Vivitar Auto 285

Check availablity: eBay.

The flash head has manual zoom settings for “wide” (covering about the same angle as a 35 lens on an FX-body), “normal” (50 mm) and “tele” (105 mm). The basic kit also comes with a slide-in diffuser lens for “super wide” (28 mm).

Four auto aperture ranges: f/2.8, f/4, f/8 and f/11 @ ISO 100.

Has a proprietary Vivitar type socket and comes with a detachable 30 cm long Vivitar PC-1 short sync cord. The socket is also compatible with the optional 1 meter long Vivitar PC-31 coiled sync cord and Wein Peanut slave trigger.

The flash uses four standard AA-batteries. The batteries fit into a plastic holder (Vivitar AP-1) that slips into the battery compartment. Vivitar sells extra holders and I find it very convenient to have the batteries already arranged in the holder when having to change quickly in the field. The Vivitar 285 uses the same battery holder as Vivitar 283 and 273.

Early units use up to 350 volts trigger voltage and may damage some modern cameras, later models use under 10 volts and should cause no harm.

Like the Vivitar 283, it has a detachable sensor that can be used with the optional extension cord Vivitar SC-3 Sensor Cord for off-camera flash. Other optinal extras is the Vivitar PC-31 1 meter cooled sync cord, and the Vivitar SB-4 AC power adapter.


Generic flash.
Head: 28, 35-105mm coverage, manual zoom.
Swivel & tilt: no swivel, 0° to +90° tilt.
Exposure modes: Auto, Varipower.
Manual settings: 1/1 to 1/16 in 1 EV steps (5 steps).
No built-in wireless modes.
Features: Sync. socket, Ext. power.
Trigger voltage: 6-350 volt.
Batteries: 4xAA.
Field upgradable: No.
Dimensions: 10 x 13 x 11 mm, 397 g.

Zoom head setting:f=35mmf=50mmf=max
Guidenumber (ISO 100, meter):313743
GNs taken from manufacturer's specifications.

Price: USD 75 (new, w/o tax).
Production: 1976-2007, replaced by: Vivitar Auto 285HV.

For a detailed explanation of the above specifications, see the guide.



Brand profile

Key info

Established: 1938
HQ: Edison, NJ, USA
Web: US, man

Vivitar was the leading brand name of a manufacturer, distributor and marketer of photographic equipment founded in 1938 that operated out of Oxnard, California, USA. The Vivitar brand was introduced in the 1960ies, and became in the 1970ies associated with a series of high quality lenses labelled Vivitar Series 1, and a very successful line of auto thyristor flash units. After the death of the original owners, the company went into decline, and eventually bankruptcy. The Vivitar brand was acquired in 2008 by Sakar. Sakar has revived the Vivitar brand. However, the quality of the current crop of Vivitar-branded products is not very good and not on par with Vivitar's legacy.

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