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Old Feb 13, 2010, 6:39 PM   #1
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Default External flash issues

I have had an ongoing saga of trying to get a working external dedicated flash for my Maxxum 5D, and now my Sony A300. In the past I purchased a Sigma EF-500 DG Super for my 5D, but it would not work properly, exposure was off, and it would largely fire at full power. I attributed that to a compatibility issue and determine that the communication between the camera and flash were not working properly. So, I just used a manual flash, the Sunpak 433D. It actually has worked quite well, using its auto thyristor auto exposure function. However, it's been problematic to get the right exposure as a fill-in flash for outdoor photoshoots. So, I have been longing for a dedicated flash, but price has been an issue, that's why I am leaning toward 3rd party brands. After I bought my Sony A300 I tried the Sigma EF 500 DG Super again (I found it for $140 used at Adorama), but I experienced the same problems as I had with my Maxxum 5D. I thought maybe the problem had been in the camera, not the flash, but that turned out to not be the case. I read some posts that said that early models of this flash had compatibility issues. So, I wrote it off to that and exchanged it for the Vivitar DF-383. This flash arrived yesterday and it seemed to work fine last night when I did some test shots. Today, however, I find that it seems to connect and communicate only intermittently with the camera. I constantly have to remove and reattach it, and sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. When it's not in communication with the camera, the camera does not recognize it, and exposes as though no flash was attached, and the flash fires at full power. Another indicator that the flash and camera are not in communication is that the auto zoom on the flash does not interact with the adjustments on the lens. I am making sure the flash is fully attached and locked into place, yet most of the time they are not connecting. Now, I am thinking that I had the same problem with the Sigma flash in the past. Has anybody experienced similar issues and is there a fix, other than exchanging the flash again?
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 7:34 PM   #2
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I don't get it to work at all anymore today. This is weird. Am I doing something to destroy the flash or the camera's recognition of it? The Sigma also worked fine for a few shots in the beginning, and then stopped working properly. Now the same story with the Vivitar DF-383.
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 9:41 PM   #3
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Are you sure the contacts look OK in the hotshoe (and on the flash foot -- nice and shiny with no sign of oxidation on them)? You may want to try cleaning them just for giggles.

How about your battery (is it the original one that shipped with the camera or have you replaced it lately)? Voltage drops under load with borderline batteries have been known to cause a lot of odd problems. You may want to check the contacts for the battery and the battery compartment, too (perhaps carefully cleaning them with a pencil eraser, q-tip with a touch of electrical contact cleaner on it or something similar).

How about camera settings ... have you tried changing it from ADI to pre-flash TTL (or vice-versa) and see if that makes any difference with camera behavior?.
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 11:31 PM   #4
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The flash is brand new and camera like new, no corrosion, and a fully charged Sony brand battery installed. Now that I switched camera and flash back on it's working fine again. Btw, the flash nails exposure perfectly when it is working right. It's just that it works only intermittently. Odd.... Let's see how long it lasts. Right now I got it working perfectly.
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Old Feb 13, 2010, 11:41 PM   #5
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I wiped the contacts on both the flash and the camera, although they were completely clean and shiny, but now everything working just dandy. There must have been some contact issue. Let's see how long it lasts. Thanks for your help, Jim. Happy Valentine's. Great flash, btw, thanks for the tip.
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Old Feb 14, 2010, 12:33 AM   #6
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Default When it works the Vivitar DF-383 does a beautiful job.

When the flash works, it works beautifully. Nails exposure almost all of the time, if direct, bounced, or with diffuser. I had bought a cloth diffuser on ebay a while back which I could never use with my Sunpak because it would cause underexposure. The Vivitar gets it right every time. Here are a couple of shots of my two younger sons that I took with the Vivitar DF-383 tonight. This is bounced vertically and with that cloth diffuser which creates a very soft, almost golden glow. I love not having to think twice about getting the exposure right. Let's just hope the flash will still work tomorrow as beautifully as tonight.
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Old Feb 15, 2010, 1:18 AM   #7
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Ok, ever since I wiped the contacts yesterday, the flash has been working perfectly. Amazing how simple a handling can sometimes be. Very nice flash. The ONLY thing I wish it had is High Speed Sync. Other than that it's the best flash $129 can buy for a Sony DSLR. Vivitar also makes the PRO 648 for $300, but it doesn't appear to have the HSS function either. Only difference I see is a slightly higher Guide Number. Not worth more than double the money.
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Old Feb 15, 2010, 7:47 AM   #8
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Thanks for the update. If you experience any more issues, you may want to try a different type of batteries in the flash itself to see if that could have something to do with it, too (for example, flash not seeing enough voltage through the internal contact closure in the camera to trigger it for some reason).
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Old Feb 16, 2010, 2:43 AM   #9
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Could be. I am using rechargable NiMH batteries. Will let you know if I find out a pattern. But I hope it just keeps working now. Thanks for your help, Jim. Rainer
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Old Feb 16, 2010, 2:51 AM   #10
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I am actually very impressed with how well the flash handles exposure. Especially how it refrains from overexposure in close-ups. The pictures above of my sons were taken at about 15" with a 50mm lens uncropped. The flash did not create any blown highlights whatsoever. Granted it was an indirect flash with a diffuser, but it handles itself quite well with direct exposure at very close distance as well.
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