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11-06-2015, 11:36 AM   #1
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Is it that difficult to use a film flash on a digital?

I have 2 Pentax flashes, don't quite recall the #, I believe a 500 & a 200 series that I used on my PZ cam series. How difficult is it to use these flashes on the new digital K10, K5, K3, etc? I do have a 360 for my K's, so I'm fine; but I would like to make use of the 'film' flashes. I heard that it could cause problems with the digital circuit, and an option is to use it manually. Would manual settings be fine? thanks

11-06-2015, 11:43 AM - 1 Like   #2
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The worry about flashes is high trigger voltage that the camera circuits cannot handle safely; your Pentax flashes do not have this problem. You may use them manually, or with the Auto setting that uses the flash's own sensor. The TTL is not compatible with P-TTL that uses a pre-flash to meter the scene.

Many of us do not use P-TTL in portraiture because the pre-flash might cause people to blink. I use manual flash settings and a flash meter to do portraiture. Otherwise I am perfectly content to use P-TTL metering with my K3.
11-06-2015, 11:44 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by fstop18 Quote
Would manual settings be fine? thanks
If the trigger voltage is too high, it's too high regardless of what mode you're using. The current is still flowing through the same trigger circuit. There are adapters that will allow you to use high trigger voltage flashes safely, but they aren't cheap so, depending on the level of flash you need, you might be better off buying a new flash if yours is too high.
As Canada_Rockies noted, it isn't a problem in your case.

Last edited by Parallax; 11-06-2015 at 12:17 PM.
11-06-2015, 11:53 AM   #4
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If your question is: "is it hard to use a manual flash on a new Pentax?" the answer is "not all that difficult". One thing you learn very quickly with manual flash is that the exposure will be "perfect" at a specific distance from the camera. If you zoom in and out and move around and expect the manual flash to "know" something you will be very sad. But if you realize that once you have perfect exposure at, say, 5ft away, then just make sure you keep that same distance from your subject and you will get predictable results. Needless to say, on a tripod its very easy: just chimp away until you have the lighting the way you want and go for it. A technique that works pretty well outdoors is to set your camera to TAV or T mode making sure the exposure time is not greater than 180th sec, set the exposure bias to -1 or -2 stops, and then set up your flash to "fill in" the underexposed foreground -- gives a nice effect.

Michael

11-06-2015, 12:11 PM   #5
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Parallax: He did specify that the flashes were Pentax branded.
11-06-2015, 12:17 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Canada_Rockies Quote
Parallax: He did specify that the flashes were Pentax branded.
Right, but we were typing at the same time and until I read your post I wasn't aware that all Pentax flashes were safe. Rather than delete my post, I edited it to reference yours. It's theoretically possible that someone who has an older flash that isn't Pentax may read it and benefit from it.
11-06-2015, 01:02 PM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by fstop18 Quote
I have 2 Pentax flashes, don't quite recall the #, I believe a 500 & a 200 series that I used on my PZ cam series. How difficult is it to use these flashes on the new digital K10, K5, K3, etc? I do have a 360 for my K's, so I'm fine; but I would like to make use of the 'film' flashes. I heard that it could cause problems with the digital circuit, and an option is to use it manually. Would manual settings be fine? thanks
If you used the flashes with the PZ series the 500 is likely an AF 500 FTZ. It was an excellent flash, but not useable really on cameras newer than the *istDs. They only work in TTL mode not PTTL as required by the newer bodies.

You would need to check the individual manuals to see if they can be used in manual mode. They should not damage the camera but will only work probably at full power, therefore you would need to do the flash calculations in your head. Note the guide number for the two flashes are 50 and 20 respectively(in meters) based on ISO 100
11-06-2015, 02:27 PM   #8
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I have a couple of older Pentax flashes, one is a TTL only flash which I bought for peanuts for my PZ-1p. It works fine on digital, it just sucks batteries as it will only fire at full power since there are no manual controls. I use it for macro/close up stuff and set camera to x sync and set the aperture accordingly (Very high). It gives me the option for better flash directional control than the on camera flash provides, and is a good enough stop-gap until I want to buy a modern manual flash or invest in a nicer P-TTL flash.

11-06-2015, 03:11 PM   #9
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Just to clarify, the 500 series flashes all have auto settings making them fine for standalone flash work - allowing for proper mix of flash and ambient light as desired based on aperture. The earlier responses regarding auto, TTL, and p-TTL are entirely correct.
11-06-2015, 05:02 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Parallax Quote
Right, but we were typing at the same time and until I read your post I wasn't aware that all Pentax flashes were safe. Rather than delete my post, I edited it to reference yours. It's theoretically possible that someone who has an older flash that isn't Pentax may read it and benefit from it.
Good point. The oldest I've ever owned was an AF 280T and an AF 500T both of which are ok.
11-07-2015, 11:09 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
If you used the flashes with the PZ series the 500 is likely an AF 500 FTZ. It was an excellent flash, but not useable really on cameras newer than the *istDs. They only work in TTL mode not PTTL as required by the newer bodies.

You would need to check the individual manuals to see if they can be used in manual mode. They should not damage the camera but will only work probably at full power, therefore you would need to do the flash calculations in your head. Note the guide number for the two flashes are 50 and 20 respectively(in meters) based on ISO 100
The AF 500 FTZ has five fractional power settings down to 1/32 of full power. I think the motorized zoom head sets the right angle of view but displays 1.5X the focal length.

QuoteOriginally posted by ScooterMaxi Jim Quote
Just to clarify, the 500 series flashes all have auto settings making them fine for standalone flash work - allowing for proper mix of flash and ambient light as desired based on aperture. The earlier responses regarding auto, TTL, and p-TTL are entirely correct.
No, the AF500FTZ doesn't have an auto sensor. It does have a slave setting but will respond to a P-TTL preflash so you have to avoid that.
11-12-2015, 08:29 AM   #12
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Stevebrot has made a nice howto in his review of the AF280T, if that's one of your flashes. Otherwise you might pick up some tips from it anyway.

I have this flash, and it works on my K20D in auto mode and M mode. I haven't tested it thoroughly, though, but will do so, to see how it compares to the AF360FGZ-II. If it can compete, I might sell the 360, and keep the 280. After all, I can use that with the LX (and the ME Super, if I can make that work again ... ). I've never really been happy with the results from using flash, and don't feel that the P-TTL helps me much anyway, so I might as well settle with a "primitive" auto mode.
11-13-2015, 09:52 PM - 1 Like   #13
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To echo some other's no it is not difficult. As pointed out, the trigger voltage is an issue. Sounds like the Pentax flashes are good to go. I have several Vivitar 285HVs that I use and the trigger voltage is about 8V. There is a little trial and error and I usually have to do some bracketing. However, I figured out not to use auto-bracketing because I am usually not sure which way I need to go after the first shot.

When I first got my camera I hooked up an old Olympus Auto 310 flash to my K20D before I knew about the trigger voltage issue. I love the colors of these old strobes and the auto settings seem to work well for a vintage unit. I guess I got lucky because the trigger voltage on these flashes is about 350V and there was no harm done to the K20D :-)

Another option besides the "safe sync" devices for high trigger voltage flashes is to use the pop up flash to trigger the vintage flash with a basic optical slave (available pretty cheap). Some experimentation is needed to get it right and manual exposure mode is a must.

Anyway I went way beyond the original question, but thought I would share.
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