Thursday, August 27, 2009

Vivitar DF 383 Review

The Old:
The Vivitar 285HV flash was (and is) truly the cockroach of flashes. It was pretty tough. So back when it was re-launched back in 2007 everyone was very excited. Sadly, the 285 eventually started suffering quality control issues. Most of them work fine, a few people have complaints. I've had mine for a year or so, and I love it. But there were a few issues (lack of 1/8th power, 70's appearance, lack of TTL.)

The New:
Enter the Vivitar DF 383. Released very recently by vivitar, it's like the younger, and better looking, but less healthy version of the 285. What makes this flash so great, is it features ETTL (which any die-hard strobist will say is ew but some people like having a flash on camera in a pinch)it's also got 1/1-1/16 (including 1/8th power.) The features don't end there though. Sadly, the got rid of a sync port, so if you were to want to use a cactus trigger you'd actually have to mount your flash on it. It's not quite compensation for this but the 383 does feature a slave sensor. For some one who's already got a flash or 2, and uses them off camera, this could be handy, no need to buy another receiver.
Also a nice feature is the automatic (power zoom.) Theres 2 zoom modes. A (auto for use in TTL if you want) and M. In A if you're using Ettl on camera, if you zoom in nothing happens until you half press/press the shutter button. In order to enter Manual zoom you press the zoom button once, it goes into M and zooms out to 24mm. Press it once more for 28mm (then again for 35, 50, 70, and 85mm) one more press and back to auto. The zoom is a bit noisy, and slow, but it's power zoom!

Exposure Calculator:
Anyone who's ever used a 285HV knows about that really neat calculator on the side. Put in your ISO, f-stop, and power and it gives you distance at which you can shoot. Well, the DF 383 offers this too! on the LCD on the back (you'll see it in the video.) The LCD is also lit up when you press the light button, Although as I mention in the video, it's not lit very well.

Build Quality:
The DF383 isn't quite a cockroach like it's older brother. It's built fairly well, and looks a bit more modern but vivitar is still roughly a decade behind on style(doesn't look like a 580exII or sb-900--but hey thats not important.) My biggest built issue is with the on/off and s(slave)/off switches on the back, they just feel a little cheap. The foot is made of plastic, so I'm curios as to how that'll hold up. (I'll tweet/post if&or when it fails.)

The Verdict:
The Vivitar DF 383 is a great flash for someone looking for a first time flash who wants Ettl and to try some off camera stuff. It could also be a good compliment to any one's flash set (especially if you're using say, 285HV's {which have gone up in price, so this is only $29.00 more at the moment.}) The color temp is right about where flash would be, in fact, in shooting with this and the 285 the 285 had a much warmer tone.

Build: 17/20
Handling: 18/20
Specifications: 18/20
Value: 20/20
Overall: 91% I highly recommend this product!
Pick it up@ B&H


PepeFoto said...
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Anonymous said...

What's the flash recycling time at full power? Also, is the optical trigger located in the flash head (like the YN-460) or in the body? Thanks for writing up that review. Looking forward to your reply.

Jacob O'Connell said...

The Flash recycling is pretty good. The batteries I have in it are rechargeables that are nearing their end, they were used for about an hour of shooting and recharged it (from full) in about 6 seconds.

The Optical trigger (from what I can tell) is in the front under/near the red panel. I'll look into this more in a bit.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I am Marcelo from Argentina. Thank you for this review, a few month ago I was searching a cheap flash, finally I bought the Vivitar DF400MZ (for Nikon), I was looking this flash too but because of the lack of information in the Internet, I don´t bougth it. The DF400MZ has the same features of the 383, and costs USD 30 less, and very happy with it.

Jacob O'Connell said...

Marcelo, I did look at the DF400MZ but there were a few bad reviews on it and it seemed like a lot of quality control issues. So I decided I'd take the chance and get the 383. I also figured I'd provide info on it since there was none.

Thanks for Commenting!

yossie said...

Thanks for the review, i love it, and i want to buy the vivitar DF 383 but in my country, this flash not sell, maybe i must buy imported this product, cause i dont have enought money to buy 580 ex, thanks for the reveiw, i love this....great posting!....(",)

Victor Alan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Victor Alan said...

