Older than old school…

Equipment and my equipment choices tend to evolve pretty slowly. Way back in the 1980s I was using a lot of off-camera flash on location and that meant either owning and running a lot of extension cables with my Elinchrom mains powered units, buying (or renting) a Norman system or using some basic flashguns (the term speed light hadn’t really entered common usage by then, other than as part of a Nikon model name) to do the job. I came across the Lumedyne range (old school) in the mid 1990s, although they had been around for a while by then. Before that I spent many happy years with my cobbled-together battery powered flash kit which was based around the already long-in-the-tooth Vivitar 285 system. I call it a system because there was a ton of accessories that you could get for it and it had some common connections that meant you could pair it up with almost anything you wanted to.

I mention all of this because I stumbled across a pretty much complete Vivitar 285 kit when I was looking for something else in my many boxes of disused and “may-come-in-handy-one-day” kit. In the box were:

  • 2 x Vivitar 285 flash guns – one of which dated from 1984 when I bought it new just before leaving for college
  • 1 x Vivitar vari-sensor extension cable – which enabled you to take the unit with the sensor and auto and manual dial off of the front of the camera and put it either in your hot shoe or somewhere that it could see the subject
  • 1 x Vivitar slave cell – a simple cell that triggered one flash when it saw a flash from another
  • 1 x Wein SSR infra-red trigger – a simple flash trigger that only emitted infra-red
  • 2 x Wein high-sensitivity slave cells – these could see the infra-red flash and trigger your main flash
  • 1 x Vivitar 285 coloured filter kit – red, yellow, blue, orange and wide angle slot-in hard plastic filters for the 285s
  • 1 x Quantum Turbo power cable for Vivitar 285
  • Various other accessories that allowed you to use the Vivitars off-camera

Combine that little lot with a Quantum Turbo battery, a couple of lightweight stands and a couple of brollies and you had a formidable off-camera flash system – mostly from the late 1970s and the 1980s. I have really fond memories of using this kit with a flash meter or on auto with the sensor extension cable placed in a suitable position and I have occasionally got it out again and demonstrated just how good it was. Of course there’s no way that I would use it in preference to one of today’s fantastic Lithium-Ion powered kits such as my own personal favourite the Elinchrom ELB but it’s good to know that this ancient technology still does a great job.

OK – I know that hip, cool and trendy people spell it “old skool” but I am older than that and I try my best to spell things properly!

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