REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

by PowerReviews
Vivitar285HV Flash
 
4.3

(based on 275 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (134)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (106)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (19)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (3)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (13)

93%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Consistent output (157)
  • Easy to use (141)
  • Durable (139)
  • Good power output (104)
  • Lightweight (92)

Cons

  • Heavy / bulky (43)
  • Slow recycling (30)
  • Heavy (29)
  • Weak casing (6)
  • Flimsy (3)

Best Uses

  • General purpose (172)
  • Portraits (123)
  • Fill flash (106)
  • Night photography (70)
  • Photojournalism (53)
    • Reviewer Profile:
    • Enthusiast (58), Photo enthusiast (46), Semi-pro photographer (38), Pro photographer (33), Semi-professional (32)
    • Was this a gift?:
    • No (97), Yes (6)

Most Liked Positive Review

 

New Ideas Come to Light

The one area of photography I have avoided since the beginning, seven years ago, is flash photography. In fact, I refused to use flashes, I would disable the flash on my cameras...Read complete review

The one area of photography I have avoided since the beginning, seven years ago, is flash photography. In fact, I refused to use flashes, I would disable the flash on my cameras instead opting for ISO 1600 or even blurry photos. You can only pass off photos filled with tracers as artistic so many times before it gets old.I believe it was[@] and some amazing photos on flickr that give me the kick start I needed to venture into the unknown world of flash photography. Not only can you get amazing results using flash, but the technicality of it all appeals to me. So after days of research and reading dozens of reviews, I decided that the Vivitar 285 HV was the way to go. Actually, I had strongly considered getting a Sunpack Super 383, but based on my research, the zoom head on the Vivitar would be more useful than the swivel head on the Sunpack 383. I was planning on using the flash off camera with Cactus/[...] triggers anyways, so there was no need for a swivel head. Also, I liked the look of the Vivitar, the super cool analogue calculator, and B&H only had one Sunpack 383 in stock at the time.The Vivitar 285HV is a robust piece of gear. Yes, it is bulky, but if you're using in a studio like environment it's not really an issue. The first thing I did when I got it was read the manual. I found it to be superbly written, it wasn't JUST a manual but rather a guide to flash photography. They could have simply labeled the buttons on a diagram and told us how to power the thing on and off, but instead, they laid out comprehensive examples, and explained how to choose the appropriate setting and why. I suppose is was more like a tutorial than a manual and I enjoyed the read.I've only had the flash for close to a month but so far it has functioned flawlessly. I ordered 285s and trigger them wirelessly most of the time. I must have taken over 200 shots now and have not yet changed the 4AA Kirkland alkaline batteries I started with. I love the vintage feel and functionally of the flash. It feels well built, the zoom/tilt head clicks nicely into place, the calculator works great and the light metering seemed to work well the few times I used it. Most of the time I shoot in manual mode. Just the fact you can pull off the light meeter all together is cool! It's kinda like the cars they used to make in the 60's, simple, strong and versatile.An added bonus is that the flash comes with a pc sync cable and wide angle lens. The Vivitar puts out a lot of light for the money and I think it's way more fun, and educational, working out lighting yourself rather than letting TTL do it for you. That being said, if you're shooting an event and gotta take fast, candid photos, then TTL would be ideal. But ask yourself as I did, is it really worth spending $400+ bucks on a Canon 580 EX just for TTL. I was all set to shell out for a 580 EX before doing my research. In fact, I did, but luckily it was reimbursed by my company and it's now in their hands. Rather than I 580 EX, I now have an ExpoDisc, an umbrella, two umbrella mounts, two receivers + a transmitter and two Vivitars which are brighter, more versatile and more reliable. It all came to Korea in a giant box for less money!Vivitar 285 HV Pros:-Well built-Versatile-Simple/intuitive-Bright-Decent battery life-Great instruction manual - perfect bedtime reading!-CheapVivitar 285 HV Cons:-Very bulky-No swivel headConclusion:If your just getting into flash photography I would highly recommend this product. It's a price-point where you can afford to get the flash plus some extras like wireless triggers, umbrellas and mounts to see if you are really interested in perusing flash photography. If you want to upgrade to pocket wizards and such later you always can, but there's no reason you can't get professional images using these flashes[@]

