Using older flashes w/modern dSLR
Member: NAPP, PPAJust purchased my first dSLR. I selected a Canon EOS 5D and purchased two lenses: Canon EF 24-70/f2.8 and Canon 100/f2 and a few large CF cards. I purchased the equipment about a week ago and I am literally afraid to go into flash photography. When I purchased the equipment the vendor wanted to include a flash and I said no. I kept several of my METZ 60CT flashes (2) and a Vivitar 285 and all my studio lights (Buff White Lightning units from 1985). Here is my biggest fear: will any of my old flash units work on this new dSLR? Ive read dribs and drabs that older units are NOT "voltage safe" and can fry my digital camera.

My biggest fear is using my old flash units with the new equipment. Can anyone offer suggestions? Pete..

Comments (11)

As I understand some Vivitar 285 can work with the new digital camera with a low vloatge. do a search and you can find how to use a multi meter to test it. I use my 285 on rebel xt and no problems. I also have a safe sync hs and used it once with my 285. If you want to be safe use the safe sync. I do not know much about Metz voltage but I know for sure that info on voltage is available on the net.

Good luck...

Comment #1

Thanks, Frank. I heard someone say (and may have misunderstood) that the voltage on the hotshoe is less (6V) than the PC connection on the side of the camera. Could this be true? I've been hunting and hunting and have not found the answer. Even emails to Canon have gone unanswered...

Comment #2

The 6 volt is refer to the voltage that the flash pass to the camera. In the old times, the trigger is mechanical but now is switched to electronic. you can think of the trigger is like a switch and the the trigger will close the circuit for the flash to go off so at the old days the trigger voltage of the flash is not much of an issue. with electronic trigger, the voltage became an issue. I can burn the circuit if the voltage is too high. The safe voltage is less than 6 volt.

I measured mine and my friends, one of the old NEC flash is upto 200v and my 285 is 7.2v, some of the older canon flash that I got is about 5.4v, so some of the old flash can still work. The HS will solve this problem because it acts as a barrier to the camera so the camera will only see less than 6 v in trigger voltage. You will be safe with any flash with the HS. Hope this helps...

Comment #3

Hi to all photographers, You can use any flashes is you are able to connect to the Canon 5D's PC port. Notes: Old flashes will not work on the Hot Shoe. You can buy Metz 60 CT adapter for the hot shoe or just connect the Metz pc cord into the pc of camera. Or, use the V285/285hv and it's cord into pc of 5D. How to check the trigger voltage: Digital Volt Meter(DVM)- red lead to one section of pc- the center; black lead to outside of pc. Turn on DVM; set scale to DC voltage of 200V or higher.

Turn on flash and wait until flash is fully charged. A green light on the 285 and a orange light on the 60 (45 shows orange).

Check DVM reading on the display: if they are under 9vdc.

If your voltage shows an negative number, means center of PC is negative and outside is positive. But most pc are + center and outside is - (ground). Hope this letter help.



Comment #4

Alexander, I so greatly appreciate your feedback. I humbly apologize for the long delay in responding. I wanted to share the outcomes I had based on your guidance. When I tested my Metz 60CT-1 it provided me with a reading of 6.6 volts. When I tested my Vivitar 285HV it yielded 3.25 volts. Do you feel that both these units are safe for my Canon 5D? I cannot use the hotshoe for the Metz as it is a "potato masher" style unit.

I'd love to use the Vivitar on the hot shoe...

Comment #5

Hello Pete, I'm still looking for my reading glasses.

Those two flashes are fine for the 5D.

For studio lighting, just connect studio /or flash to the PC Terminal of the camera(left Black Rubber Cover). Your max sync is 200 on this camera. PS: If you or others need camera/flash/studio/IR digital camera conversion /or camera & flash modifies, just let me know. Examples: Vivitar 283, 285, 285HV = 4 AA Battery not needed, lighter & quick cycle time. The battery and charger are lot cheaper than Quantum battery.

Metz 45CT Series = 6 AA Battery not needed.

Canon EOS 1 Series, 3, Xt, Xti, D30, D60, 10D, 20D, 30D, 5D, 1D, 1Ds, 1D Mark II, 1D Mark III and 1Ds Mark II.

Canon EOS-1VHS = 6 AA Battery not needed, and still can do 10fps with lot of power for long field shooting.

Nikon F3 with MD4, F4, F5, F6, D100, D40, D50, D70, D80, D200 and D2X.

Contax 645.

Hasselblad 500 Series and H3D.

Sinar Hy6.

Point and shoot cameras. Alexander.


Comment #6

You can use ANY flash you want, provided the voltage on the shoe does not exceed the limit allowed by the manufacturer. This maximum should be 24V according to the applicable standard ISO10330..

You have to check in your camera's manual. For example, Canon G models withstand no more than 6V.Then check your flash, with a DIGITAL voltmeter. You have to measure the voltage on the shoe or the cord with the flash ready to fire. Positive (red wire) on the center; negative (black wire) on the external ring.Now, should your flash show an excessive voltage, you can either cough out the price of an adapter or make one yourself according to the description I gave there:.


Look for: Flash Adapter Schematic 2.

Someone's made a pdf drawing of my diagram (and put his name on it!); it is more legible than the "ASCII" drawing.The adapter works with any camera (even 6V Canons) and any flash..

I got questions about the components, but no advice (yet) that the adapter would not work...

Comment #7

I also use vintage Paul C. Buff White Lightning units. They are just like the Energizer Bunny; "They Keep Going and Going!" I bounce my WL5000 units into umbrellas for my dog portraiture. I have some more sophisticated lighting units but, I adore the quality of the light I get from those old "Coffee Can" strobes bounced into umbrellas. I fire my WL5000 units using an inexpensive IR trigger that I bought on eBay. It uses a pair of AA batteries which last and last.

I have had some problems using the IR trigger with my Multiblitz setup (I believe that it is due to a very small angle of view of those unit's optical sensors). I have never had any problems with the IR unit and the WL5000 units. I just put the camera on manual, set the shutter speed to 1/60 second and adjust the exposure using the f/stop. This works a lot better in a darkened studio because at 1/60 second you pick up a lot of extraneous light. Attachments:.

Aaa setup.jpg..

Comment #8

Whenever you have the slightest doubt, never take chances with return voltage. Betting your expensive gear on assumed safe flash equipment is not worth it. If you don't know for sure, the simplest way is the use of a buffer such as a Wein Safe Sync. It's available in several versions depending upon your needs and personal taste. One version for example, simply slides into the hot shoe. It has another hot shoe on top that will accomidate any standard shoe mount flash such as a 285.

It also incorporates a terminal that will permit hard wiring of any off camera flash including studio lighting. You can purchase a Safe Sync from any major photo retailer such as Robert..

Comment #9

Flash trigger voltage and polarity is easy to measure with a digital voltmeter. Just turn on the flash, let it charge, and measure the voltage between the center pin and the contact on an outside edge of the hot-shoe mounting foot...

Comment #10

In my case, a Safe Sync is standard equipment on my camera. Any external flash aside from a "digital flash" such as my SB800, is always synced by way of the Safe Sync. That way there's no question or issue. Robert..

Comment #11

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.


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