How to use flash with analog body


Link Posted 17/09/2013 - 10:35

Can someone point me in the right direction for flash use with an analog body?
At the moment i have a vivitar 550 fd flash and i would try to use it onto my pentax me super/ pentax Mx.

When trying available light indoors in the evening, i shoot tmax @1600, which has it's down sides. If light isn't falling correctly onto a face, all can be too dark.

I would like to try to bounce the flash on the ceiling or wall, to get some more detail into the faces, but don't know where to start and estimate a correct exposure.

Do i stay with the light meter readings, or do i need to compensate for flash use?
How to tackle this one?

All info will be greatly appreciated!



Link Posted 17/09/2013 - 12:45
Do you have a DSLR? I would be tempted to experiment on digital to get a feel for the right sort of exposure settings at various ISOs. Make sure the flash is safe to use voltage wise though.


Link Posted 17/09/2013 - 12:58
The 'proper' answer is to do it in the old fashioned way with a flash meter, which will cost about 75 and up, although you can probably pick up a second-hand one for a tenner.

I've never been good with flash. In my film days I used to guess the distance and read the settings on the gun.

Film has more latitude than digital so if you ended up a couple of stops either way it didn't really matter.

But these days I only use flash on digital.
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Link Posted 17/09/2013 - 13:44
Pentaxophile wrote:
Do you have a DSLR? I would be tempted to experiment on digital to get a feel for the right sort of exposure settings at various ISOs. Make sure the flash is safe to use voltage wise though.

It is generally accepted that using a flash with a trigger voltage above 6v on a Pentax DSLR may cause problems with a risk of frying the circuitry - although how much of a risk seems debatable.

The Viv 550 fd appears to not have a set trigger voltage and individual units have shown an output ranging from 4.5v to nearly 11v.

Personally I have used units deemed to be unsafe without issue when they have not had very excessive voltages but caution is probably the best bet.

No matter how many lenses I have owned - I have always needed just one more


Link Posted 17/09/2013 - 14:17
Fill-in flash is tricky with film: you won't know if it worked until you get your prints back. This can be an expensive learning curve. I'd try a few shots using the flash as your main light source and see how you get on.

Set the camera to its maximum speed for flash sync, set the lens aperture according to the scale on the flash (which I imagine gives you a choice of apertures depending on the range of your subject), set your ISO on the flash and fire away on auto. If the ceiling's low enough, this should give reasonable results if you want to bounce off it.

I don't think your flash has PTTL control but the auto circuitry on my Vivitar 283 does at least as good a job (better in a lot of circumstances) than this newfangled magic.

Good luck



Link Posted 17/09/2013 - 15:11
thanks for all the tips!

voltage won't be a problem, the flash only gets used on the me super/mx bodies.
after some search flash meter seems the way, but would like to try (not hasseling around another element) without.

I suppose if i set the flash while bouncing (would not like to use it straight) i measure the distance between flash-Ceiling-Subject?

am i correct if i say that using slower shutter speeds (1/30) will give me a more available light "look" than using higher shutter speeds?




Link Posted 17/09/2013 - 15:29
Right on both counts.

A rough guess at the flash-ceiling-subject distance is good enough because the auto setting for any given aperture has a fair bit of leeway. If the ceiling is high or dark-coloured, forget it. Your flash may have an indicator to show if the exposure is OK. The 283 does.

The slower the shutter speed, the more ambient light ends up on film but you have to balance this against the possibility of camera shake.

Last Edited by Aero on 17/09/2013 - 15:33


Link Posted 17/09/2013 - 15:33
crabe919 wrote:
the flash only gets used on the me super/mx bodies.

Ya, just mentioned it in case you wanted to practice with your DLSR first ;P

Looks like it's safe at 11V.


Link Posted 17/09/2013 - 15:36
ok! thanks for the tip on the digi-flash!


thanks for the "confirmation".
1/30 to 1/15 is possible to hand hold if needed.
i mostly use 24 or 50 mm lenses so...

will need to experiment from here i guess...
Last Edited by crabe919 on 17/09/2013 - 15:40


Link Posted 18/09/2013 - 07:59
I have exactly the same issue, I even have the same flash!

I haven't tried it out yet, but the manual for that flash can be found here:

My understanding of how it works is this. There are two auto modes which depend on the distance to the subject, and to a lesser degree, the aperture you want to use. In these auto modes the exposure is controlled by the flash, which has a sensor on the front to detect when enough light has been provided. Since the sensor is still forward-facing, bouncing should not make any difference.

There is also a TTL mode in which exposure is controlled by the camera, but I'm not sure which models will work with this.

So that's the theory as I understand it. I'd like to test it on my K200D, but as mentioned above, the trigger voltage is a worry and I have no way of testing this. To my knowledge though, the only flashes that cause problems are the ones that have a very high trigger voltage, 100V or more.

If you do try it out on either digital or film, I'd appreciate it if you could let us know how you got on.
Pentax hybrid user - Digital K3, film 645 and 35mm SLR and Pentax (&other) lenses adapted to Fuji X and Panasonic L digital
Fan of DA limited and old manual lenses


Link Posted 18/09/2013 - 08:39
pentax me super & mx doesn't support the ttl mode, so it's manual only here!

Thanks for the manual!


Link Posted 18/09/2013 - 09:17
No you have the auto modes on the flash, which use a light sensor on the flash itself to control the light output.


Link Posted 18/09/2013 - 09:18
oops! correct! my mistake...


Link Posted 18/09/2013 - 09:22
I think you are right to try and figure it out manually though. Good skill to learn


Link Posted 18/09/2013 - 14:15
I too am learning my way round flash, even with a DSLR it is worth taking lots of notes of exact readings and settings - at least for me

for what its worth I have found the AF280T sensor incredibly predicable / reliable even with bounce - remember it takes an average reading and wants to make everything 18% grey
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