VS

Most Liked Negative Review

 

Reportedly discontinued production

I have owned this flash for approximately 6 months after receiving it as a gift and certainly liked it well enough. I recently encountered a problem where the capacitor would charge but the flash...Read complete review

I have owned this flash for approximately 6 months after receiving it as a gift and certainly liked it well enough. I recently encountered a problem where the capacitor would charge but the flash wouldn't fire, so I called Vivitar for technical support. I was told that they had stopped producing flashes and would, at best, be able to offer a refund.

My problem is not unique, and presumably the build quality on ones that B&H may have in stock is less than stellar. I don't know what alternative flashes to recommend, but I sadly have to suggest staying away from this one.

Reviewed by 275 customers

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(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

 
1.0

Sad To Say, No Longer Worth It

By halfsquatch

from New York, NY

Verified Reviewer

Pros

    Cons

    • Poor Performance

    Best Uses

      Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

      I had a 285 from 1998 and another HV version from 2000 and I had no issues at all with them until they got stolen in December. I bought two of them and one stopped working about the 30th time it fired. It would charge, but I could not trigger the flash with the red test button, a PC cable nor the hot shoe. I took it back and got a brand new one. It worked 5 times before the hot shoe no longer worked. The PC cable worked and the test button worked, but not the hot shoe. I use the hot shoe the most, so this is a non-starter. Also, the hot shoe, although brand new, was lose. I noticed it the day after I got home.I called customer support and RMA'd both units. I can't believe how BAD this flash is. It used to be the gold standard for a reliable piece of equipment. Now, it's junk.I am heart broken and not sure what to replace them with...

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      4.0

      Sturdy and Reliable

      By Mike

      from Queens NY

      Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

      I needed a spare flash that was inexpensive and performed well. This is a classic Vivitar Flash. The automatic color modes were very well. The manual mode is extremely accurate. The flash also bounces frontally but doesn't bounce to side or rear.

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      5.0

      Work horse

      By Trace

      from Highland Village, TX

      About Me Hobbyist

      Verified Buyer

      Pros

      • Easy To Use
      • Highly Compatible
      • Lightweight
      • Professional Quality

      Cons

        Best Uses

          Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

          Great product Especially since can used manually

          • Was this a gift?:
          • No

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          4.0

          Still a great product

          By Willis Sr

          from Chicago, Il

          Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

          I have used the Vivitar 283 and 285 flash units for over 30 years and the 285 that I recently purchased is still a great unit.

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          5.0

          great basic flash

          By cpa

          from oregon

          Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

          I bought two of these flashes to use for portable portrait photography. They are easy to use with any setting that I would consider using. I normally use them on manual settings so I'm not sure of their automatic settings yet. Battery life seems pretty typical of my other flashes and maybe a little better than my Sigma. Can't beat the price.

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          5.0

          Awesome Flash

          By JGarciaII

          from Houston, TX

          About Me Hobbyist

          Verified Buyer

          Pros

          • Easy To Use
          • Improves Performance
          • Professional Quality

          Cons

            Best Uses

            • Complex Projects
            • In The Studio

            Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

            The Vivitar 285HV flash that I purchased from B&H is a great flash. For those of you who don't need a more expensive TTL flash, this one is the best for the money. B&H is my #1 "go to" place for my photography needs.

            • Was this a gift?:
            • No

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            5.0

            What's Not to Love?

            By BradZChef

            from Atlanta, GA

            About Me Hobbyist

            Verified Buyer

            Pros

            • Compact Design
            • Easy To Use
            • Highly Compatible

            Cons

              Best Uses

              • Fill Flash
              • Primary Flash

              Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

              I remember the Vivitar 283 set the standard back in the 70's & 80's when I was a high school yearbook and newspaper photographer. 35 years later I picked up a camera again and ordered the 285HV. A more powerful walk down memory lane! I LOVE this flash! Great balance of size, weight, power and adjustibility.

