Promaster 5550 DX Flash

Started Dec 26, 2013 | Discussions
MikeFreeze Regular Member • Posts: 108
Promaster 5550 DX Flash

I have this flash - it is equipped with interchangeable base units to use on different cameras. I have primarily used it for my Canon film cameras (EOS 3 & a cheaper EOS, both have the eye control function). I have the slave base and the Canon base. I want to use it on my K-5; of course, that requires the purchase of the Pentax base - I'm ready to pull the trigger, but this is an older flash and before I do so I thought it best to ask if others have used it on the K-5.

The promaster web site says that it is incompatible with ist D5, DL, K100D, and K10D - of course, this is an older flash and the K-5 and other modern pentax cameras weren't invented when this was written. So then; can anyone share their experiences with this flash unit on Pentax? The base unit is only $55 - I originally bought this flash for the ability to just buy a base unit and use it on other camera brands. Thanks for any help - here's the link if curious; http://www.promaster.com/products.asp?product=7161

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OP MikeFreeze Regular Member • Posts: 108
Re: Promaster 5550 DX Flash

OOPS - I mistyped, it should have said "The promaster web site says that it is compatible with ist D5, DL, K100D, and K10D"  (I wrote incompatible by mistake in the original thread)

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Russell Evans Forum Pro • Posts: 12,414
Don't do it.
1

The Promaster 5050DX P-TTL module was made around five years ago, hasn't been updated, and is completely useless on any newer body. That's the bad news, the good news is you can buy a $12 Quantaray QDA-P module for your modular Promaster flash and have a very nice flash solution.

To use the flash, mount the module, set the module to Auto, then select one of the three dots depending where you want base ISO to be on the aperture of the lens. The blue dot will use the widest aperture, the yellow one stop down, and the green two stops down. Put the camera in Tv mode and have the other e-dial set to control ISO.

With the yellow dot selected, the lens will be stopped down one stop. With without expanded ISO mode selected, this will mean f4 at ISO 100 with an f2.8 lens mounted on the K-5. Increase the ISO via the e-dial and the aperture will stop down further.  The only way you can get the aperture to f2.8 is by switching the flash setting to the blue dot.

You probably don't want auto ISO to be hitting a really high ISO, so just adjust the top range of auto ISO to what you are comfortable with, for the power of your flash. The higher the ISO, the less your flash has to work, so the faster it recharges, so you want to strike a nice balance of letting the camera and flash work together so you get the shots you want. There's flash range to think about as well.

If you want more control of the aperture, just use the e-dial to set ISO, and you'll see increasing ISO closes the aperture and decreasing opens it. Getting back to auto ISO is just hitting the Green button, so it is easy to switch in and out. You also have control of the shutter speed to work with or without ambient light, so you actually have quite a bit of control over how the Auto flash lights the scene.

Not bad for only $12 spent.

Thank you
Russell

JNR
JNR Senior Member • Posts: 2,809
Re: Don't do it.

That sounds like wise advice from Russell given all the troubles reported with pTTL on the K5. Auto is pretty flexible and accurate whether you shoot direct, add a reflector or bounce. Unless you have Metz and can update firmware, the chances of getting good pTTL mating are pretty low.

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OP MikeFreeze Regular Member • Posts: 108
Re: Don't do it.

Russell;

Thanks for the post, but it leaves me with a couple of questions.  The module you linked to says it is for quantaray flash units; are you certain it will work for my Promaster flash?  The module also says it is for manual focus cameras; will it work on an AF camera?

And FWIW, my Promaster is the 5550 DX; not exactly the one you mentioned, but close.  Thanks, I do appreciate the info,

Milke Freeze

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JNR
JNR Senior Member • Posts: 2,809
Re: Don't do it.

Promaster is a photography label that contracts with various manufacturers (much like Vivitar). Quantaray was a house label for Ritz Camera. While not every Promaster flash head will integrate properly with every Quantaray module, I suspect Russell has a good handle on this setup.

For the most part, a flash system is not dedicated to the type of camera body (film, MF, AF, digital) in use. In the Pentax system, you had early flashes that did not read light in the camera body. Later, TTL was implemented in film cameras using a sensor to read flash off the film plane. The earliest dSLRs also had sensors and could use TTL or pTTL. The pTTL system cuts out the sensor reflection and reads proper flash intensity with preflash, and then quickly provides the full flash based on the initial reading. Over the years, Pentax has reworked the pTTL flash protocol to try to correct the deficiencies in pTTL execution. Any module (or flash) produced before the K5 will not function properly on the K5 body (and many of the units that are supposedly updated still don't work well - especially in bounce flash situations). Chances are a Promaster/Quantaray pTTL system won't work properly, as Russell indicated.

