How to Disassemble a Vivitar 283

About: Hope my instructables save you some pain...

The Vivitar 283 is an excellent low cost professional flash. Due to it's robustness, consistency and ease of customization, it's very popular in the strobist community for off-camera applications.

These flash guns have been around for ages and are built like tanks so there's loads of used flash guns available for purchase online.

Many new strobists buy a used 283 to start experimenting and are usually tempted with customising this flash gun to their needs, but struggle to take it apart.

I recently bought a used 283 for a few quid to use a slave unit but the PC sync socket was not working properly with my Wein optical trigger, so decided to take the apart flash gun to see if I could fix this.

After digging around online for recommendations, and using tips and partial instructions from various different forums, I managed to safely disassemble my 283, fix the PC sync socket and put it back together with no problems.

This instructable combines in one place the tips, instructions and recommendations I found online, in an attempt to save new strobists the hassle I went through.

DISCLAIMER: if you disassemble your Vivitar 283, you do this at your own risk!

Step 1: SAFETY FIRST! Read Before You Open the Unit


These instructions assume that you power your 283 with regular AA batteries. If you use an A/C adaptor or other external power supply, find out how you can discharge the capacitor before following any of the instructions on this instructable

Although they use regular AA batteries as main power source, flash guns work with high voltage.

Discharging capacitors with your bare fingers will be very painful and can produce significant harm so be very careful!

With a fully charged capacitor, the voltages inside the 283 can be around 200-300V DC.

The main capacitor inside a 283 (see picture on the last step of the instructable) holds a substantial charge for a long time after the unit was switched off and the batteries have been removed, so you must discharge it before you open the unit.

To do this, turn the flash on, set it to the highest power and wait for the "ready" light (test button) on the back of the unit to start flashing.

Once the light/button is flashing, switch off the unit, very quickly remove the batteries and fire the flash by pressing the test button (the one that was flashing).

This should eliminate most of the charge in the capacitor but be aware that there could be some residual charge left on it.

If you want to be 100% sure, check the voltage in the capacitor with a multimeter before you touch anything inside the flash gun.

If the capacitor still holds a charge, you can discharge it by shorting the terminals with a 100-Ohm resistor (re-check the voltage after doing this). DON'T hold the bare wires of the resistor. Solder some short leads to it first and insulate with heat shrink or insulated tape. Alternatively, use insulated pliers to hold it.

RECOMMENDATION: When you open the flash, do it on a soft surface to protect it and to keep little things like screws from rolling away. A mouse pad works nicely.

Step 2: Sensor and External Screws

Take notes as you go and be sure to watch how things come apart so you can reverse the process. Avoid touching the contacts on the main capacitor (see picture on last step of the instructable).

CLEAR PC/sync socket
First thing you have to do is to unplug anything you have connected in the PC sync socket, like a slave trigger (see picture on intro page) or a sync cable.

Remove Sensor
Remove the auto thyristor sensor. It unplugs from the flash by pulling it away from the unit.

There ar 6 visible screws on the outside of the flash: 2 on the hotshoe, 2 on the swiveling head and 2 on the bottom of the "center hinge"

You will need a small set of (jeweler's) philips screwdrivers, like the ones used for eyeglasses repair. If you don't have a set, you can get them very cheap on ebay.

Remove the the 3 pairs of screws and note where they go as each pair of screws is different.

Very carefully separate the hotshoe from the unit a few millimeters is enough. Be careful with the wires as they could come off and would need re-welding.

Step 3: Side Aluminium Disc

On the side of the flash, covering the central hinge opposite to the calculator dial, there is a thin circular aluminium disc.

Remove it carefully. with a thin flat screwdriver.

It is held by glue, try not to pry too hard in one spot to avoid bending or marking it.

Step 4: Remove Copper Coloured Clip

Remove the copper-coloured clip you just exposed under the silver disk by wedging a small flat screwdriver on the lower end.

Then carefully pull the swiveling head / hinge sides case apart (SEE THE 2 PICTURES BELOW).

Notice the way the cover for the flash head lines up, and more important the way the calculator dial is indexed by a little white plate with a bump on it. (this bump and a spring create the clicks as you turn the dial.).

On the opposite side, behind the cover held by the copper-coloured clip, there's a small white piece above a spring. This assembly create the clicks as you swivel the flash head. Be careful with the wite piece as it tends to fall off.

Step 5: More Screws!

Removing the top cover will uncover some more philips screws located around the sides of the hinge.

My flash had 4 holes but 3 screws. Not sure if there should be 4 there, as my unit could have been disassembled by a prior owner that forgot to put one screw back. Just in case, check all holes with the philips screwdriver.

That's it, you're ready to open the bottom half by pulling the top and botom pieces apart. Be careful when you do this as there are a couple of plastic clips on the sides that could brake and you could disconnect a wire welded to a circuit board and could be tricky to find where it came off from.

You have now uncovered all the guts of the flash gun, ready for service or modification.

In my case, the PC sync socket had some springs bent out of shape. I reshaped them carefully with a couple of flat screwdrivers and thin pliers and tested that the slave trigger opened the connection correctly before putting the unit back together.

