can I use an old external flash on my digital camera?

This is a discussion on can I use an old external flash on my digital camera? within the Flash forums, part of the Photography Tips category; I have a panasonic dmc-fz100 which is equipped with a built in flash and a hotshoe. I have a 15 year old external flash that ...


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  1. #1
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    can I use an old external flash on my digital camera?

    I have a panasonic dmc-fz100 which is equipped with a built in flash and a hotshoe. I have a 15 year old external flash that I used to use on my film reflex. Can I still use it on my panasonic? I assume I can I was just concerned about the possibility of different voltages and damages to the camera or flash.

    thanks


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    Probably not a good idea. Old flashes can run up to about 250 volts across the shoe when the flash fires. Modern cameras aren't designed for those voltages. I don't know Panasonic -- but Canon says not to exceed 6 volts.

    But you can search for a product by Wein called "Safe Sync". It slips into the hot shot and provides yet another hot shoe into which you slide your old flash. It isolates the voltages between the two and can deal with the old flashes that want to run 250 volts while making sure the camera circuitry never sees more than 6 voltes.

    Most places seem to charge about $50 for it. I thought that seems a bit high, but I guess it's cheaper than buying a new flash and certainly cheaper than having to repair/replace the camera.
    Tim Campbell

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    Thanks for the reply and the suggestion. I am getting a little confused, though. is it normal that the flash sends current to the camera? I'm not sure of how it works but I assumed that since the flash works with its own AA batteries, it doesn't take the power from the camera and therefore there is a mechanical mechanism in the horse shoe that tells the flash when to fire. then there is no need for it to send electricity in the horse shoe. Again, this is just what I thought and it's probably wrong...

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    The flash doesn't draw any power from the camera. The batteries in the flash charge up capacitors which will discharge in order to fire the flash. The foot of the flash has a center pin and a ground plate (the "plate" is actually one of the pins... sometimes the "plate" is plastic instead of metal, but there will be at least be a metal contact that engages with the metal hot-shoe of the camera.)

    The camera simply "shorts" the connection from the center pin of the flash to the hot-shoe plate. When that circuit closes, the flash fires. Obviously some power has to flow through the circuit (if no power were to flow through then the flash would have no way of knowing whether the circuit was open or closed) -- that power comes from the flash, not the camera. The question is, how much power flows through that circuit? On an old flash, it can be quite a large voltage that surges through (voltage in excess of 200 volts is very common). On a modern flash it's fairly low voltage (typically 6 volts or less).

    The thing is it's not that the voltage WILL be high... it's that it MIGHT be high. Also every camera vendor has their own spec on how much voltage they can handle. Canon says 6v, Nikon says 12v (but some people report models that claim 10v).

    You can go to this website to check and see if your flash is listed and how much power it's dumping through the pin when it fires: Photo Strobe Trigger Voltages
    There's also a link on that page that explains how to test the trigger voltage of your flash (you'll need a multi-meter to test it.)

    If an old flash is used on a modern camera, the voltage may be so high in comparison to what the camera was expecting, that it can damage the camera's own circuitry. Hence the need for a device such as the "safe sync" which protects the camera from the full power of the surge. The "safe sync" drops the voltage to a very conservative value.
    Tim Campbell

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    With the use of TTL mode, use whatever you want to use on your camera....


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