Vivitar DF 400MZ

Check availablity: Adorama, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, BH, eBay.

Rebranded version of Tumax DPT386AFZ.

The Tumax models DPT383AFZ, DPT386AFZ and DPT388AFZ are the same flash with slightly different front panel designs as shown below.

Front panels.
Alternative front panel designs, swivel & tilt head, LCD control panel.

You will probably not see this flash advertised under the “Tumax” brand. Tumax main business is making equipment that are sold under various other brand names.

  • Tumax DPT383AFZ is sold as: Rokinon D980AFZ and Targus TG-DP38.
  • Tumax DPT386AFZ is sold as: Bower SFD926, Dörr D-AF42, Jessop 360AFD, Opteka EF-600 DG Super, Sakar 925AF, Soligor DG-420Z and Vivitar DF400MZ.
  • Tumax DPT388AFZ is sold as: Vivitar DF 383 Series 1.

Because all these units are just variations over the same theme, you probably should be able to save a bundle by shopping around looking for the cheapest unit without paying any attention to brand.

For such a low priced unit, it offers an impressive set of features. It has a power zoom head follows the camera set focal length in TTL mode. It goes from 24 mm to 85 mm (FX). There is manual override for the power zoom. It has a built-in wide diffuser and reflector card. It offers TTL exposure control with compatible Canon, Nikon, FourThirds, Pentax, Sony and Minolta digital cameras. It can be used as a five level varipower manual flash with any camera. It even has a built in optical slave trigger, but this is not TTL-compatible. It also has a backlit LCD control panel, but the light source is at the left edge of the panel, making the right edge quite dim. It does not support HSS/FP.

In TTL-mode, the ISO and f-stop is picked up from the camera and displayed on the LCD, but only as full stops. If the camera is set to intermediate values, the nearest full stop is shown.

There is no external sync port, so radio triggers must be connected to the hot-shoe for use off-camera.

It has a power-save mode that kick in after about three minutes of inactivity. Pressing any button on the rear, or half-pressing the camera's shutter when it is mounted in the camera's hot-shoe wakes it up again. Enabling the optical slave function disables power-save mode, so it works fine as an optical slave. Unfortunately, there I've found no way to disable the power-save mode when it is used off-camera with a simple two-contact radio trigger. This misfeature makes it pretty useless for strobist type flash with radio triggers. Power-save will kick in and then you've have to walk up to the flash and press a button to wake it up again.

One nice thing about this flash is that standby current drain in slave mode is only about 40 mA, so a set of NiMH rechargables will last a full day of standby in slave mode.

The ready light doubles as a test button. It has a flimsy feel to it, and pushing it will often result in multiple flashes at random intervals.

There is no lock for the tilt and swing on the head. This makes it easier to change the head's position with just one hand, but also less secure if you attach heavy light modifiers to the head.

The built quality reflects the price. The power zoom is slow and noisy. The pitch from the unit charging is audible. The hinges on the battery compartment are flimsy and will probably not survive rough handling. The foot is made of plastic, and the buttons do not have the solid feeling you find on premium brand units.

Specifications

For dedicated flash systems: Canon, FourThirds, Nikon, Pentax, Sony.
Head: 20, 24-85mm coverage, power zoom (w. manual override).
Swivel & tilt: -180° to +90° swivel, 0° to +90° tilt.
Exposure modes: TTL, Varipower.
Manual settings: 1/1 to 1/16 in 1 EV steps (5 steps).
Wireless mode: Plain slave.
Features: LCD, Bounce card.
Trigger voltage: 6 volt.
Batteries: 4xAA.
Flash duration: 1/1000 sec. @ 1/1 (full output).
Field upgradable: No.
Dimensions: 72 x 100 x 57 mm, 278 g.

Zoom head setting:f=35mmf=50mmf=max
Guidenumber (ISO 100, meter):26 [?]34 [?]38 [45]
Measured GNs. Manufacturers specification in square brackets.

Price: USD 100 (new, w/o tax).
Introduced: no data.

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

[Image of Vivitar DF 400MZ.]

Literature

Documentation:

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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