When re-assembling make sure you have all wires out of the way, and you don't pinch any when you close up any portion of the unit, and note that some of the boards fit into slots molded inside the top/bottom case.

Step 6: The Guts

See below a photo I found online describing the guts of the 283, once fully disassembled

Good luck and hope this instructable was useful.



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    19 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 3

    Just my 2 cents... I used a hairdryer to loosen the adhesive on the silver disc. I heated it for about 5 - 8 minutes alternating between low heat and high heat. I then used Exacto blades to pry up the disc. Using 2 blades I was able to pry the disc with one blade while running the second blade underneath the disc. As the disc would loosen, I moved the blades to another area of the disc. One blade always wedged under the disc to keep to elevated. (Just be careful with the blades, they can be sharp. Work slowly and cautiously)

    I then used hot melt glue to reattach the disc when I reassembled it.

    Thanks for the awesome post. This really helped me.


    Hey, this is a shot in the dark, but any chance you found out what specs the capacitors the 283 uses? I have a couple 283's that have blown capacitors that i'd like to try and replace, but can't tell what capcitors to get to replace them. Thanks!

    1 reply
    MadargyThe Insomniac

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    No idea, sorry. There's some data on this thread that may be useful:

    Hope it helps


    7 years ago on Step 5

    I have vitacon 988

    please tell me how to dismantle ?


    7 years ago on Step 6

    can some one please tell me where the green wire is connected on the flash head as mine has come off and I don't know where it goes!!
    the flash still works though!


    8 years ago on Step 6

    When you take off the disk for the f/stop-film speed readout, pay close attention to the small white piece that is responsible for the "clicking" action of this dial. It is loose & easy to miss.


    8 years ago on Step 6

    my 283 s/n2128762 (the high shoe voltage model) is 1100uF, 350V fyi it is 35mmD x 55mmL (nic the contacts which are essentially flat to the body).

    Also, the last cover to come off had 3 holes with two screws installed, not 4/3 stated above ;)

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 6

     From what I've found online, the capacitor for a 283 is 1100 uF, 350V... However, what I did not learn is what version of the 283 the capacitor was from... 


    9 years ago on Step 6

    2 mattthegamer463: 1000 uF on V-283 and 1100 uF on V-285HV

    Phil B

    9 years ago on Introduction

    I bought a 283 new in the late 1970's and then a used one a couple of years later to function as a slave. The second one was missing its thyristor controller. About that time Popular Photography magazine published a tiny article on using a government surplus light activated silicon controlled rectifier (LASCR) and a resistor embedded in epoxy to make a cheap and effective slave flash trigger. I plugged one into the thyristor sensor socket on the front of the used 283 using a piece of dowel rod and some wire, but without the epoxy encasement; and it makes an effective replacement for the thyristor sensor. The only drawback is that the F-stop setting on the camera for 64 ASA film was limited to f/5.6 only. Sadly, the LASCR's were a never to be repeated item.

    I have had to have one of my 283's apart a couple of times, but the capacitors still give off a good flash from both units. I do not use it much since digital cameras, but am hoping to change that soon with a project to overcome the pre-flashing to prevent red eye.

    3 replies
    MadargyPhil B

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    No need to wait any longer. Wein supplies slave triggers that ignore the pre-flash. They sell it in various formats (peanut, hotshoe mounted, foot replacement, etc).

    For details follow link:

    The PND and PNXLD plug directly into the PC sync socket on the 283/285

    One thing to consider: The 283 is an excellent off camera flash, but keep it away from your digital camera's hotshoe as it has a high voltage trigger circuit and can fry your camera.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I own multiple 283's and 285's. They are a mix of trigger voltages, without rhyme or reason in regards to age or country of manufacture (despite various versions of voltage vs age or country of mfg described in various sites on the internet). Only way to tell for sure is with a voltmeter (multi-meter) across the center and the shoe contacts then fired with the test button (with power applied, of course). This is the ONLY way to know 100% whether a particular flash is high or low trigger voltage and is compatible with your camera. Always read the camera owners manual for it's maximum flash contact voltage! I have tested all my flashes with a Quantum battery pack and a multi-meter and marked each as to it's trigger voltage. Now I know absolutely which flashes I can use attached to my digital camera and which have to be remote slaved. By the way, 5 out of 6 of my 283's have 5-6v trigger voltages and 2 out of 4 of my 285's have high trigger voltages that would fry my Nikon D100.

    Phil BMadargy

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I saw someone's slave trigger for digital pre-flash strobes at Amazon dot com, but would like to DIY one, just for fun, and then make an Instructable of it. A guy in a camera store explained to me that the hot shoe voltage on film camera strobes is way too high and can fry a digital camera. Thanks for the reminder, though.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, cool blast-from-the-past! I still have two 283's tucked away somewhere--and a Quantum wet-cell battery pack (the older one that had the simple RCA plugs and jacks, so you could repair the power cables easily.) These things were excellent for their time, definite workhorses. Doubt that the Quantum works anymore, of course. But I bet the 283's do... Anyone remember the crummy nicad "rapid charger" that Vivitar sold for the 283 line? Had that before the quantum. Sure burned up those nicads fast.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm sure that the 283's will still work... if you don't use them any more, sell them on ebay... you'll make someone happy and get some money for them.