Not working... Firefly + Vivitar 285

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Not working... Firefly + Vivitar 285

Postby bsignorelli » Mar 27, 2007 5:00 pm

I have two Firefly 2's and two brand new Vivitar 285HV flashes and my problem is that the Firefly's won't fire the Vivitars. The Firefly's will fire my other strobe (Nikon SB-15) and the Vivitar's work in all other situations (ie via the PC connector or the hotshoe of a camera).

Any thoughts you guys may have would be appreciated.

Here are some details...

Firefly Slaves (I have two of them, both with hotshoe connectors):
* both have new batteries
* both have clean sensors
* both will fire my Nikon SB-15
* both will NOT fire my new Vivitar 285HV


Vivitar 285HV (brand new):
* will fire via the PC connector
* will fire with the manual button
* will fire when mounted (hotshoe) on a Pentax K1000 or a Holga
* will NOT fire via the Firefly


There is NO fluorescent lighting in my apartment (testing area). The Firefly's are NOT mounted to a battery pack. The wires on the Firefly's are good...one is brand new and the other is hardly used. The PC connector was not plugged in to the Vivitar when testing the Firefly's.

I'd be inclined to say the Firefly's aren't making good contact with the "other" metal contacts on the hotshoe (i.e. not the center pin) but the Vivitar fires when mounted on a cameras hotshoe (even a Holga!).

Sometimes the Firefly will fire the Vivitar when the other flash is held right against the sensor of the Firefly. But this isn't consistent and actually is more likely to not occur than to occur.

I've tried wiggling the firefly-to-vivitar connection to see if there may be a "sweet spot" that makes connection but there doesn't seem to be
one. The connection seems solid.

The Firefly's fire the Nikon flash with no problems. They fire every time and even do so around corners with no line of sight.

I'm really bummed because I just bought two of the Vivitars to use in caves as well as in above ground photography.

Thanks for your help though! I might try emailing the makers of the Firefly and seeing if they have heard of any issues with that flash/slave combo.

Bryan Signorelli

PS - My internet access is limited right now so it may be easier to copy my home addy on your reply (basignorelli@yahoo.com). Thanks!
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Postby tropicalbats » Mar 27, 2007 10:57 pm

Bryan,

I had the exact problem you describe when I first got my firefly 2s quite a few years ago. Only difference was that mine would not fire any of my Minolta flashes (I ended up giving away my 132s as they just did not work with the slaves).

I contacted Peter about it, and at that time he had not heard of such a thing and nothing came of it other than that the company was notified.

Sounds like there is some bit in just a few flash models that dislikes the fireflies. My Sunpak and Vivitar flashes have never given me that problem, but I do not have the model you have.

Good luck!

Keith
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Postby Dave Bunnell » Mar 28, 2007 12:22 am

One other test you might do, to see if the hotshoe on the firefly is making proper contact with that on your strobes, is to open up the firefly and jumper across the leads that come from the hotshoe, with the vivitar powered up and attached, and see if it triggers the strobe.

I suspect you'll get a null result there, as its hard to imagine why it wouldn't trigger a 285 if the hotshoe pins are making a complete circuit.
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Postby Bobatnathrop » Mar 28, 2007 4:21 pm

Hm that is wierd. I have acouple Vivitar285's and they work with all of my slaves. I have 2 fireflys and like 4 homemade slaves that the Firefly guy sells kits for.
Don't know what to tell ya other than check to see if they are getting a good conection.

Good luck.
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Postby hunter » Mar 28, 2007 4:32 pm

like 4 homemade slaves that the Firefly guy sells kits for.

It's a total aside to the thread, but Bobatnathrop do you know if these kits are available from any website?

Thanks,
James
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Postby wendy » Mar 28, 2007 4:40 pm

http://www.pjcaver.com/sidfirefly.htm I don't know if the kits are on the webpage or not, but you can contact him thru the site


My fireflies work fine with my 285's.
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Postby bsignorelli » Mar 28, 2007 5:07 pm

wendy wrote:My fireflies work fine with my 285's.


Thanks for your replies guys. I'll try Dave's test tonight.