Great review! I just purchased this flash based on your post. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

great review. i am considering buying this flash. i have a Cactus wireless slave flash trigger system (RF604) and wonder if it will work with this flash. i am unclear as to what you meant by "Sadly, the got rid of a sync port, so if you were to want to use a cactus trigger you'd actually have to mount your flash on it."
will i be able to remotely trigger this flash using my Cactus wireless transmitter?
i hope so.

José Ignacio said...

Nice review, what do I need if I want to use this flash as strobist? I need another external flash, remote control or something?

eespro said...

Great flash for beginner. Looking to sell mine though. Need highspeed sync. interested email me

Anonymous said...

I just purchased the 383 flash and it arrived yesterday 11/11/09. I put the batteries in and when I was closing the door the hinge snapped off, I never got to take a picture, it is going back an I will go back to the research drawing board. Very disappointed.

Slurms said...

Thanks for the review! I have been shopping for a first flash to go with my Rebel Xti and didn't want to drop the big bucks for a Canon brand. This review has sold me. =D

Anonymous said...

Hi Jake I am Vicente from Colombia, excellent review. I just get the Digital Concepts 952AF/CAN, wich has EXACTLY the same features than the Vivitar DF400MZ & DF383, Cullman 4500 and others brands of twins. By the way the DF383 has a different shaped AF illuminator. My camera is the Canon SX20 IS, and the flash work fine with the camera in P or Tv mode (TTL or Manual), but with the CAMERA in MANUAL, the unit just do not fire. Can you help me? Thanks.

Jake said...

Thanks everyone for the kind words, and sorry it's taken me so long to respond. Swamped by school work--barely time to eat.

To the first person who asked about cactus triggers.. You can't connect the receiver to the flash via a cable, and it would have to sit on top (which can mess with your umbrellas a little bit.) {Thats with the V2S trigger, the v4 wouldn't have the same issue}

Jose: You could use the Cactus Triggers to fire the flash, or some other trigger, and it has a slave function, so it could be triggered by other external flashes or your cameras on-board flash.

To the Anonymous person who was disappointed: I'm sorry to hear that it didn't work out for you. I actually had the little tiny piece that holds the door break off today.. I'm going try not to make a big deal about it, but it might get annoying.

And Vicente from Colombia: I don't know much/anything about the SX20, but have you tried just using the flash in M and 1/1. Maybe on the SX20 the TTL doesn't work with Manual mode. If that doesn't help..Email me or something (it's on the homepage I think)

Yossie, Victor, and Slurms.. Thanks!

All due,

om said...

Great review, you made me curious about getting one. do you have any idea if the TTL works fine on Nikon d-90 or d-80? and how good is this flash when compared to Nikon's sb600?
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to decide between this model and the DF 283. Have you any thoughts on the 283? I have a Olympus E 620 and trying to find out which one would be better for my needs. You article explains a lot on the 383 but I'm wondering if I would even use all the features on this flash. Thanks

Glenn said...
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Glenn said...

Another flash that I found that is on the same price range is the Targus TG-DL38P. They almost have the same features. But Targus is well known for making bags...

I am thinking of which to get? The Vivitar or the Targus?

BTW my cam is a Lumix L10



aun said...

Hey Jacob! Thanks for the review.

I'm currently using nikon D80 and will be getting a Canon D550 soon.
Would the the DF 383 for Canon work fine on both or is there only one model?
I'm in canada, so, any reliable source to buy it from?

Allan said...

hi, will this flash function well on a canon 350d? does the flash have 2nd curtain sync? i'm planning to get one for my 350d

RPC said...

I'm sorry to ask, but when you buy that flash, does it come with the little flash stand?

Thank you

Tural Muradbeyli said...

Hello Jacob! Thanks for the review.

I want to buy Vivitar DF-383 (for Canon EOS 450D (Rebel XSi)), but I'm going to use it with wireless flash trigger. You said: "if you were to want to use a cactus trigger you'd actually have to mount your flash on it". I've questions about it:
1. Did you test it with any flash trigger? If yes, please give the name and model of the trigger, which worked Vivitar successfully.
2. Does Vivitar DF-383 work with wireless flash triggers, for example, Cactus 4-Channel Wireless Flash Trigger Set V2s? This flash trigger supports Vivitar 285HV, DF-400MZ, DF-340MZ flashes.



The Smiths said...

I've had my 383s for a few months now - started with one and bought a second one - and have been very pleased with them. I'm shooting with them in manual mode, firing off-camera with some cheap wireless triggers from CowboyStudio. Just starting off, but I figured that down the line I'll be able to justify dropping big money on upgrades.

