I’m an occasional user of my flash. What can I do to keep it in good shape?
Your flash likes to be exercised frequently to stay in good shape. Sitting on the shelf for long periods causes the capacitors (where the energy for the flash is stored) to degrade or, as we techies call it, ”deform”. An electrolytic capacitor is an electro-chemical system that depends on voltage being applied to it to maintain its dielectric (high voltage insulating) characteristics. Regular use keeps the internal insulation system working. The same capacitor technology is used in all flashes, big or small. To keep your flash working well and ready to serve when needed, we suggest you do the following every month or so:
- Set the unit to full power and plug in a head.
- Turn the pack on and let it idle without flashing for at least 30 minutes. Longer is better.
- At the end of the idle time, it’s ready for the job, or to be put back into storage. You can flash it a few times just to make sure everything else is OK. For battery pack users, this is a good time to recharge the battery because long-term storage can deplete the battery so far it may not take a charge later.
If it has been a really long time (years) since last use, call us for advice before proceeding. 800-988-7111.
Long term storage of your flash is a killer. Your capacitor bank is the most expensive thing to replace in most units and can be cost-prohibitive. A little time spent once a month or so can save you big bucks later on.
I heard a big bang. What do I do?
The noise generally means there has been an arc in the high voltage discharge part of your pack or head. This is usually a connector or capacitor/flashtube connection and may have no smoke but will smell “electrical”. Another cause would be a blown capacitor. This is usually accompanied by smoke as well as smell and a crackling/snapping noise. All these failures require our attention. Continued use under these conditions will cause even more damage. Call us.
My head connector blew. Can I use the head in another outlet?
Absolutely not!! You have permanently damaged both the lamphead and power supply connectors. Connector damage is always two-sided. Look into the connector on that lamphead cable and see if it is black inside when it used to be blue. The pins will have a welded/arced/melted/stubby look to them. If you see this condition, this item needs service. Use of a damaged lamphead connector in a good socket will blow the good socket almost immediately. We will need to see both the pack and lamphead to properly correct this problem. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding changing heads and avoid plugging/unplugging heads with the pack on unless instructions say otherwise. When in doubt, call us.
My system stopped flashing. How do I figure out which item is bad?
- On your pack, make sure the readylite is on and the unit is powered up and does not simply have a blown fuse or popped breaker. Disconnect the sync cord or radio completely and try the test button on the pack. If the button works, try a new cord or radio. PC cords and radios are the #1 cause of “no flash”.
- If the PC cord or radio changeout doesn’t help, try a new flashtube or one out of a known good head.
- If the tube doesn’t help, try a different head.
- If the other head works, you need lamphead repair.
- If nothing helps, not even a different head, your pack needs service.
- Call us for additional possible field-fixes.
My system flashes by itself, especially when I touch the camera. Do I need service?
Probably not. The causes of this very common problem are usually 1) static electricity, 2) incorrect sync polarity or 3) trigger circuit/capacitor failure. First, unplug the sync cord at the pack to determine if it is a cable problem or pack problem. If the flashing stops, you probably have a bad or incorrectly polarized sync cord. If it does not, your pack is probably at fault and you need have it serviced.
- Static electricity. Carpet, vinyl and most flooring materials generate static as you walk across them. This is typically a charge in the thousands of volts. Do this on a dry day and touch a light switch, computer keyboard or almost any grounded or even ungrounded object and you’ll feel that zap! It takes a lot less voltage than this to fire your flash. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about this except be sure to touch a grounded object first or use antistatic sprays on the floor. If you’re flush with money, install anti-static floor tiles of the type used in electronic assembly cleanrooms.
- Sync polarity. Your camera body and your power pack chassis should be at the same potential (earth ground) to have good sync stability. To check this, connect your sync cord to the pack in the normal fashion but do not plug the PC end into your camera. Take the PC end barrel (outer conductor) and touch it to any exposed bare metal (unpainted, non-anodized) part of your pack. Try a screw head, metal handle, etc. If the flash fires, your sync polarity is backwards. Simply reverse the sync connector in its socket and try again. The unit should not flash. This setup assures that both the camera and flash pack are at the same potential. Except for static electricity, the system should now be stable. If it is not and self-flashing still occurs, you may have an internal short inside the sync cable that probably gets worse as you move it. Replace the cord. Exception: Some systems have a “floating” sync circuit that is not referenced to ground and the “bare metal” test will not work. Still try the polarity change but if the problem persists, you will probably need service to correct this.
- Equipment failure. If you have unplugged your sync cord at the pack and the system is still self-flashing, you probably have a trigger circuit or capacitor problem. This needs our attention. Call us for details.
My fan stopped working. can iI still use my head or monolite?
