Vivitar flash with Nikon D3100

edited October 2014 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
Is it safe to use a Vivitar Auto Thyristor 2800 flash that's at least 25 years old with my new Nikon D3100, or will it damage the camera? Thanks for making the cheat cards! I've just made the leap from point-and-shoot to digital and those cards have really lowered my frustration levels!


  • edited October 2014
    There is a real danger to using old flashes with new cameras, so I wouldn’t risk it. After all, would you be more devastated if that 25-year-old flash died or if your D3100 died?

    In case you’re wondering why there’s a danger: Old flashes use a very high trigger voltage, possibly several hundred volts. Modern cameras are not designed to handle such high voltages. Modern flashes are triggered with just 5 or 6 volts.
  • edited October 2014
    What he said.

    If you do not have a voltmeter to check this, DO NOT try this flash. The Vivitar 2800 has been in production for many years, and older ones do have higher voltages than newer ones; some very high indeed. I don't think there's any way to tell for sure except to test it. If it's an older one, it can go as high as 170 volts.

    If you are handy with a voltmeter, you can test the trigger voltage. With the flash ready, the voltage between the center terminal or dot on the mount, and the contact on the edge of the mount where it slides into the bracket is the trigger voltage.

    Almost any Nikon SB flash, from SB-15 at least, will be safe to use either in manual or auto mode even if it does not work TTL. Although many newer flashes will be safe it's hard to know for sure, and some (those dedicated to Minoltas in particular) may be safe but not compatible in any mode owing to a pulsating ready light signal.

    Vivitar made some very nice flashes and some may be worth checking for voltage, but you should never use an older one without testing it.

  • edited October 2014
    Thanks for the info!!!!! I've gotten the same response from others. I'm going to hold off on the flash for a bit. There's going to be a photographic trade show here in Edmonton, AB, so I hope to find one for a good price.
  • edited October 2014
    I've long used film cameras that do not accept sophisticated TTL flash dedication, and a couple of my favorite flashes do not operate in TTL mode with the D3200, but in "auto" mode they still work very well. So if you find a flash with safe trigger voltage that's a bargain and has enough power, you might consider getting it even if it is not mated to your camera. Just don't use the TTL setting.

    Avoid Minolta dedication for the reason mentioned above, especially Sunpak, which has that pulsating ready light signal which some Nikons cannot handle even when set on manual mode. Many older Minoltas and other cameras had a second terminal which set the electronic shutter to sync speed and lit an internal ready light, even though they did not provide TTL metering.

    Sunpak flashes tend to be a bit cheaper made than genuine Nikon and a few others (including Vivitar), but they can work well and often have partial-power settings that make manual fill flash a bit easier to manipulate.

    When shopping for used flashes be very very careful to check the battery terminals both inside the flash and in any battery carrier. Many flashes are left too long, and batteries corrode. Though you can scrape the contacts they will need frequent re-cleaning, and will fail periodically. Also, because flashes use a big capacitor, they can occasionally go bad and blow the capacitor. Insist on trying the flash to be sure it charges and fires properly. Don't trust an untried one unless it's throwaway cheap.

    ps. I almost forgot, here's a link that includes voltage readings for many flashes and some information on the whole business:
  • Thanks for the tips!
  • edited March 2017
    I have a Nikon SB 22s speedlight. Is this compatible with a Nikon D3100? I heard it could damage the electronics on my camera, and I don't want to fry my camera using this flash.
  • It won't work on TTL mode, only manual and on-flash automatic, but that model is explicitly listed as compatible with the D3200, and I'm sure it will be OK with the D3100 as well. All Nikon speedlights for many years have had trigger voltages far lower than the tolerance allowed by most Nikon cameras, which is very generous.

    I don't know whether you have the full PDF version of the instruction manual for the D3100, but if not, you should get it, either off the original CD or off the Nikon web site. You'll find a list of compatible Nikon flashes in the manual in the section on "Optional Flash Units," with a chart telling what features will work.
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