His suggestion to use an inexpensive "Auto" module will likely provide you with very good results in normal shooting situations, at minimum additional expense. The Auto operation is largely independent of the body giving you a flash that will work with pretty much any body with a hotshoe.

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OP MikeFreeze Regular Member • Posts: 108
Re: Don't do it.

OK, I have ordered the Quantaray module.  I feel like it's a bit of a gamble, but it's only a $12 gamble as compared to the approx $50-62 price I would have paid otherwise.  Since I already have the Promaster unit, why not try it?  If I don't like the results, I suppose I will buy a decent flash made to operate with the K-5 and just use the Promaster as a slave unit.  Thanks for all the help,

Mike Freeze

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Russell Evans Forum Pro • Posts: 12,414
Re: Don't do it.

MikeFreeze wrote:

Russell;

Thanks for the post, but it leaves me with a couple of questions. The module you linked to says it is for quantaray flash units; are you certain it will work for my Promaster flash? The module also says it is for manual focus cameras; will it work on an AF camera?

I have been using one on an old TTL Promaster Macrolume for a while now. You can find deals on the older Macrolumes on ebay, so one day when I saw one for $30 and picked it up. I had been using the Promaster 5050DXR for Pentax on a few of the older Quantaray 7500 and newer QB-6550U and Quantaray QTB-955OU on my K10D and K20D.

When Ritz Camera closed a bunch of their stores you could pick up the flash units for under $20. The QTB-955OU is a piece of crap and will die in a year or so of use, but the smaller 6550U is a pretty nice flash. It was the smallest flash for Pentax until the Metz 20 came out. The Pentax 200 flash is probably a little smaller in volume but it is shaped like a ball so takes up more room in your bag than it should. I could usually find space in my bag for the 6550.

I did have to cut off the plastic key to get the 5050DXR to work with the older flash units, but there is no reverse keying, so old to new works without issue. The 5050DXR didn't work with the older Macrolume for macro unless I taped the flash so that only some light got through. It works fine at anything over a meter, or so, of subject distance, so good for catch lighting, but not really great for 1:1 macros.

AF on the flash units means the focus assist light works on the flash when directed by the camera. There isn't a focus assist light on the QDA-P module, so it is considered MF, in some strange flash marketing nomenclature I don't want to understand . I think also it is considered a manual flash as it has 1/1 and 1/16 power settings. If you enable the focus assist lamp on the K-5 is works fine with the flash.

And FWIW, my Promaster is the 5550 DX; not exactly the one you mentioned, but close. Thanks, I do appreciate the info,

5050DXR is the module as far as I know. The Promaster modular flashes I think are FTD-5000s, 5400, 5500, 5600 or something. There also an English brand that is also a series of the same Quanataray and Promaster flashes. I can't remember the brand, but they pop up every blue moon on the US eBay site.

Promaster never marketed a manual/Auto module module for Pentax, but here is a Promaster Canon module. You can see it is the same as the Quantaray.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Promaster-Manual-Focus-Module-fits-5000-Series-Modular-/250731047292

And one for Nikon

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Promaster-Manual-Focus-Module-fits-5000-Series-Modular-/260593336660

I've used the Quantaray Slave module on the Promaster Macrolume as well. The Quantaray and Promaster Flash I liked the most isn't modular and isn't a Auto flash, but for working with radio triggers it was really nice at the time, the Quantaray PZ-1 DSZ and the Promaster FTD-7000M. Both could be bought for $20 if you waited for the right listing. 1/1-1/256 manual flash. Never seemed to turn off in the radio triggers, flash duration of 1/1000s at 1/1, and did have a optical slave function.

Thank you
Russell

JNR
JNR Senior Member • Posts: 2,809
Re: Don't do it.

MikeFreeze wrote:

OK, I have ordered the Quantaray module. I feel like it's a bit of a gamble, but it's only a $12 gamble as compared to the approx $50-62 price I would have paid otherwise. Since I already have the Promaster unit, why not try it? If I don't like the results, I suppose I will buy a decent flash made to operate with the K-5 and just use the Promaster as a slave unit. Thanks for all the help,

Mike Freeze

From the looks of it, you'll be fine without need for modification. (Understanding that you won't get pTTL/TTL out of it with the newer cameras.)