Yes, under certain conditions. If you turn the modeling lamp off and keep the flash rate down to about a flash per 15 seconds, you can use it temporarily. The modeling lamp in most heads and monolites runs at about 650°F and will quickly cook the interior with no fan cooling. Damage can occur in 10 minutes or less. If you need modeling, use it only for a few moments to set up your shot, then turn it off. Ultimately, we will need to replace the fan, correct a cable break or other defect.
I’ve got a really old Norman and Photgenic stuff. Can you fix it?
We’re Norman specialists and can repair virtually any age Norman equipment. We are the only source in the world for obsolete Norman power transformers as well as other rare parts. If you have a 450 series unit like a P500, P400, P375, P250, P202. V200, P200B or P125, we can repair it. If you have 900 series units like a P24/24, P20/20, P2000XT, P2000X, P2000D, P1250D or P800D, we repair these as well. The P12/12 is not repaired. We repair all Norman lampheads and Trilite, except the LH3. When in doubt, call. We’re Photogenic specialists, too. Repairs are also available on your vintage Photogenic Flashmaster, Studiomaster and Portamaster equipment. We make it our mission to keep older flash going strong and out of the landfill!
I’ve got an old Norman 200B. Is it worth fixing?
You bet! In our opinion the 200B is the best battery portable ever built. It recycles very quickly, gets a lot of flashes-per-charge, has rock-solid output and is readily repairable at Holly Enterprises. It is still preferred by race, rodeo and sports photogs for its fast recycle. Wedding and event photogs still use it for its high number of flashes and durability. We do lots of them every year and are probably the best qualified experts in the world on this unit. We have all the parts to fix ‘em, including the transformers! We are the only source in the world for the original toroid transformers. We update the control board and main transistors for improved efficiency and stability, ultrasonically clean the switches, lower the sync voltage to a more “digital friendly” level as well as any other repairs required. At over $1200 for a replacement, it’s usually well worth repairing your veteran pack. Yeah, it’s a bit bulky but boy does it work! We also rebuild 200B batteries with our super hi-rate cell stack that outperforms a factory battery by over 30% and costs significantly less. We also stock Norman factory batteries.
Should I send my flash in for routine maintenance?
In our opinion, not necessary. Failure of flash equipment is virtually unpredictable. Although we can test capacitors, check switches and sockets, test diodes, etc., and will do so if you wish, we have found in our 40-odd years of business that none of this will prevent a failure tomorrow. Basically, anything can fail at any time and we cannot predict or prevent it. Must be one of Murphy’s laws! Like your automobile, just because the mechanic fixed the brakes today doesn’t mean the aircon won’t die tomorrow. Though this may sound depressing, bear in mind that electronic flash in general is very hardy, long lasting professional-grade equipment. Spending money in advance with no guarantee of long-term function is simply not needed. Wait ‘till it fails, then call us. The best insurance is plenty of backup equipment.
My flashtube has a milky or blackend look to it and some fine cracks in the glass. Should i replace it?
Not necessarily. Some blackening or graying around the electrodes is normal as the tube ages. If this discoloration extends into the body of the tube significantly, it will decrease your light output because it acts like neutral density. You may loose a full stop or more as this happens. The process is extremely slow but can easily be detected by simply replacing the tube with a new one and comparing before-and-after readings on a flashmeter. Fine cracks in the tube wall are indicators of overheating caused by too-rapid flashing at high power levels. Though the tube may still work, it is very fragile mechanically as the glass is broken about half through. It’s kind of like scoring sheet glass before you cut it…makes it weak there. Almost any moderate shock to the tube will break it. Best to replace this one before it fails on a job.
I tried to hardwire the syncs of different flashes together to get them to all fire at once but some fire and others dont. Some combinations don’t fire at all. What’s wrong?
You have trigger circuit incompatibility. There is no universal standard for flash trigger circuit voltages or polarities. Virtually all manufacturers are different. Connecting different brand names and sometimes even within the same brand is sometimes impossible. If the units have exactly the same model number, they should work tied together. You will not damage dissimilar flashes by interconnecting their syncs but you will probably find no combination that works. A solution is to use photoslaves or radios. Fire one strobe and use a photoslave or radio to fire the others. If you have other photographers in the room, the use of a photoslave will unfortunately trigger your flash every time theirs fires. A radio would be the only choice here. School photographers with multiple setups in the same room have limited options for the same reason. Hardwire or radio (Pocket Wizard, Quantum Radioslave, etc.) are your only solutions.
I need an instruction manual for my system. Do you have them?
Yes, we have some originals, some only photocopies. There is a small fee+mail for any that we would provide. Some manufacturers offer free PDF copies of some manuals (mostly newer equipment). The factory sites are:
If their sites don’t have what you need, give us a call at 800-988-7111. If we don’t have it, we can probably explain the operation over the phone.