In-Depth Speedlight Reviews

Flashes tested in reviews

In-depth reviews with specs, feature descriptions, guide number testing, flash recycling time and flash duration results, wireless flash review, TTL performance results, strengths, weaknesses, alternatives and recommendation, including tons of charts, tables and high res photos:

Planned Reviews:

  • Canon ST-E2 vs Yongnuo ST-E2
  • Nikon SB-900
  • Vivitar 285HV
  • Sunpak PZ42X
  • Nikon SB-800
  • Metz 58 AF-2
  • Sigma EF-610 DG Super

9 Responses to In-Depth Speedlight Reviews

  1. Eric says:

    How could you guys do Flash reviews and leave out Vivitar?
    Vivitar has a solid reputation dating back over 30 years as being the #1 name for good quality at modest prices particularly when it comes to Semi Pro flashes. Children take notes. In the late 60s Vivitar released the 260. The flash was acclaimed for it’s innovative design, but criticized for it’s use of expensive 9 volt batteries. Recognizing the problem based on the feedback received from customers an improved flash was introduced in 1970 called the Vivitar 283. It quickly became the number one professional and enthusiast flash unit on the market outselling all it’s competitors combined! In production for over 30 years, it was twice returned to production after being discontinued in response to customer demand & It is now called the 285 but features a newly introduced zoom head to cover different focal length lenses as well as a built-in variable power setting. this flash Has even been dubbed the cockroach of flashes due to it’s resiliency to slip into obsolescence and when it does (whenever that is) it certainly wont go quietly. Anyway below are just a few of Vivitar’s models available today on Ebay.

    Vivitar 285-HV /auto E/100 (ft)/ $89.00
    Vivitar Series 1 DF-483 /E-TTL /164 (ft)/ $199.00 <-Not bad
    Vivitar Series 1 DF-383 /E-TTL /148 (ft)/ $129.95 <-Good bargain
    Vivitar Series 1 DF-293 /E-TTL /138 (ft)/ $109.95 <-good
    Vivitar Series 1 DF-283 / TTL /138 (ft)/ $89.95 <-No LCD

    These flashes have as many or more bells and whistles as the flashes reviewed and should have fewer compatibility problems than the Nissin or the Yongnuo flashes reviewed here.

    Here is a basic review of the DF-383 for an idea as to the Quality to expect:

    • fransener says:

      Hello Eric

      Thank you for the suggestion and background information. There is a 285HV as well as a DF-383 on the list of upcoming reviews. Since bandwidth is limited, adding new reviews takes time – must seem like nothing going on at all from the outside I guess. But there’s also a ton of work in the background; working on the database at the moment, just added the DF-383 specs last night. Since their own specs are so poor – they don’t state the coverage with wide panel for example – own measurements need to be conducted which needs even more time, just to give an example, and then I need to update the php code to publish this on a page.

    • stanley says:

      1/ If point the flashgun to the subject directly:
      Vivitar DF-483-CAN is somehow only accurate in average metering model (5DMk1 and 40D). Always overexposed in other models.
      If bounce to the ceiling: results seems fine.

      2/ DF-483-CAN does not support canon T3 now (the menu shows incompatible flash) Vivitar has replied that they have not release the new version for T3 yet.

      3/ DF-483 is very light weight and small.

      4/ The operating is cumbersome. S0-S9 is good, but everytime you want to adjust, you have to go through all of them.

  2. Eric says:

    Hi Fransener. I did miss that & didn’t mean to sound pushy or anything.’s contributions are definitely appreciated. You guys are reviewing gear that the top Photographic review sites won’t even touch. It seems like unless it says “Metz” most if not all the affordable 3rd party flash units are being completely overlooked by them. You guys are definitely trailblazers & if you keep it up, your payday will come.

    As for the information you seek regarding Vivtar’s products; I too had a bit of trouble finding it but with the help of Ebay adverts in conjunction with whatever information I could find on Vivitar’s homepage & various user testimonials I was able to compile enough information to get a rough idea as to the capabilities of the models I listed as well as an Idea of how Vivitar’s customer service/support & quality control is since they were acquired by Sakar International. It’s not good. Apparently there are two versions of the DF-383. One of course is the DF-383 but the other is the DF400MZ (an older model). Buyers should stay clear of the DF400MZ unless they want a flash that does this–> . As for the customer service; from what I’m to understand it’s basically non existent. Google user reviews of the DF400MZ & you’ll see what I’m talking about. Regardless you may get what you pay for. In this case it’s a gamble but one I’m personally willing to take at $129 being that the alternatives are double or even triple that price. Still, buyers be ware.

