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04-21-2017, 01:06 AM   #1
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Film era flash on digital body.

This question of using old flash has probably been discussed many times but....is there a definitive guide to using an old film era Pentax flash on a Pentax digital body?


I had a battery leak corroded Pentax AF240Z come with a camera bundle. Reading the review of it here in the forum, it appeared that yes, it could be used on a digital camera in P mode (both camera and flash). The only proviso being matching ISO's on both.
While not holding out much hope, I neutralised the battery leakage on the flash terminals with some vinegar, scraped of some rust and corrosion on the spring terminals, fitted some batteries and it worked.
After checking the trigger voltage the flash produced (checked on-line, 4.8 volts apparently) I fitted it to a K20D, stuck it in P and tried it. Then I tried it on a K-r. It works!


However;
Does the camera communicate at all with the flash or is this some sort of default setting?
Should I find my old 3rd party flashes and check if they have a P mode and try them?


I obviously have built in flash on the camera and an AF-200FG but they do not have the ability to change from flashing direct at the subject. Nice to have the option even if I don't ever use it.

04-21-2017, 03:17 AM - 1 Like   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Skodadriver Quote
Does the camera communicate at all with the flash or is this some sort of default setting?
Nope. You will want to go by the chart on the back of the flash to set the aperture manually, and the flash should be able to fire at the right setting on its own to achieve a correct exposure.

(in other words, you're not guaranteed a correct exposure in P mode as the flash doesn't support P-TTL)

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04-21-2017, 03:21 AM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Skodadriver Quote
This question of using old flash has probably been discussed many times but....is there a definitive guide to using an old film era Pentax flash on a Pentax digital body?


I had a battery leak corroded Pentax AF240Z come with a camera bundle. Reading the review of it here in the forum, it appeared that yes, it could be used on a digital camera in P mode (both camera and flash). The only proviso being matching ISO's on both.
While not holding out much hope, I neutralised the battery leakage on the flash terminals with some vinegar, scraped of some rust and corrosion on the spring terminals, fitted some batteries and it worked.
After checking the trigger voltage the flash produced (checked on-line, 4.8 volts apparently) I fitted it to a K20D, stuck it in P and tried it. Then I tried it on a K-r. It works!


However;
Does the camera communicate at all with the flash or is this some sort of default setting?
Should I find my old 3rd party flashes and check if they have a P mode and try them?


I obviously have built in flash on the camera and an AF-200FG but they do not have the ability to change from flashing direct at the subject. Nice to have the option even if I don't ever use it.
Good question. Pentax cameras use P-TTL instead of TTL. This means that very few non-Pentax lenses work on Pentax cameras with full automatic functionality. However, I use old legacy flash units, particularly the Sunpak 422 and 522 series. I use them in manual mode, which I recommend as an excellent alternative to automatic P-TTL flash. Here is my approach: Set shutter at 1/160, actually 1/200 in the case of the K-1. Set ISO at the camera's minimum level, and aperture at 8.0. Actually, I set up a user mode (U1 for me) with these settings, then set flash unit to Manual and power level to 1/2. This flash level is all I need all evening in using legacy flash units for parties and other evening gatherings where flash is permitted. I always use a voltage protection unit in the hot shoe to be sure the old flash unit does not harm the camera.

You can get plenty of old, high-output Sunpak units on eBay for peanuts. I stick to Sunpak just because I have always used them on film cameras, and am used to how they work.


Good luck to you!
04-21-2017, 05:17 AM   #4
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Thank you for the replies and please forgive my ignorance here. I tried the AF240Z on my K-5 and a 18-55mm kit lens at ISO 200, 400 and 1000, the results were that the K-5 used a speed of 1/100th of a sec for all three and apertures of F:5.6, F:8 and F:13. I have copies of the test shots below. Does this indicate that the camera in P mode does have some direction from the flash?

Attached Images
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PENTAX K-5  Photo 
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PENTAX K-5  Photo 
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PENTAX K-5  Photo 
04-21-2017, 05:44 AM   #5
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No, nothing like that at all. As said earlier, there's no automatic functioning with any communication of settings between the camera and flash. Your shutter speed is changing in response to the ISO and aperture adjustments, and has no effect on the flash exposure. The shots are a bit overexposed with blown highlights, so the flash is simply firing fairly randomly and adding its light to the ambient .... the flash light is not being metered or taken into account, hence the overexposure.

I'm not familiar with old film-era flashes, but what you really need is one with the old style 'Auto Thyristor' mode. This uses a sensor on the flash, and will provide the right amount of flash light based on the settings you dial in directly to the flash. there is no communication between flash and camera, but by matching the ISO and aperture settings on the camera with those on the flash, you will get good automatic flash exposures. Work with the camera in Manual Mode.