I don't know if it makes a difference but my 285HV's are brand new. Vivitar used to make 285's but then stopped production for a few years and recently (2006?) reintroduced them again.
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Postby Todd » Mar 29, 2007 1:32 pm

I've got a couple of smaller Vivitar flashes (can't remember the number right now) that I wired a small jack into to connect my fireflies to. I shorted several of the pins on the flash's hotshoe to the most central pin and found they all seemed to fire the flash the same, but that wiring the firefly jack across the wrong ones produced results like you describe.
After I found the "right" one it worked fine. I have no idea why it would do this, but I tried it with two identical flashes it was the same with both of them.
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Postby Bobatnathrop » Mar 29, 2007 5:09 pm

Hunter, Yeah I got them at PJcaver..I dont remember where they are on there but he just sends out the circuit board and alls ya have to do is solder all of the stuff on the board. I think they ended up being like $6 or so.
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slave kits

Postby Dave Bunnell » Mar 30, 2007 1:04 am

If you're going to build a slave from a kit, I'd go with the ones Dave Gibson sells. He invented the original Firefly, and has since improved his circuit. He has kits and also a partly built unit to which you just have to add your own connector. In so doing, you can use a nice stout cord instead of the thin little wire that is so prone to failure on a Firefly.

In my experience his units are more reliable and durable than the Firefly units (I have a bag full of dead Fireflys, but all my Gibson slaves are still functioning after 5 years). His units use a single battery instead of the 3 little penlight batteries that the Firefly uses. One common problem with the fireflys is that those batteries can shift inside the unit if its knocked around (like in a cave pack) and not make a good connection. A single battery makes for a better connection and lasts longer.

Anyway, here is the URL for these units:

http://www.caves.org.uk/flash/
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Postby NZcaver » Mar 30, 2007 1:36 am

For what it's worth, I second Dave's comments about the reliability of the Dave Gibson kitset slaves. I have several of them, and they work great. (Thanks, Bobatnathrop!) :big grin:

The only issue I've found is that they can occasionally trip when changing modes on some regulated LED headlamps, like my PT Apex. Not to wander off topic, but does anyone have any comments/suggestions about that?
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Postby fuzzy-hair-man » Mar 30, 2007 4:12 am

NZcaver wrote:The only issue I've found is that they can occasionally trip when changing modes on some regulated LED headlamps, like my PT Apex. Not to wander off topic, but does anyone have any comments/suggestions about that?


Your Apex or someone elses? if it's yours would cover your light with your hand whilst changing modes be a solution? :?
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Postby NZcaver » Mar 30, 2007 4:32 am

fuzzy-hair-man wrote:
NZcaver wrote:The only issue I've found is that they can occasionally trip when changing modes on some regulated LED headlamps, like my PT Apex. Not to wander off topic, but does anyone have any comments/suggestions about that?


Your Apex or someone elses? if it's yours would cover your light with your hand whilst changing modes be a solution? :?

Good thinking - I do that with mine sometimes, and it does help. But I need to use both hands to do it, which are not always available when I'm photographing! Other people's headlamps sometimes trip the slaves when changing modes too. I tried switching mode to the "flashbulb and flashgun" setting, but that didn't seem to make a difference so I switched back.

It's not a big deal, just an occasional minor inconvenience.
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Postby Dave Bunnell » Mar 31, 2007 12:43 am

I've experienced this issue with regulated headlamps as well on the Gibson slaves. I'd suspect the same thing would be true of the Fireflys, if anyone can comment on that. I think the regulated headlamps that trip it are using some kind of oscillator pulse circuit, controlling brightness by summating pulses of light below CFF (critical flicker fusion frequency) so that they appear to our eyes as continuous. But of course the slave responds to rapid rise of light intensity. Fluorescent lights can do the same thing, as can sometimes just flicking a light on or off.

The only solution I know of is just to turn the offending lights off. I always have a non-regulated LED strapped to my helmet as a backup and just flip that on, since I currently use an Apex.

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Postby bsignorelli » Mar 31, 2007 9:04 am

Dave Bunnell wrote:One other test you might do, to see if the hotshoe on the firefly is making proper contact with that on your strobes, is to open up the firefly and jumper across the leads that come from the hotshoe, with the vivitar powered up and attached, and see if it triggers the strobe.

I suspect you'll get a null result there, as its hard to imagine why it wouldn't trigger a 285 if the hotshoe pins are making a complete circuit.


Well Dave, I did your test last night and it worked.

I opened up the Firefly and unscrewed the hotshoe wire from the terminal block and then I put my charged Vivitar on the hotshoe. Then I shorted the two wires and the flash fired.

So it seems that the hotshoe connector makes good contact with the Vivitar but the Firefly won't trip the flash.

I even switched the wires around though I suspect that doesn't make a lick of difference.

Now we have two Fireflys that will fire the Nikon flash and we know the Firefly is making good contact with the Vivitar but some design flaw in the Firefly won't fire the Vivitar.
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