Friday, May 9, 2014

Vivitar 3200A Auto-thyristor flash review 2014

Vivitar 3200A Auto-thyristor electronic flash, seen here with other knick knacks

Some months ago I visited camera shops in my city and came across a Vivitar 3200 flash, when the sales guy told me that its costs less than Rs.1000/- (Approx $15) I immediately added this to my buy list. Luckily enough before buying the flash a photographer acquaintance of mine lent this flash to me for a family event. I realized this cheap looking, old school flash is extremely potent. Though the build quality, buttons, body material, design are below par, but at $15 who gives a damn.   

This is a completely manual flash and has no TTL, though with one great wonderful feature, a light measuring sensor that determines the output. Great right. I tested this feature at home and its not a scam. This little feature works more or less like TTL. It may or may not be as accurate but it sure is a handy feature. Its a lot better than spending hundreds of dollars on a TTL flash.

Before this flash I had been using the Canon 430 EX, which I borrowed from an acquaintance. It is a great flash and all, but costs as much as two strobe heads, which is a rip off. The same cost as two full power strobe heads?? you gotta be kidding me.The bad points about this flash are its plastic foot and a lack of a dedicated PC sync port.  Too bad. Incidentally my Rs.1000/- Vivitar flash has a PC sync port, now that is just sweet. I tested the PC sync port of the Vivitar on my Nikon D200 and the flash has proved to be, for lack of better words, extremely consistent. 

My two Interfit full-power 23 strobes, bought a few days ago cost me Rs 17,000/- (Approx $269) and the price included two reflectors, two stands and two softboxes. A single Nikon SB-910 costs Rs.31,000/- in India (almost $500). Imagine $269 Vs $500, which is a good deal ??. A small strobe like the Simpex 300D (In India, its something like a small einstien or alien bee) costs just Rs.2700/- ($42) and it is far more powerful and less complicated than a Nikon SB-910 flash. Again $42 Vs $500, which do you think is a good  deal ?? Just because its OEM doesnt mean you have to shell out hundreds of $$$ just for the name. You should use OEM equipment where it matters, NOT where it doesnt. My personal formula is that, the flash shouldn't cost more than half of the cost of a single strobe head. If it does, I might as well buy the strobe itself.

 Vivitar 3200A flash mounted on a flash bracket, connected to my Nikon D200 via a pc sync cord. You can also see a strobe trigger on the hot shoe. Off the context, the Nikon D200 has such a great form factor.

Battery efficiency

Since this is not an advanced flash, the sales man suggested I buy 1000 mAh batteries instead of 2500 mAh NiMh. I went ahead and bought two sets of 1000 mAh simpex brand batteries, which are working great. 2500 mAh would have been an overkill on this flash or worse yet can fry the flash. Yesterday I tested these batteries for a wedding related event and after more than 200 pops, there was still a lot of juice left in it. I can tell these batteries are perfect for this flash. I bought two sets of this 4 pack and I am hoping they should last me a whole wedding.


The recycling time is not super fast, which is fine as I am not shooting thousand bursts a second. Depending on the flash output, the recycle time is anywere between 1 and 4 seconds, which is great.

The design of the flash is pretty basic and has old school zen feel to it. The 80s look is a winner for me as I have a taste for things bygone. Though the build material is cheap, this flash is worth every paisa. The inclusion of a light measuring sensor which adjusts output accordingly is a huge deal maker for me. This flash is not built too strong and the buttons are a bit loose, so always handle the flash with care. Rough use is not recommended. It has tilt and swivel, but be careful while bending and turning. Too much force can break the flash. Irrespective of the caveats this still is a great flash and I recommend it for anyone on a budget or enthusiastic about amateur strobist work. I might additionally buy one or two of these great flashes soon.

Happy clicking.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Regarding your Photography Gear: Upgrading Vs Downgrading

 Canon 40D and Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN
A lot of you are already aware what upgrading is, then what exactly is downgrading,
it is exactly what you think it is. There are always latest and greatest cameras coming to the market, but that doesn't mean you should buy em all. The key is to buy the best camera that's suits your requirement and budget and stick with it. Unless you got tons of cash to splurge on constantly upgrading your kit, it is advisable to stick with what you have already.

Nikon D2X

The 'not so latest' cameras are a good choice as most of them are available for peanuts. Cameras like the Canon 40D, 50D are now available cheaply on fleabay. So are the Nikon DX cameras of yesteryears like the D40, D60, D70, D80. Even great cameras like the D2Hs and D2Xs are in the viscinity of $250-500 which is great news. These cameras, during the time of their debut cost thousands of dollars. Even today, they are great cameras by any means. 

Nikon D2H

Downgrading your kit doesn't mean buying bad cameras or buying old, battered pieces. Buy the cameras in great condition that you can afford. For studio use cameras like the Nikon D100 or D1h or a D2x or D2xs offer an affordable option. They are great value for the money and are available for peanuts. Remeber these cameras were highly advanced when they were launched. So its not only just a matter of perception. 

Nikon D80

Photography need not be a costly affair. There is no point in buying a $300 hammer if you can get the same job done with a $30 hammer equally well.

Happy Clicking !   

Monday, May 5, 2014

What to look for in a pro camera body??

So you have quit your day job and jumped headlong into photography? Congratulations. Do you already own a camera? An entry level camera? Unfortunately your entry level camera wouldn't cut it for the rigors of professionally demanding scenarios. You need a pro body or atleast a semi pro body that inspires respect and as a bonus also produces great pictures. I personally own a Nikon D200. It has its quirks but most importantly it has all the pro features.

Now lets look at the features a pro body needs to have:

Top LCD Panel : This is an extremely important feature which saves time in composition
and also looks great on camera.

Magnesium Alloy Body: The camera has to withstand the rigours of the demanding shooting situations and also everyday use. It should be strong enough to withstand a fall and still work fine. So this feature is mandatory.

Weather-sealing: If you are a full-time commercial photographer like me, you would be taking your camera into raining jungles, storms, tornadoes and the like. It is important that your camera be water/humidity/heat resistant.

Built in Auto-focus Motor: From time to time you might want or need to use lenses that
don't have a built in auto-focus motors, so having it in camera would eliminate all problems.
Some cameras in Nikon like the D40, D40X, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5100, D5200, D5300 dont have a built in autofocus motors. The autofocus motors in entry level camers are not that strong. They are built tough and powerful in pro bodies.

CF Card Slot: Pictures from a CF card are better than SD cards. Make sure you buy a camera with a CF card slot. These days they say the quality between an SD image and CF image is negligible. I personally don't know about that. I don't have any camera with a SD or SDHC. So I cant tell. Both my Sony a200 and Nikon D200 are CF cameras and the pictures from them are mind blowing. 

Addordable/Mid-range pro cameras that have the above features:

  1. Canon 40D
  2. Canon 50D
  3. Nikon D200
  4. Nikon D300/300s
  5. Canon 7D
  6. Sony a77