Check your flash manual, if you can get one for the flash (searching on this forum may find one) to see if it has 'Auto' mode.
04-21-2017, 06:27 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
No, nothing like that at all. As said earlier, there's no automatic functioning with any communication of settings between the camera and flash. Your shutter speed is changing in response to the ISO and aperture adjustments, and has no effect on the flash exposure. The shots are a bit overexposed with blown highlights, so the flash is simply firing fairly randomly and adding its light to the ambient .... the flash light is not being metered or taken into account, hence the overexposure.

I'm not familiar with old film-era flashes, but what you really need is one with the old style 'Auto Thyristor' mode. This uses a sensor on the flash, and will provide the right amount of flash light based on the settings you dial in directly to the flash. there is no communication between flash and camera, but by matching the ISO and aperture settings on the camera with those on the flash, you will get good automatic flash exposures. Work with the camera in Manual Mode.

Check your flash manual, if you can get one for the flash (searching on this forum may find one) to see if it has 'Auto' mode.

Ambient light in P mode for an image without flash was 1/5th sec at F:5.6 at ISO 200 and 1/10th sec at F:5.6 at ISO 400


Leaving the camera in P mode, with flash, changing only the ISO, it gave me 3 images for ISO 200, 400 and 1000 all at 1/100th sec shutter speed and 3 different apertures. I made no manual changes to the shutter speed or apertures, just left the camera to it's own devices and it gave me F:5.6, F:8 and F:13 all at 1/100th sec..
This lead to my question "Does the camera communicate at all with the flash or is this some sort of default setting?"
Something must have motivated the changes in shutter speed to 1/100th and aperture, so the camera must have recognised that a flash was being used.


I'm not suggesting that using this flash in P mode would be necessarily a good thing (overexposure as you have pointed out), just wondering if it might be a cheap and cheerful option to manually setting the flash.
Thank you for the time and effort you have put in to helping me.
04-21-2017, 06:47 AM   #7
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I don't think you will ever get any useful consistent results from it, no. The camera may well recognise that there's a flash attached, and this may be influencing its choice of shutter speed in P mode...however the shutter speed does not affect the flash exposure, only the ambient.

As an experiment, try switching your camera flash mode to 'slow speed sync' ....in P and Av modes this will normally allow longer shutter speeds to record lower ambient light levels and allow a more subtle blend of natural and flash light. It will be interesting to see if this still works with your old flash.

But there is no proper metering of the flash exposure occurring, and you have no reliable way to control the output of the flash, unless you can switch to 'auto thyristor' or Manual modes.
04-21-2017, 06:59 AM - 1 Like   #8
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All Pentax flashes with dedication (two or more pins) will automatically set the flash sync speed on bodies that support flash dedication (two or more pins on the flash shoe). The flash will communicate to the camera that it is charged and ready. The body doesn't support TTL so no TTL signals are sent to the flash. That's all. No mystery there.

The AF240Z has an auto sensor on it. Set the flash to "A"uto, set the f-stop and the ISO to the settings indicated for the distance range on the calculator chart on the back of the flash and away you go. The flash will sense the amount of light it receives and quench the flash as needed.

Shooting in P mode on a non-TTL body probably fires the flash at full power.

Download the manual for the flash here:
Download Instructions Manuals: Pentax AF240Z Flashes

04-21-2017, 07:06 AM - 1 Like   #9
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That's great , thanks for clarifying things ....there you are, you have a very useful flash now!. Just remember to set the camera manually in M mode. You can control the amount of natural light allowed to record by increasing the exposure time manually. I think auto and M modes are a fun, more mechanical way of doing things with flash and can aid the learning process as well.
04-21-2017, 08:06 AM   #10
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Many thanks to all.
04-22-2017, 05:59 AM   #11
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This has prompted me to get out my mint AF280T with its little instruction booklet (that's what they were called back then!) and review operating it in auto and M modes. Quite excited to try it again (I didn't have the patience to learn it when I first picked it at the time of buying my first Pentax DSLR). I'll give it a go a report on the results
04-22-2017, 06:32 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
This has prompted me to get out my mint AF280T with its little instruction booklet (that's what they were called back then!) and review operating it in auto and M modes. Quite excited to try it again (I didn't have the patience to learn it when I first picked it at the time of buying my first Pentax DSLR). I'll give it a go a report on the results

Oddly enough I am keeping an eye open hoping to get one of these cheap, might be just the thing to use with a macro lens such as the Tamron SP90 adaptall, with P-KA adapter.
04-22-2017, 09:12 AM   #13
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The -15deg angle setting is quite surprisingly low for a hot shoe flash, and would likely be very handy for close up subjects. There's a low auto setting which would seem to be suited to class subjects. I'll try it out hopefully in the next day or two
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