              • Was this a gift?:
              • No

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              5.0

              best flash ever

              By my eye on photography, mike

              from wichita, kansas

              Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

              Simple, easy, and works every time, I did buy back up parts, just in case.. I use it on camera, and off camera with a wireless slave,. I am old school, always like a manule flash. The color setting work great for that in a pinch moments.., I use many diff cameras, 1 flash fits all, wich more companies made them, thanks vivitar

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              5.0

              Sturdy manual flash

              By Scott

              from St. Louis, MO

              Verified Buyer

              Pros

              • Compact Design
              • Easy To Use
              • Highly Compatible
              • Lightweight
              • Professional Quality

              Cons

                Best Uses

                • General photography

                Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                I was trained as a photographer by the US Navy (a looooong time ago), and this was one of the flashes we used. When I saw it on B&H, I jumped for it. I have had no problems with the flash firing, nor the hot shoe mount breaking. If you want a MANUAL flash (no TTL), this is an excellent choice.

                • Was this a gift?:
                • No

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                1.0

                Vivitar 285 broken base

                By dennis4026

                from Hobart,in

                About Me Hobbyist

                Pros

                • Easy To Use

                Cons

                • Poor Design

                Best Uses

                • In The Studio

                Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                There is a major design flaw in the Vivitar 285. The plastic base that slides into the camera hot shoe will easily break in half with the slightest amount of pressure. I have 4 new units all with the same broken base and being extremely careful not to apply any pressure on them.

                • Was this a gift?:
                • No

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                (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                 
                5.0

                285HV good deal, if medium output wanted

                By Jim Greaves

                from Thompson Falls MT

                About Me Bird Photography, Business Owner, Professional Artist

                Pros

                • Compact Design
                • Easy To Use
                • Highly Compatible
                • Lightweight
                • Professional Quality

                Cons

                • Plastic Hot Shoe Flimsy
                • Poor Design

                Best Uses

                • Complex Projects
                • Wildlife-birds

                Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                I have owned several of these over the past 25 years. The "hot" shoe part is its weak link. I recommend that Vivitar put a metal shoe, but of course I do not hold my breath. It works at MANY shutter speeds OFF camera via pc link to pc on camera (or because Nikon has no such link on its lower-end, but highly useful cameras, and one needs to attach this flash via its hot shoe atop the camera via an adapter that accepts the male plug from the flash... I can get over 1,200 of second "sync" that way, while camera only allows a 1/500 (Nikon D70) by its internals - the newer Nikons and Sony do NOT allow for more than about 1/250th that way - often too slow for birds. I still recommend it for a GOOD all-around "field grade" (carried them in field doing extensive bird surveys, crashing through willows, etc - keep it a bag until needed!!). Excellent color balance.

                • Was this a gift?:
                • No

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                5.0

                great flash unit

                By Pauly

                from New Britain, CT

                About Me Hobbyist

                Verified Buyer

                Pros

                • Highly Compatible
                • Improves Performance
                • Lightweight

                Cons

                • None yet

                Best Uses

                  Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                  So far no complaints, this unit works well with most older film slr cameras

                  • Was this a gift?:
                  • No

                  Share this review

                   
                  4.0

                  Good power simple design

                  By Roger the Doger

                  from Reston VA

                  Verified Buyer

                  Pros

                  • Easy To Use
                  • Professional Quality

                  Cons

                    Best Uses

                      Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                      Good off camera flash manual setting and power. I replaced the hot shoe with a niaha metal one that takes a PC cord that I can hook up a pocket wizard .

                      • Was this a gift?:
                      • No

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                      5.0

                      285HV Flashes

                      By G Photo Guy

                      from Raleigh, NC

                      About Me Business Owner

                      Verified Buyer

                      Pros

                      • Compact Design
                      • Easy To Use
                      • Highly Compatible
                      • Improves Performance
                      • Lightweight
                      • Professional Quality

                      Cons

                        Best Uses

                          Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                          Racing photo use, I now have 4 of these! Great use and flash range... Easy to set-up and fire via Pocket Wizards!

