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.



Safeer said...

Can I hook this up on a Nikon D5100, I am a beginner and I dont want to spend much on gear, please let me know my options.
PS:D5100 has no pc sync port

Viisshnu said...

Hi Safeer, YES you can hook this to your Nikon 5100 and it will fire off. Remember you cannot use this flash as a slave as it doesnt have a slave option. Slave option is useful if you are doing strobist work. However you can use this flash with a sync cable or buy flash triggers which are very cheap (approx Rs.100 - Rs.300). You can also use this flash mounted on the camera as a Master/Commander to fire off other flashes.

Yes the 5100 doesnt have a pc sync port, but you can buy a hot shoe adapter that has a female PC sync port, just for Rs.120 at your local two of these and you are all set. Hope that helped...Cheers.

Abhinav Srivastava said...

Do you know any diffuser compatible with this?

StudioVii said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anuj Kumar said...

Hi can u tell me the shop u got these products from. i am an architect with part time hobby of photography and want to shoot my own projects. i was thinking to get two of these flash with umbrella diffuser.

Viisshnu said...

If you are in hyderabad, you can try the Tokyo japan shop in haridas market in koti. they are available in other shops too. They are freely available in many camera goods shops across the country. They are usually priced between Rs.800/ - Rs.1000/-.

On another note, you want to use this flash for architecture/interior design projects??

I dont think these flashes can be used for architecture as they lack a slave mode and lot of other conveniences, that make strobist photography difficult.

You are better off buying something like a simpex or digitek flashes which have slave mode.

For everything else this flash is the bestest.

Cheers and happy clicking...

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