Released in 2007, the Vivitar 285HV is a modernized version of the old Vivitar 285 (a sister flash of the even older 283) introduced back in 1972. Basically, it is a 285 with a triggering voltage low enough to be safe when used with most DSLRs. The old 285 (and also the 283) both have triggering voltage in the 200+ volts range which can easily cook the delicate sync circuits of some digital cameras.
The Vivitar 285HV has a guide number of 100ft /ISO100 when its zoom head is at the 35mm position (the figure 120 as listed in many sources is measured at the 50mm position). For reference and comparison, the guide numbers of the in-production Nikon SB700 and SB910 are 92 ft and 112 ft respectively when measured at the 35mm position and ISO100. The 285HV offers no TTL auto flash, no CLS (Nikon Creative Lighting System) remote flash compatibility, and no LCD display for useful information like range and aperture settings. However, it costs less than 1/3 of a SB700 and 1/5 of a SB910 when bought brand new. As of 2016, the flash should have been discontinued but used units are widely available though conditions vary quite a bit due to usage.
Without any TTL capability, the 285HV uses a thyristor to provide automatic flash with an ISO range of 25-400 and 4 selectable aperture settings. This is similar to the non-TTL A-mode on a SB800/900/910 and many other older professional flashes from Nikon. The 285HV also offers manual control on flash output although it is limited to 1, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/16. The missing of the 1/8 and 1/32 is somewhat mysterious to me as the VP-1 module for the much older 283 has these two settings. However, if you are shooting through a light modifier (e.g. an umbrella) or bouncing off a reflective surface, you will probably won’t have much use for the lower settings unless you are shooting at very close distances. Like the 283, the 285HV uses a dedicated sync cord because of the non-standard PC-sync socket on the flash. Thus, to use it with a PocketWizard, you would need a Vivitar PC-31 sync cord and a “PC Terminal to 3.5mm Mono Miniphone” adapter (as shown in figure below).
Note: According to an online source, some of the “late production/reissued” Vivitar 285HV’s are actually poor quality copies with the”Vivitar” name only and should be avoided. Mine was bought used from a reputable pro-shop and is labelled “Made in Korea” . I believe it should be one of the higher quality originals though I cannot be sure but it haven’t fail me since I bought it.
Status: In Collection.