Why I can’t recommend the HV 285 Vivitar Flash
The Vivitar HV 285 flash has been widely used by strobist for indoor and outdoor shooting. It is a cheap alternative for those of us who can’t afford to shell out 250 to 1300 bucks for a good Canon or Nikon Speedlite system. The Vivitar HV 285 flash can be used from 1/16th to full power and only costs around 85 bucks new. Plus, it can be used with a small amount of accessories. So, “what’s the problem?” you may ask. There are many. But, I will only focus on three of them.
First is quality control. I have read countless blogs, forums and reviews from people that have had to send back a flash because it was dead on arrival. Several people have had to send their flash back after only a week or two of minimal use. I personally have one. It died after being fired less than 100 times. Of course if you get a good one, it may be well worth the cost and be considered a good value. However, the operative word is “if”.
You may say, well if it breaks, I’ll send it to the manufacture. They can fix it. Well that leads me to the second problem.
Second is customer service. There is none. The manufacturer will not honor your warranty. They will not even fix it if you pay them. There is no support for this flash. If it dies, you have lost a flash but have gained a paper weight. Now, if you are a modern day MacGyver and can fix anything; then go ahead and buy a few. However, if you’re a photographer who needs flashes that actually works, then this flash may not be for you. Speaking of work! This leads me to my third issue with the flash.
Third is functionality. When I say functionality I am referring to recycling times, flask dependability (does it fire every time) and TTL. This flash has long recycling times when used at halve and full power. If you need a lot of light and often, you will not like this flash. Even if you decide that you will only use this flash at 1/4th to 1/16th power, you may still be disappointed. It is not consistent. It will not always fire. It is a temperamental flash. Sometimes it’s great, other times it is infuriating. As far as TTL, it doesn’t have it. For many people this isn’t a deal breaker anyway. However, it is important enough to mention.
Overall, the Vivitar HV 285 flash has underwhelmed me. It holds a lot of promise, but it just doesn’t deliver. I would rather spend twice or three times the money if it means my flash is dependable and supported by the company that makes it. I have learned that it is best to buy from companies that stand behind their product. Even if it is an inexpensive item, they won’t just leave you to fend for yourself.
So that is why I can’t recommend the HV285 Vivitar flash. If you have had a different type of experience with this flash, I am happy for you. I’m sure there are a few out there that are built like a rock and deliver. I just think that it just isn’t worth the time or the money to try and find a good one when companies like Sunpak, Canon, Metz and Nikon are making portable and dependable flashes.