Where to find a Vivitar 285HV flash?

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New Member
Jun 22, 2009
Hi all,
I've just read some articles about strobist and got excited. As they recommended, I'm looking for a Vivitar 285HV flash, to play wireless with trigger. But I don't know which store's still selling it. Help me please.
Btw, I have no experience playing strobist with K20D. If you have, give me some instructions please. :D
Thank you very much.


New Member
Jul 10, 2007
Ya, did a search and saw a few CSers selling it. Can consider getting it but still looking for info on the functions & usage before committing...

Anyone care to share experiences while using the flash with P cams?

e.g. differences between using it with K100D & K10D...

Someone is selling here.:)

Jan 16, 2009
I'm using a similar 'auto' vari-power flash. I believe the Vivitar 285HV are out of production, but there are other copycat models, like the Cactus KF36 and probably a Sunpak model that you can look for. They work in similar ways. First of all, you pick an ISO you want to use and dial it in (mine has some sort of a slide rule). Then you have a choice of ~3-4 power ranges which are probably indicated by different colours. Each of this colour has an aperture setting and a distance range where that power setting can be used. Make sure your subject is within that range, set your DSLR to M or X mode, then set ISO and Aperture (according to the power colour) on your DSLR.

The tricky part is selecting a shutter speed, and I'm still trying to get a feel of it. You can simply set to X mode which will give you the X-sync speed of 1/180s, problem is that you will likely lose the background that is not lighted up by the flash, so to get more of the background (esp when using fill flash) you will have to reduce the shutter speed. I'm experimenting with a few possibilities, like using Av mode with -1 EV, or to just set it to 1/30s, both giving me mixed results. Another problem I face is with white balance between the flash and incandescent ambiant light.

Theoretically it's quite easy to use a varipower flash (select iso, set power colour, select aperture, set into DSLR, shoot). It will take some practice to do it quickly and confidently (although typically you only need to set it once per session and leave the settings there throught. Often you will miss out one of the steps and get the wrong exposure. Practice makes perfect.


Staff member
Jul 23, 2007
The Vivitar 285HV is still available, I got it in one of the Mass sales in this forum.

The Good
1. Very straightforward usage. Just turn the power dial for flash power. No navigating of menus like a more advanced Pentax 360/540.

2. No 'auto power off', which I prefer. Many times, I recompose, re setup, and find that my Pentax AF360 has turn-ed off, so I have to go over and turn it on again.

3. Cheap. Good as a 2nd or 3rd flash.

The Bad
1. No 1/8 power setting. So aperture or flash distance will have to be adjusted instead.

2. The end of the flash has a square 'flange' that can be useful for inserting gels, but this hampers easy use of a cardboard snoot. The snoot is still doable, but I'd have to have 2 different snoots, 1 for my AF360, 1 for my 285HV.

3. No pentax wireless (easily overcome with 3rd party flash triggers)

4. No high sync flash

I've had a chance to play with a AF540 recently, and the extra $200 for the swivel head on this model, makes a big difference to ease of use for bounce flash.

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