Speedlight & Strobe Longevity Through Forming The Capacitor

Started Jun 16, 2014 | Discussions
Jeff2013
Jeff2013 Senior Member • Posts: 2,734
Speedlight & Strobe Longevity Through Forming The Capacitor

I have about 6 speed-lights that I use irregularly, depending on the projects I am working on.  I know that if the capacitor is not periodically "formed" by charging and discharging, the life of the unit will be shortened.  Can anyone tell me how often this should be done?  How long can a flash sit idle before its life is noticeably shortened?

I also have a number of Paul C. Buff studio strobes, for which I would have the same question - I assume that the answer would be the same.

Thank you to anyone that can help.

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BBbuilder467 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,739
Re: Speedlight & Strobe Longevity Through Forming The Capacitor

The information included with my Metz flash says to turn it on for ten minutes every three months because of the capacitor if it's stored and not in use.

I get the impression they want fully charged batteries used when you do it.

hotdog321
hotdog321 Forum Pro • Posts: 20,279
Re: Speedlight & Strobe Longevity Through Forming The Capacitor

I don't know if I've ever heard a hard and fast numerical rule for this, but capacitor forming is a real "thing." Normally, if I haven't used a flash, any flash, for a month or more, I like to refresh the cap by giving it five or six full power "pops" before taking it into the field. Several of my strobes are decades old and they still work fine.

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alFR Regular Member • Posts: 286
Re: Speedlight & Strobe Longevity Through Forming The Capacitor

After reading this yesterday I dug out my old 420EX (which has been sitting neglected for at least 5 years) and fired it up: I gave it 5-6 full power discharges then shot a few test pics and it seemed to work fine. Don't have a flash meter though so i can't test it fully: anyone know a non-meter related way to check if it's really still working properly? Anyone got a link to something explaining this in more detail? I did a bit of googling but didn't find much.

hotdog321
hotdog321 Forum Pro • Posts: 20,279
Re: Speedlight & Strobe Longevity Through Forming The Capacitor

alFR wrote:

After reading this yesterday I dug out my old 420EX (which has been sitting neglected for at least 5 years) and fired it up: I gave it 5-6 full power discharges then shot a few test pics and it seemed to work fine. Don't have a flash meter though so i can't test it fully: anyone know a non-meter related way to check if it's really still working properly? Anyone got a link to something explaining this in more detail? I did a bit of googling but didn't find much.

If the speedlight fired and didn't smoke you are good to go. The internal circuits should adjust the exposure for normal on-camera use. Full manual "pops" may be slightly diminished by sitting around so long, but it is still quite useable. I would just use the thing and not worry about it.

I've got 6-8 old strobes sitting around, going back to the venerable Vivitar 283 and 285. The darn things still work better than some of my expensive Canon speedlights!

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alFR Regular Member • Posts: 286
Re: Speedlight & Strobe Longevity Through Forming The Capacitor

No flames or explosions so far, anyway.

I did find a few articles talking about reforming the capacitors, one seemed to suggest the safe way to bring an unused strobe up after a long period of storage was leaving the unit on for progressively longer periods each day for a week (starting at 1min and working up to 1h) without firing it then using it normally, one suggested leaving it on for an hour or so every 3 months without firing it, one suggested firing off a few full-power discharges every few weeks. As I've already risked life and limb by firing it off a few times, I think I'll just leave it on for a while each day for the next few days then start using it. Will let you know if it catches fire!

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