Question - I have just noticed that on the base of the hot shoe adapter there is a small connection that I discovered by accidentally knocking the cover off. Any idea what this is? There are three small, fragile-looking pins in there. I can't find anything in any documentation on what this is.

Anonymous said...

I'd be inerested in the answer to "The Smiths" as well. I had a 400DM(Nikon) that went belly-up. Sakar (they bought Vivitar) replaced it with a 383. I liked the 400 just fine and am just as pleased with the 383 but puzzled by the same little white connector on the front. Connections look too small for AC adapter and the manual doesn't show/mention it.

When the 400 died, I bit the bullet and bought the SB600 for my D60 and am very pleased with the slave performance of the new 383.

BTW: Optical trigger is shown in the manual as being (somewhere) on the body, not the head. The line points to the battery door but I think it's under the AF Red Light panel.


P^2 (Paul) said...

Thanks, Jake, for reviewing it. I bought one in part because of this. My own thoughts on it after one week are in my flickr stream:

That little connector on the front? It's connected internally only to the microcontroller, not any pins on the hotshoe. I'd bet it's for flash programming (firmware) updates, a la Metz.

Jacob O'Connell said...

To the Smiths: I've never really seen what you're describing, so I don't know what it is--sorry about that!

Aun: No it won't work with a Nikon D80 and a Canon D550, the 383-NIK (nikon) model will work with Canon and the 383-Can with canon.

RPC--Sorry no flash stand!

It works with the V2S triggers, and has the optical slave for off-camera w/o triggers.

Lastly, Paul, I think you summed up the flash very well, thanks for sharing that with us!

The Smiths said...

Regarding the front connections - any way this could be a connection for an external battery pack, like the Canon CP-E4? That's the closest guess I can come up with.

Any thoughts?

Jeremy said...

If you need to use the flash in manual mode without going to sleep, then follow these directions to hack it.

sandy said...

Your review is very helpful. I am in my second college photo class and we need a flash. I have a Canon RebelXSi. It would be great if you could compare the Vivitar 383 to the Canon speedlite 480. What would I be giving up by purchasing the Vivitar? Also what do you mean by a cactus flash trigger

Davide said...

Hi there!
Thank you for your review
It is so helpful!
! question-
will it work with cowboy studio transmitters?
I am trying to avoid the Pocket Wizards

Thank you Jacob!


kenneth said...

hey i was wondering if this flash will work fine and not harm my nikon d40? i need a response as soon as possible because i just ordered one from amazon. thanks

Jacob OConnell said...

Kenneth: it'll work just fine with your D40, provided you ordered the Nikon One?

Never used cowboy studio transmitters but it doesn't have a sync port, so if they're hot shoe then yes, if not you might need to get creative.

A. Grell said...

just pulled mine out of the box, and about 20 minutes later it quit flashing???? everything else works fine. it won't even test flash. do you have any idea what happened??

Anonymous said...

hey Jacob, i recently purchased this flash im really happy with it but i cant seem to find any accessories for it. If you know where i can get some of these? or do cannon 430ex II accessories fit this?

Gsanc said...

I wrote a mail to Vivitar asking them for the 3 pin connector. Their answer was the following:
“We would like to inform that the 3 pin connector is used to connect certain sync cables. However, we request you to contact any local store to know in detail regarding the 3 pin connector.”
By the way, very good flash.

carlos said...

Im a N00b in flashes, how do I trigger wirelessly my flash without using the built in also, Is there a way? or is there a tutorial you can recommend me to use flashes wirelessly, thank you

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the awesome reviewI I just bought this flash and thought I would mention that the flash now has a metal foot, wich is a great improvement over the one my sister has from 2010...much more secure fitting.


Lucas said...

I was facing problems with the slave feature.

I figured something:
- if the power of DF-383 is 1/1, the flash fire immediately;
- if the power of DF-383 is 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 or 1/16, the flash "wait" the pre-flash and fires on the second fire of the build-in flash.

I figured when I take pictures in front of a mirror. When the power is 1/1 the DF-383 is captured with the light of the flash off. When the power is 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 or 1/16 the light of the flash is captured by the camera.

So, when DF-383 is on 1/1 power, it didn't ignore the pre-flash. In other powers it wait...

Any suggestion?

Anonymous said...

what is a "buh in" I

dimzPhotography said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)