BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Choosing the Right Camera Flashes

Photography Question 

Flash Sync Speeds

I have a manual camera with "flash sync" speed of 1/30 (I don't know what
that means) and I want to take pictures at longer exposures
(.5-1 seconds @ f/2.8). What type of flash do I need to buy and how do I set up the flash? The camera has a hot shoe & PC socket.

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6/13/2003 8:42:45 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  Yours sounds like an older camera model without any electronic communication with the flash. What you need is a basic manual or "auto-thyristor" (built-in sensor) flash, like the Vivitar 2800, 283, or 285HV. If your camera has a "hot" shoe then there is an electronic contact (small round bare metal dot in the middle) to activate the flash and you do not need to use a PC cord. If the shoe does not have that contact, then you need a flash that will accept a PC cord from the camera.

The flash sync speed is the fastest shutter speed that can be used with electronic flash. You can use any longer shutter speed with flash. Using longer shutter speeds will not affect the exposure given to your near subject that is lit by the flash, but will give more exposure (brighten up) to the background.

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6/14/2003 2:13:15 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
  All three flash units Jon mentions come with a short PC cord when new. When plugged into the flash, it disconnects the flash hot shoe contacts so they won't short out on a solid metal accessory shoe. Many people throw them away, or lose them, so they're not often found with used ones. However, you can get replacent cords from Vivitar and Sunpak.

I am curious . . . what make and model is this camera? If the sync speed is 1/30th, it must be quite old, and that *may* be what the sync speed was for flashbulbs. Depending on the make/model and how the flash sync was designed, you *might* be able to run it at 1/60th with an electronic flash. Depends on whether or not it was set up for "X-Sync" or not (common when "F" type flashbulbs were created). OTOH, there are many older cameras with "M" and "F" syncs thay may cause some problems with electronic flash (fires too early). One way to find out is to test it with some film and a flash.

-- John

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6/15/2003 12:27:51 PM

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