Saturday, December 31, 2011

On The Cheap: The Sunpak 433 D

Living life on the cheap isn't easy, but somebody has to do it.

I believe the Vivitar 283 is a worthy flash because of its very affordable price. Of course, times change, and the while the flash itself is still quite reasonably priced, one key accessory, the VP-1, has gone completely out of sight so far as price is concerned.

You see, the VP-1, when installed on a 283, allows you to vary the flash output from a full power dump to 1/32 power. This allows for repeatability of light output and faster re-cycle time when you don't need full power. But the cost of the VP-1 has passed the $40.00 mark on EBay, pricing a 283 plus a VP-1 package well north of $70.00. At this price, it makes a Vivitar 285 a more affordable option, since it already has stepped power outputs when used in the manual mode. Both of these Vivitars accept the Wein Peanut Slave for off-camera use. And both have tilting heads. Neither one will ever sit in a hotshoe,  however.  I just don't trust either one of them. Don't get me started about triggering voltages.

The Sunpak 433D
Now for a lesser known option. While following a Strobist thread, references were made to the Sunpak 433D flash. I did an EBay search and found one for $20.00 plus shipping, which I immediately bought. When it arrived, I found it pretty well worn and dedicated for use on a Canon camera. Not a problem, since I wouldn't use it on-camera anyway. But it could do some interesting things. First off, It has manual settings of full, half, quarter, eighth, and sixteenth power. The head not only tilts, but also rotates a full 180 degrees clockwise, and 150 degrees counter-clockwise.

The Black Plastic Thingie: A Do It Yourself Project 
This is not  be confused with the "Black Foamie Thing", a ridiculously simple, Do-It-Yourself light modifier invented by Neil van Niekerk, a virtuoso on-camera flash photographer.

Because of their current configurations, speedlights must be mounted far above the axis when used with umbrella stand adapters. This misalignment could, under certain circumstances, cause some problems. I wanted to make something that could eliminate that particular problem.

For my project, I selected a small sheet of 1/4" thick black plastic from the scrap bin at Tap Plastics. It was about 5" X 10", and cost me all of $.50 cents. When I got it home, I used a  band saw to cut off a 2 1/2" wide piece, the approximate width of a Nikon SB-800 speedlight. Next, I drilled three 1/4" holes along the center line. I then attached a brass spigot using an allen-head 1/4 X 20 screw. I put a small washer between the screw and the plastic to prevent cracking. I then notched the edges with a file to keep my ball-bungee from slipping. The file, incidentally, was a narrow, cylindrical file used to sharpen chain saw blades.  

Here it is, top and bottom. The two large holes in the corners are for attaching lanyards like those found on wireless speedlight triggers.

Attaching The Speedlight

In this shot you can see the Sunpak attached with a short ball bungee. If you look closely, you can see that the head of the allen head screw keeps the flash from sliding backward. A Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce dome has been attached to the head and a Calumet Wireless Trigger (receiver) attached to the hot shoe. If I needed to hang a wireless receiver, the lanyard could be attached through the large hole I drilled in the corner.

Once mounted, I discovered that the thumb screw on the umbrella stand adapter interferes with the BPT. I'll probably trim the thumb screw wings with a belt sander when I get a chance. On second thought, it would be easier to just saw off the back section of the BPT and re-drill the rear lanyard hole.

Because of the 330 degree head rotation,the Sunpak's body could be rotated to make the controls easier to see. If Nikon speedlights were being used, the sensor eye could be rotated to obtain a suitable line-of-site orientation.

This all being done, I now have a means of moving the flash closer to the umbrella axis for more even light distribution. It also makes it easier to install a Photek Softlighter, the topic of a future post.

See you in 2012!

Update: July 23, 2015: Who would have thought any posting this old would be updated? Well, here it comes. I tested a 433d "dedicated" to Canon cameras to see what the triggering voltage was. Turns out that it was 11.9 volts, too high to be considered safe for a digital Canon camera. Just thought you might like to know.