                          • Was this a gift?:
                          • No

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                          3.0

                          .. and the Ugly.

                          By ISDNY

                          from NY, NY

                          About Me Professional Artist

                          See all my reviews

                          Verified Buyer

                          Pros

                          • Cheap
                          • Reliable

                          Cons

                          • Lacks Functionality

                          Best Uses

                          • In The Studio

                          Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                          Cheap, clunky, but great for multiple flash setup.
                          Unfortunately it cannot get below 1/32 power and that is a deal-breaker for me.

                          • Was this a gift?:
                          • No

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                          (1 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

                           
                          1.0

                          Buyer beware

                          By Andy

                          from Pittsburgh

                          About Me Hobbyist

                          Verified Buyer

                          Pros

                            Cons

                            • Poor Performance

                            Best Uses

                              Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                              Product was returned as it would not trigger from the pc cable connection. It only triggered with its own the test button or directly on the camera body. I had an older one that works fine but I wanted to work with a second. The old works perfectly at all configurations and even the old strobe test button would trigger the new flash when connected with adapters, but only the old one responded to the camera shoe. I used the Wein Safe-Sync Hot Shoe to Hot Shoe with my canon SLR and the pc cable connection. I wanted this to work but I felt that I would have to start taking it apart to fix it. I suspect that two possibilities: the newest version has a different threshold voltage larger than what my canon can produce or there was a medium impedance short that would only respond to the lager voltage generated by the old version of the flash.

                              The b&h tech support was great and worked with me to quickly get an rma. Thanks.

                              • Was this a gift?:
                              • No

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                              (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                               
                              5.0

                              I would buy this product again and again

                              By SethGarciaPhotography.Com

                              from Midwest, USA

                              About Me Business Owner, Professional Artist

                              Verified Buyer

                              Pros

                              • Compact Design
                              • Easy To Use
                              • Highly Compatible
                              • Improves Performance
                              • Lightweight
                              • Professional Quality

                              Cons

                                Best Uses

                                • Complex Projects
                                • In The Studio

                                Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                                Great flash for all types of photography. I have 6 of them I use for fill, accent, rim, hair, background, and main lighting triggered all at once by a popular radio slave, I am not limited by any location shooting or lighting conditions.
                                Tough and durable, even survived a beach wave that totaled other photographer's flashes. After drying it out completely in the sun and knocking out the tablespoon or so of sand from its interior it contiunes to work to this day.
                                By far the best flash I have ever bought!!
                                I also use the 580EXII on my 5DmkII and the SB-800 on my FugiS3.

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                                5.0

                                You can't beat this price

                                By GooXuun

                                from Miami Beach

                                About Me Semi Pro Photographer

                                Verified Buyer

                                Pros

                                • Easy To Use
                                • Reliable

                                Cons

                                  Best Uses

                                  • Off Camera Flash

                                  Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                                  I have been using the 285HV flash unit for more than a year now. Never had any issues with it. I was planning on spending some serious $$ on Canon 580ex II flashes but it was going to hurt my budget. A friend of mine recommended me to check out 285HV.. It was well worth it. You can't beat this flash unit when it comes to reliability with this price range. I highly recommended...

                                  • Was this a gift?:
                                  • No

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                                  4.0

                                  Very Good

                                  By Azjeff

                                  from Tucson, AZ

                                  About Me Photo Enthusiast

                                  Verified Buyer

                                  Pros

                                  • Easy To Use
                                  • Fast Recycling
                                  • Lightweight

                                  Cons

                                    Best Uses

                                      Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                                      Using several of these flashes work great for photographing humming birds in flight.

                                      • Was this a gift?:
                                      • No

                                      Share this review

                                       
                                      5.0

                                      Great flash!

                                      By beattirb

                                      from rochester, ny

                                      About Me Semi-pro Photographer

                                      Verified Buyer

                                      Pros

                                        Cons

                                          Best Uses

                                          • Fill Flash
                                          • General Use

                                          Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                                          This a great speedlite for the money! I use a couple of these for lighting real estate photography and they're great, no complaints here.

                                          • Was this a gift?:
                                          • No

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