Just in case it doesn't work, you might have to put it up on ebay, and get the Promaster unit which the company offers at fairly reasonable price of $22:

http://www.promaster.com/products.asp?product=2652

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Russell Evans Forum Pro • Posts: 12,414
Re: Don't do it.

JNR wrote:

MikeFreeze wrote:

OK, I have ordered the Quantaray module. I feel like it's a bit of a gamble, but it's only a $12 gamble as compared to the approx $50-62 price I would have paid otherwise. Since I already have the Promaster unit, why not try it? If I don't like the results, I suppose I will buy a decent flash made to operate with the K-5 and just use the Promaster as a slave unit. Thanks for all the help,

Mike Freeze

From the looks of it, you'll be fine without need for modification. (Understanding that you won't get pTTL/TTL out of it with the newer cameras.)

Just in case it doesn't work, you might have to put it up on ebay, and get the Promaster unit which the company offers at fairly reasonable price of $22:

http://www.promaster.com/products.asp?product=2652

You don't want that Promaster module. It is TTL only and manual at 1/1 and 1/16. That's very limiting on a modern Pentax DSLR. It's probably fine if you have a *istD, istDS, and fine with some film bodies that can do TTL, but trying work with just two manual settings on a newer Pentax DSLR isn't worth the money spent. I have either the Promaster or the Quantaray AF module, there's no way to tell as there isn't any branding on the unit, that I use with a couple of ZX film bodies I bought. The ZX-60 I have does P-TTL, but I've never tried the 5050DXR with it. I wonder if it would work?

Thank you
Russell

JNR
JNR Senior Member • Posts: 2,809
Re: Don't do it.

Russell Evans wrote:

You don't want that Promaster module. It is TTL only and manual at 1/1 and 1/16. That's very limiting on a modern Pentax DSLR. It's probably fine if you have a *istD, istDS, and fine with some film bodies that can do TTL, but trying work with just two manual settings on a newer Pentax DSLR isn't worth the money spent. I have either the Promaster or the Quantaray AF module, there's no way to tell as there isn't any branding on the unit, that I use with a couple of ZX film bodies I bought. The ZX-60 I have does P-TTL, but I've never tried the 5050DXR with it. I wonder if it would work?

Thank you
Russell

That makes sense, absolutely. Auto mode is much more valuable. The Promaster website shows no useful information about the modules. There is a standard module (generic - not brand specific), but again, no explanation. That unit (priced the same) might have Auto in place of TTL, but you never know because of the poor documentation.

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OP MikeFreeze Regular Member • Posts: 108
Update

I bought the quantaray module, and it works fine.  It fit my Promaster perfectly, and I seem to have a good flash solution now.  I haven't used it enough to understand it yet, but I followed your advice and have played with it using the 3 dot settings to adjust the aperture.  Seems that I like it best when I dial in -1 EV, but that's just an early observation.

$12 well spent to rescue an older flash!  Thanks again,

Milke Freeze

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Russell Evans Forum Pro • Posts: 12,414
Re: Update

MikeFreeze wrote:

Seems that I like it best when I dial in -1 EV, but that's just an early observation.

Use a bulb blower to blow out the sensor hole in the front to see if that helps. Might be a few years of dust built up in it since these are a decade or two old now. Clean the contacts and making sure the pins springs are in good order and all pins are at the same level. You'll want to clean the contacts on the flash as well.

Thank you
Russell

JNR
JNR Senior Member • Posts: 2,809
Re: Update

Russell Evans wrote:

MikeFreeze wrote:

Seems that I like it best when I dial in -1 EV, but that's just an early observation.

Use a bulb blower to blow out the sensor hole in the front to see if that helps. Might be a few years of dust built up in it since these are a decade or two old now. Clean the contacts and making sure the pins springs are in good order and all pins are at the same level. You'll want to clean the contacts on the flash as well.

Thank you
Russell

Excellent point about the sensor hole. In fact, you might want to take a bit of alcohol on a Q-tip and get the shield as clean as possible. Crud can easily reduce sensitivity by one stop.

For those curious, some auto sensors simply implement a grayscale screen to change the settings. The old Vivitars with the variable knob in the front are a continuous grayscale screen so you can actually micro-adjust between the official click stops to get the exact light/aperture setting desired. The "M" setting simply covers the sensor.

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