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Lighting - flash and flood Flash and continuous lighting of all sorts from studio gear to on-camera flash can be discussed here.

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Old 18-12-13
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How to measure the trigger voltage of a flash unit?

I'm doing a series of articles for Amateur Photographer magazine looking at older gear and investigating how useful it might still be in the context of modern photography. Old flash units like the esteemed Vivitar 283, etc. could be featured but one key area would need to be tested: the flash trigger voltage in order to avoid damaging delicate modern cameras. Maybe this is one for Graham?

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Last edited by Ian; 19-12-13 at 11:53 AM.
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Old 18-12-13
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Re: How to measure the trigger voltage of a flash unit?

Just a DVM (voltmeter) between central pin and frame of flash shoe seems to work. The other pins will not be at a higher voltage. The worst I have measured was an the A11 (XA series) but that was never intended to be used as a standalone unit.

Most modern units are only a few volts.
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Old 18-12-13
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Re: How to measure the trigger voltage of a flash unit?

WARNING - HIGH VOLTAGE

For all my old guns, I have the Voltage that is measured across the terminals of the foot of the flash gun written on a bit of masking tape and stuck on the gun. This was done so that anyone borrowing my kit on shoots, didn't fry their camera with 260 Volts.

Any modern Multi-Meter can be used to determine the trigger voltage, but as with any electrical measurements, due care must be taken as it is quite easy to get the high voltage to pass through your body...

Most of the capacitors in guns are rated to 600V and I had one with a trigger Voltage measured at 465V. It bit me twice, and it hurts...



By far the safest way is:
1. Prepare the Multi-Meter to measure HIGH VOLTAGE (up to 1000V DC )
2. Connect the Multi-Meter probes to the contacts on the foot of the flash gun - Black to the side contact and Red to the center pin
3. Insert batteries into flash unit.
4. Switch on the flash unit - taking care not to touch any exposed metal parts of the probes.
5. Watch as the Voltage slowly rises or the "ready" light on the flash unit comes on and the Voltage is suddenly displayed.

If the Voltage is shown as -ve then you have a flash unit with reversed polarity. Again this could destroy your camera even if it can take the voltage.

(Do NOT set meter to measure CURRENT as this will simply fire the flash and you will not get a reading)

By far the best way to use these old guns is to trigger them with a "Slave Unit" SYK-3 eBay Link using the popup on the camera.

Please play safe, it's far more fun than getting hurt.
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Old 19-12-13
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Re: How to measure the trigger voltage of a flash unit?

Yes - I think the emphasis on safety is very important as these flash guns can pack a punch!

Many thanks Graham!

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