer wireless triggering with radio triggers, it gives much more freedom.
11-22-2013, 03:11 PM   #3
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When the *ist D was new, the unofficial number was 30 volts for the hotshoe and X-synch terminal. Pentax would only say all Pentax flashes would work; even old Pentax flashes are well below this. You can measure the voltage on the flash with a multimeter. You can find accessories to limit the voltage to a safe level at the camera or just buy a safer flash on eBay.
11-22-2013, 04:23 PM   #4
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You didn't say if any of your old flashes happen to support the Pentax TTL protocol. If so, they will work on the *istD-series camera, via the hotshoe, or via a special 5P hotshoe cable, with TTL automation.

The official Pentax cables are expensive but you can buy a cheap shorty generic-brand 5P sync cable around 3-ft or 4-ft for a flash bracket. If you really meant OFF camera flash (i.e., farther than a flash bracket), you could splice in an extension, if you are handy.

There were a number of flash units made by Pentax as well as third-parties, in the 80's and 90's, which supported the Pentax TTL protocol.

I'm not suggesting you need or want to use TTL. I just wanted to point out that the *istD-series is well-regarded for its flash compatibility, particularly by those who prefer TTL over the newer PTTL protocol, for various reasons/situations. If you really meant OFF camera flash, you probably want to use a wireless or optical trigger, rather than stringing a cable on the floor. Then you might need to think about whether your flash units have much in the way of manual power settings.

11-22-2013, 04:58 PM   #5
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If the flash has a single pin at the base of its hot shoe, then it'll work on any camera ever made that has a hot shoe. Just set your camera to the X-Synch speed, or slower, then set the aperture to the indicated setting on the flash which is based on the distance from the flash to your subject. And that's it.


If your flashes have multiple pins that don't match up to those on the hot shoe of your *ist, then don't mount them onto your camera.
There are hot shoe adapters that fit onto your camera's hot shoe that have the female PC-cord plug built in. That way you can use a flash off camera with a dedicated flash by or for Pentax. If the flash has only a single pin on it's shoe, then again, you can use it with the off camera flash adapter as well without worries.


Now a days, most prefer using something like a Pocket Wizard that allows for off-camera flash while still maintaining full TTL if your flashes are made for/by the same brand as your camera.


Can you use the odd stuff you've got? If the flash is made for/by Pentax or has a single pin, then yes. Otherwise don't bother.
11-22-2013, 05:14 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by FrankC Quote
If your flashes have multiple pins that don't match up to those on the hot shoe of your *ist, then don't mount them onto your camera.
There are hot shoe adapters that fit onto your camera's hot shoe that have the female PC-cord plug built in. That way you can use a flash off camera with a dedicated flash by or for Pentax. If the flash has only a single pin on it's shoe, then again, you can use it with the off camera flash adapter as well without worries.
Using flashes dedicated to other systems won't hurt anything, the problem is that sometimes they don't have decent controls that allow them to work with different cameras. As long as the flash has some manual power settings or its own light sensor for an auto mode everything will be fine. They all still have the center pin to make them fire.
11-22-2013, 08:32 PM   #7
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Yep, you're on the right track; but as said, be aware of trigger voltages. It's a pitty you don't mention the brand / model of the flashes.

You can check trigger voltages on (e.g.) Photo Strobe Trigger Voltages if your flash is safe to use on a dSLR. If a flash is not safe, a product like
Wein Safe-Sync Hot Shoe to Hot Shoe (SSHSHS) 990-560 B&H Photo will reduce the trigger voltage.

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