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REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

by PowerReviews
Vivitar285HV Flash
 
4.3

(based on 282 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (138)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (109)

  • 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 (145)
  • Durable (139)
  • Good power output (104)
  • Lightweight (94)

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 (60), Photo enthusiast (46), Semi-pro photographer (38), Pro photographer (33), Semi-professional (32)
    • Was this a gift?:
    • No (103), 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

 

Fragile and undependable

I bought 3 of these flashes on the overwhelming praise they receive here and on the Strobist site (which I imagine many of you reading this might be frequenters of). I also own...Read complete review

I bought 3 of these flashes on the overwhelming praise they receive here and on the Strobist site (which I imagine many of you reading this might be frequenters of). I also own a Canon 580EX and a 430EX, and was wanting to pad out my lighting kit with something cheaper and allegedly more durable. Upon receipt of my 3 Vivitar flashes, one of them failed immediately upon putting batteries into it (it would, oddly, fire when I turned it on, but not when it was triggered via the pilot button on it or via a camera, so I figured one of the resistors had failed in it). Another flash failed on me just yesterday, after maybe being played with (but not seriously used) 3-4 times...I switched it on after putting fresh rechargeable NiMH batteries in it, and it seemed to take longer than normal to charge up...when I picked it up to look at it more closely, I head a faint pop and then heard arcing electricity sounds, and saw faint flashes of sparks behind the flash lens. Again, something internally had obviously failed, and smoke started rising from it just as I switched it off. I have to send both of these back to BH to exchange [...]which is a bit of a pain as I live in New Zealand, and which causes me a sense of extreme trepidation about ordering new ones. Vivitar's customer service seems completely non-existent (I tried calling them to discuss the issue with them, but the guy I spoke with seemed completely clueless and said they don't service them at all, and that I just needed to return them to where I bought them).

Reviewed by 282 customers

Displaying reviews 1-20

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4.0

Great for Learning

By Dustin

from Baltimore, MD

About Me Business Owner

Verified Reviewer

Pros

  • Easy To Use
  • Great For Learning
  • Professional Quality

Cons

  • Plastic Mount

Best Uses

  • Learning Flash Photgraphy

Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

Got this flash when I was in school and it was a great tool for learning how to use flash and not depend on TTL to make the decisions. Definitely helped me think creatively and understand what I was doing rather than just pushing the shutter and taking what it gives me. It is a little limited, but for the price, it provides a beautiful and powerful light source. I still use it in combination with other flash units to this day. Plastic mount is a bummer, so be a little extra careful and it is fine.

  • Was this a gift?:
  • No
 
4.0

A pro classic. The Vivitar 285HV

By Rfphotog

from Refrew, PA

About Me Wedding photographer

Verified Buyer

Pros

    Cons

      Best Uses

      • A Great All Around Flash
      • Wonderful For Multicamera

      Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

      I purchased my first 285 in the 70's. Then it was the 285, not the 285HV. I started with 283's and when the 285 came along I had to jump on it. I like the fact that it's old school. It does what it's supposed to do, throw light on the subject. Nothing fancy just a plain and simple, easy to use, no nonsense flash. Well made easy to read dial and thyristor circutry. What more do you need?

      • Was this a gift?:
      • No
       
      5.0

      Awesome Product

      By Jamie

      from North Canton, OH

      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:

          This has been my go to flash for years. It's a fantastic product. Beautiful light.

          • Was this a gift?:
          • No
           
          4.0

          Solid in all but one aspect

          By JR

          from Lafayette LA

          About Me Pro

          Verified Buyer

          Pros

          • Low Cost

          Cons

          • Limited Compatibility

          Best Uses

          • Location Off Camera Light

          Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

          It is a solid inexpensive flash. I wouldn't use it for on camera but it is excellent for off camera radio triggered work. The manual settings are good. The hot shoe is the weak point and can break be careful not to stress it. That is my only complaint.

          • Was this a gift?:
          • No
           
          5.0

          Best Flash for the money

          By Bruce

          from Rockford, IL

          About Me Business Owner

          Verified Buyer

          Pros

          • Easy To Use
          • Improves Performance
          • Professional Quality

          Cons

            Best Uses

              Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

              This flash is very powerful, easy to control the setting.
              It is not TTL flash so you have total control over the lighting.

              • Was this a gift?:
              • No
               
              5.0

              Great flash!

              By Manduca6

              from Reno, NV

              About Me Hobbyist

              Verified Buyer

              Pros

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

              Cons

                Best Uses

                • Complex Projects
                • In The Studio

                Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                Reasonable price; high guide #. Varipower adapter works great and seems to hit exposure on the nose.

                 
                5.0

                Still going stron after all this time

                By Pfloating Pflasher

                from Western MD

                About Me Hobbyist, Retired Professional

                Verified Buyer

                Pros

                • Highly Compatible
                • Improves Performance
                • Multiple Auto Settings
                • Multiple Power Levels
                • Professional Quality

                Cons

                • Gap In Between 4 F Stops

                Best Uses

                • More Powe Than Bult In
                • Outdoor Studio Loighting

                Comments about Vivitar 285HV Flash:

                Perfect companion for non dedicated digital camera.

                I use it as a fill lighr together with a second flash as an off camera main lighht for a portable 2-light studio.

                • Was this a gift?:
                • No

                (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...

                     
                    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.

                     
                    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

                        (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                         
                        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.

                         
                        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.

                         
                        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
                           
                          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
                             
                            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

                             
                            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

                              (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                               
                              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

                              (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
                               
                              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
                                 
                                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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