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Old Feb 24, 2020, 1:26 PM   #1
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Default Toshiba ES-30 Auto Flash on K20D

I previously posted a question about alternatives to the Pentax AF360FGZ flash, but my only problem was that one of my rechargeable batteries wasn't taking a full charge.

So I'm back in business with my AF360FGZ.

In the meantime, I was rooting around my old gear and found a Toshiba ES-30 'Auto' flash, that for the life of me can't remember when or where I got it. Maybe a yard sale.

Anyhow, I dug it out to see if I could make use of it, if the need for a backup arouse. First I checked that botzilla site that shows safe trigger voltages and put my own DMM to it to check it.

The botzilla site shows 30v and my DMM shows 29.5v. I've read a lot about safe trigger voltages for Pentax DSLR's and have concluded that 24v is the safe limit. Just to clarify, this thread is not a question about safe trigger voltage. That topic seems to be beaten to death over on that other photography forum.

So my Toshiba ES-30 came with a PC sync cable and I have read that the PC sync connector on Pentax DSLR's have high voltage protection. Not trusting much of anything I read on the internet,

I chose not to try it on my K5 IIs. But I do have a K20D that hasn't been used in years so I gave it a try using the PC sync cable.

Fortunately this Toshiba came with an instruction manual, but that in combination with the control switches and calculator dial was very confusing between auto and manual operation. I had to refer to a Vivitar 285HV manual to make sense of it.

With that introduction, here's how it worked out:

Mounted to the K20D (it would have been better with an 'L' bracket to get it up higher, but this is all I have: (these first 2 photos taken with K5 IIs and pop up flash)

As I now understand it, the notion of 'Auto' in these old flashes is that a sensor on the front of the flash unit compensates for ambient light and distance within a given distance range for a set ISO. The camera has to be manually set for the same ISO, and aperture recommended by the flash calculator dial, at the camera's 'X' sync shutter speed. I set the K20D mode dial to "X" which manually sets the shutter at 1/180th. ISO was set to 200 on both the camera and the flash. The flash was set to it's medium distance range (Green) of 2.2 - 17.3 feet which recommended an aperture of F8 on the camera. A series of shots in different ambient light and distance was taken to see if the 'Auto' function of the Toshiba flash works:

All photos taken at ISO 200, 'X' sync speed (1/180), F8.0, Lens - DA 16-45mm F4 ED-AL set to 20mm. No post processing except to resize.

1. Bright ambient light near a window at 4 feet:

2. Same scene but at 8 feet:

3. Low ambient light at 9 feet:

4. Extremely low ambient light (virtually dark) at 6 feet. (Got some reflection off the mirror on the right side of the room)

My non-technical unprofessional opinion is that the 'Auto' function does work. Exposure seems pretty consistent at varying distances and varying ambient lighting.

So what was the point of this exercise?

I don't know. But it's Buffalo NY, and it's February, and I've got cabin fever, and it was fun. Also of some comfort to know that I have a back up to the AF360FGZ.

Last edited by a200user; Feb 24, 2020 at 1:39 PM.
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Old Feb 24, 2020, 8:33 PM   #2
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Thatís cool, and I learned something from your exercise. Iím hopeless at flash and never understood the auto thing at all - I now have a better idea what itís supposed to do and how to use it. Thanks!

My Nikon flash has an auto setting but havenít used it because Iíve always been trying to use the flash off-camera with manual Cactus triggers. Maybe I should re-visit the whole flash thing again and try to figure it out again, doing the exercise you did.
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Old Mar 4, 2020, 4:34 PM   #3
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G'day Harriet

The early 'smart' flashguns on 'auto' used their Thyristor circuitry and photo-electric PE cell to monitor the brightness of the bounced reflection, and were designed in laymen's terms, to "cut the flash off half-way thru the flash" in order to supply correct exposure. In actual operation there were 2 flashes - 1- being a lo-power signalling / exposure query flash, and 2- being the actual exposure flash as determined by the reflected brightness. Those 2- flashes were instantaneous to our eyes, so people were unaware of it occurring

In auto mode you would set your aperture to the maximum as shown on the rotary dial (usually F2,8) and keep your subject at less than the designated maximum distance. Then theoretically you could flash-shoot at your party or event without having to worry about constantly altering the aperture as the distance varied

Hope this helps
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Old Mar 7, 2020, 6:47 PM   #4
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Thanks! Good info, indeed. I never quite understood how that was supposed to work, but then Iíve always been hopeless with flash.
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