    Anyway, you have my email if you have a question regarding the specs of Vivtar’s models. I do have an xls sheet I made (which is still incomplete) but you‘re welcome to it

  3. Konstantin says:

    Thank you for review.
    I have one Yongnuo 460-II and pretty happy!

  4. we2b says:

    I wonder if anyone has tried a Rokinon flash. I have three Rokinon lenses and the quality is astonishing for the price, especially the 85mm f1.4 which is my newest lens. Based on this, I have ordered their top model, a Rokinon D980AF-N, which I found for $90US (lists at $110, apparently). I decided to give it a try sight unseen because the store has a 45-day return policy. All I can lose is the cost of mailing it back. I will report after I have tried it out.

  5. we2b says:

    I have received the Rokinon D980AFZ-N, and here is my preliminary report. It comes in a substantial box, better than my Nissin boxes but not nearly up to Nikon standards. The first surprise is that the box contains the flash, warranty card and instruction sheet, and that’s it – no case, no stand. The quality of construction is above average, except for the somewhat flimsy and tight fitting battery door and the plastic foot without a locking pin. I would say it’s a good looking unit and better than I expected for the $90 Buydig price. It is not a clone of any design that I have seen. It has a US warranty for one year from Elite Brands, Inc. of New York. It is also sold with the Bell+Howell label and probably others.

    The manufacturer’s guide number is 45 at ISO 100 and 85mm. Some dealers list it as 35 at ISO 100, 35mm. There are dedicated models for Canon, Nikon, Olympus/Panasonic, Pentax and Sony Alpha/Minolta. All except OP are listed as digital and film. I measured GN 32 at ISO 100, 35mm with my Sekonic L-358. This is quite powerful, between the SB-700 (29) and SB-900 (36), though my example tested a little below the manufacturer’s specs.

    Basic specifications, my comments:
    • LCD Display, not expected for the price, some icons and numbers small
    • Auto and manual zoom 24-85mm, some competitors go up to 105
    • Focus assist, works well
    • I-TTL and I-TTL BL and I-TTL film, appears to be 100% compatible
    • Five power levels: Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16, just adequate as slave
    • Size about 2.8 x 3.9 x 4.9 inches, a little smaller than SB-700
    • Weight about 9.5 ounces without batteries, lighter than SB-700

    Loading batteries is easy due to molded slots in the battery compartment. The manufacturer states that “alkaline batteries are preferred”. It works fine with NiMH batteries, but I don’t notice as much improvement over alkaline as I see with my other speedlights. Battery door needed some flash trimmed off to fit properly and has a small locking tab that looks easy to break off.

    The locking ring on the mount is large enough to make mounting easy and secure, but it has two large slots in the perimeter which could be uncomfortable for sensitive fingertips. There is no locking pin. The flash head has the usual tilt and swivel limits for lower priced units: 0-90 degrees vertical, 90 to the right, 180 to the left. Operation is entirely as expected and the “manual” (I would say instruction sheet) is hardly needed. I only looked at it to identify the beeper On/Off button. The beeper on my example is fairly weak and might be hard to hear outdoors. This is only needed when used as slave, of course.

    I tested it on-camera with a D70s, D80, D200 and F100. It worked as expected with the digital cameras, the default mode being ITTL-BL. It seems to work perfectly with the F100, but I have not processed the film. As a wireless slave, it has only one mode and lowest power is 1/16, but it works with all my cameras. It also works with my Yongnuo 600/602 RF triggers.

    This is the most inexpensive flash that I know of which is compatible with Nikon CLS. It is a very good buy and perfect for someone looking for a first speedlight for primarily on-camera use, assuming that it proves to be reliable. It is too expensive and limited in power reduction for anyone looking for a slave flash. The Yongnuo YN-560 is a better choice for that.

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