The past few days I’ve been using my Vivitar 285HV fairly extensively (see my First Impressions article). For the $89 I spent on it at B&H Photo I still think its a deal. It’s cheap, big and bright – burning it out won’t break the bank. I’ve been shooting through a shoot-through umbrella at 1/4 power and recycle times are faster than my work flow.
Last night while preparing my shots for my upcoming article on using my DSLR (Nikon D90) as a super fast photo scanner I stuck a cowboy studio NPT04 Radio Trigger on my Vivitar flash and a whole lot of nothing happened. It simply would not trigger. The first thing I did was hit the test button on the flash (not the trigger) and it fired no issues. I swapped out triggers and still nothing. My next thought was that something happened to the hot-shoe itself. I inspected everything and it all looked good. Hummmm…. Several iterations of testing later I put it aside thinking I would need to see if I could actually get it repaired under warranty. I’ve heard it’s difficult to get warranty work done on them. I stuck a Nikon SB-600 in it’s place and took my photos.
Later in the evening I stuck the batteries from the Vivitar flash into my LaCross BC-9009 battery charger – the worlds best battery charger IMHO. Its so good I’ll do a short review on it in the future. I dropped 4 AA batteries in it and saw the voltage for each battery come up on the charger. 1.32 volts for three of them and 1.05 volts for the other. Rechargeables when they drop below about 1.15 volts drop off really fast. Basically 1.05v is a totally dead cell especially under any load. It was probably only 1.05v because it had been sitting for a few hours, but in the flash I bet it was lower than 1.05v. The light bulb went off in my head. What if the flash trigger circuit needed higher internal voltage to work with the Cowboy studio triggers? I stuck a set of good batteries in the Vivitar and the triggers were working again! The fact that the test button on the flash worked is what really threw me off.
Moral: Fresh batteries all around before you deem it broken.