Using old (film) flash units with DSLRs?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by iolair, Nov 5, 2009.

  1. iolair

    iolair No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'm awaiting my eBay Canon 20D, and wondering if it's possible to save a lot of money by using older flash units with it - units from film cameras. There are plenty around!

    I'd want to use the flashes (at least two, which might be different), with some kind of cheap remote control kit, with the flashes off-camera on stands. Is this technically possible? Am I right in saying that a flash hotshoe, for basic connections, is universal? How far does the connection date back?
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2009
  2. cliffy13

    cliffy13 TPF Noob!

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  3. robertwsimpson

    robertwsimpson No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I use a c.1979-1980 flash unit with my XTi without issue. The cool thing is that it doesn't really know there is a flash, so I can use up to a 1/350 shutter speed ;)
     
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  4. PatrickHMS

    PatrickHMS TPF Noob!

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    It is okay to use any of them off-camera, off the DSLR hot shoe - but be very careful what you choose to use ON the hot shoe of your DSLR.

    All your DSLR is, is a computer with a lens, and using a flash (even once) with excessive trigger voltages can damage circuits inside the camera.
     
  5. iolair

    iolair No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    OK, so using it with a wireless remote control, any flash with a hotshoe connection will be fine? Great :)
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Hot shoes are pretty universal. Sony/Minolta is a little different though.

    The link above gives reported voltages for many flash units. But keep in mind that their save/not safe rating is for older (film) canon SLR cameras that were only rated for 6 volts. The Canon 20D is rated for 250 volts...so just about any flash should be save to use.

    When using a radio remote trigger, you don't need to worry about the camera, but the remote receiver. I've never heard of anyone having a problem with trigger voltage on a remote though.

    So yes, you can pretty much get any flash to use as an off-camera remote flash. I would suggest only getting flashes that have manual power adjustments though. I've got a box full of old flash units...some of them are great for this...others, while usable, are just not as convenient.
     
  7. iolair

    iolair No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks Mike,

    It's only the PC-Sync connection on the 20D that can cope with 250 volts though. The hot shoe connection is limited to 6 V. (This according to the 20D manual downloaded from Canon's site).

    I don't know how many flash units have the PC-Sync type connection on.

    Don't all off-camera flashes have manual power adjustment ;-) (1-stop reduction? Pick up the flash and move it 40% further away. 2-stops? Pick up the flash and move it twice as far away).
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2009
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It's the same circuit, as far as I know.

    I'll have to read up on that.
     
  9. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    On page 98 is says

    No mention of 6 volts there, and I can't find any other mention of flash trigger voltage.
     
  10. fokker

    fokker No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If you go for something like a canon 540EZ they have all the bits you need for proper off-camera flash usage like manual power adjustment (up to 1/128) and zoom head. You can pick up dirt cheap usually just because they aren't E-TTL compatible.
     
  11. iolair

    iolair No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Ooops, you're right... I guess I read the 6V hotshoe limit somewhere else.
    (e.g. here -> Flash Photography with Canon EOS Cameras - Part II. )

    Though as I said previously I want to use the flashes remotely, so they'd be with some breed of reciever anyway and not physically connected to the camera. It sounds like I'm home and free for that :)
     
  12. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    They are talking about EOS film cameras.

    Absolutely right :)
     

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