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Flash lifespan

Ben Hollingsworth , Sep 06, 2007; 12:04 a.m.

I've decided that I really, really need to get a speedlite flash for my XTi. Since I've generally had decent luck on eBay, I wondered if that was a wise way to get a used flash. My concern was with the expected lifespan of a flash. How long is something like a 430 or 580 supposed to last? Would this be like buying a used light bulb, or do they tend to last many, many years, making a used flash a potentially good deal?

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James Sigle , Sep 06, 2007; 12:15 a.m.

Electronic flashes have a long life (eight years or more). They lose some power over time and the plastic defusers get scratched. If you get a 430 or 580 it likley has not degraded much, since these are fairly new units. Jim

Keith Lubow , Sep 06, 2007; 12:29 a.m.

Most will fire for a very long time. The guide number tends to go down over time, though. I have several old units from the '70's that I keep for backups and slaves. They still fire, but they are nowhere near as powerful as they should be. I have a year-old Sunpak 555 that is my main flash. I tested it when new, and at the year mark, and it had already lost about a half stop of power. If you will be using the flash manually, it's a good idea to do some grey card testing with the flash unit, new or used, so you can get a true guide number rating. For TTL flash, there's no need for this, unless you are just curious. I would say that buying a used newer-model flash is relatively safe, but I would try local vendors first, so you can establish a personal relationship and get a return policy face-to-face.

Keith

Colin Southern , Sep 06, 2007; 12:30 a.m.

I'd be inclined to consider the history. Flash tubes do eventually wear out, but they take quite a beating.

If the unit had been used professionally, personally, I'd pass on it unless it was well under 1/2 the price of a new one.

Jeff Spirer , Sep 06, 2007; 12:45 a.m.

I have a flash unit that has lasted at least fifteen years with heavy usage from me, not sure about whoever owned it before me. I don't think I have had any flash units die on me.

On the other hand, the newer flashes have a lot more electronics and may become unrepairable over time, but I doubt there is anything that will happen from usage.

Chris JB , Sep 06, 2007; 01:13 a.m.

I have several Metz and sunpacks all heavily used and well aged, 2 canon 300tl`s over 20yr goin strong, only changed one strobe in over 30yr and one trigger cct. As they get older CT tends to yellow but the worse thing for flash is non use, even if not using least fire them every couple months. I doubt you would see the EX light drop unless you like to use full power. I bought a 550EX secound hand and done over 200k since I got it. I bought a 430 new as not that much on e***. I have seen some 580`s since getting the 5802 which is very good

have fun

Henry Clark , Sep 06, 2007; 01:54 a.m.

There are two main factors that affect the life of a flashgun: the number of operations and the temperature of the components.

A flash that is fired at 10 minute intervals in a normal ambient (20?C/68?F) might last 200,000 cycles. One that is operated in 40?C/104?F, at full power, and every 30 seconds might only last 50,000 cycles. If the modelling light function has been used extensively they can fail even sooner.

The components that are likely to fail are the Xenon tube, the HT capacitors and the inverter transistors. These are all unlikely to be repairable economically except for the latest, most expensive models.

Having said all that I have never had a Speedlite fail on me, some dating from the 1970's. On the whole they are very reliable and long-lived in "normal" use. If the flash survives the infant mortality phase (for the first few hours of use) it will probably last for years.

Henry

Jim Powers , Sep 06, 2007; 07:16 a.m.

I have a bunch of flash units that date from the 1970's until now. This thread got me to thinking about it, so I took a Sunpack 511 that I bought in the mid 70's and used heavily professionally for years and checked it's output with a flash meter. Its output is within the original specifications. The issue over time seems to be the capacitors going bad over time of they are not used occassionally to reform them. I've actually never seen that, though, in the last 30 years. I have seen Honeywell Strobanors from the 60's with bad capacitors. I've taken many thousands of photos with a couple of Vivitar 285's and have never had a flash tube go bad.

So, long way to say that I don't think any flash built in the last 10 years would have a problem simply from aging.

ci p , Sep 06, 2007; 07:19 a.m.

In theory I think I'm supposed to wait 10 minutes after doing 10 full power blasts (with a 580EX flash) or risk damaging the unit. With the high speed pack, one can use up ten minutes of flashing in 15secs, leaving one with 9mins, 45secs to read a book or something before taking another shot. In practice, in some situations that's probably not possible, and I guess would lead to a much shorter life expectancy. A 430 or something that can't use a high voltage input, probably hasn't been abused as much though.

Christopher Hartt , Sep 06, 2007; 10:09 a.m.

It's the number of actuations, not years that you need to consider with a used flash. As a pro wedding photographer, a new 580 Speedlite lasts about 9-12 months for me before I need to send it back to Canon for a tube replacement ($135). Granted, I use a flash much more heavily than an average user, but the point is that age of the flash is not a good determinant of life remaining. Also, if external power has been used to power the flash, the lifespan can be much shorter. A good rule of thumb would be to add $135 to the price of the flash offered on Ebay and you will have a flash that will "probably" work for 25K-35K actuations at 2/3 power.


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