Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wein Safe Sync Hot Shoe Adapter

On Monday, I wrote about how I used my old Vivitar 283 with my Pentax *ist DS for a high speed strobe, and it wouldn't be something I'd try without this doo-dad, the Wein Safe Sync ($50). Or a Pocket Wizard set ($350) and a regular PC Sync Hot Shoe Adapter ($10), if you have them kicking around, but that's another story.

Above: My Wein Safe Sync Adaptor

The first thing to keep in mind with an entry-level *ist, or the K100D, is that unlike their film SLR cousins their hot shoe can't tolerate a trigger voltage over 25v to 30v, or you'll short something expensive to repair. With 6v being the average from most flashes, Pentax flashes are okay, and certainly anything recently manufactured in the last 10 years is likely within the safe range, but when the first strobe flashes were released over thirty years ago, the trigger voltage released from the capacitor wasn't always so low across the hot shoe contacts, and consequently an older flash can damage your camera if it sends over 30v. My 283 will send about 230v!

You can go about testing your older flash by measuring the voltage with a digital multi-meter, or bringing it to someone who can. Otherwise, there are some websites that keep track of what some people have found out about their flash's trigger voltage, and you should take a look to see if your flash is a likely risk.

Another problem is that if you use a flash specifically designed for the contacts of another camera, it's a risk again, because the extra contacts or missing contacts can create unpredictable electronic damage to your camera body. So, in order to avoid the risk, you'll need this adapter or use a slave device.

Wein designed this hot shoe adapter to limit the flash's contact voltage with your hot shoe, aptly called the Wein Safe Sync Hot Shoe Adapter. It was engineered with digital cameras in mind, as they have delicate electronics to protect. Particularly Canon digitals, which can't withstand over 5v. You mount your flash on to the Safe Sync's upper hot shoe, where it won't feel as snug as on the camera, but it will hold the flash. There is only one contact, so TTL is not preserved. But most of the flashes that require the Safe Sync aren't likely to be TTL anyway. Unfortunately, the Safe Sync partially blocks a Pentax camera's pop-up flash, which is quite a disappointment if the flash needs to be up for focusing assist.

But next best part of the Safe Sync is that besides allowing you to mount the flash on camera, it has a PC Sync socket for a cable to off-camera flash. The *ist D and other pro Pentax cameras continue to have a terminal for off-camera flash, but the entry-level cameras like the *ist DS haven't got one. Hot shoe adapters for regular PC Sync only cost between $10 and $20, but the Safe Sync has the added advantage of protecting your camera from any voltage surge.

Links: Older Flash Trigger Voltages, Checking Your Trigger Voltage, Wein Safe Sync, Wein Safe Sync at B&H Photo

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