Top critical review
38 of 42 people found this helpful
Mechanical Quality Stops At the Surface
on June 20, 2009
If I could, I RATE THIS PRODUCT 3.5 Stars.
I agree with an earlier review in that this Pentax flash unit is mechanically very disappointing and certainly not worthy of the Pentax name. In no way does this product represent the Japanese Quality and Solid Designs of the 80's that we have all become sentimental about. With this flash unit, Pentax has taken the low road to profit in place of working towards brand loyalty by producing a quality product, and making sure their dealers stand behind the product without sniveling.
The Pentax flash I received was assembled in the Philippines and judging from the rough mold quality of the battery door and surround plastics used to secure the battery door are reminiscent of parts that come from a place with little QA. With the unit I have, when all four AA batteries are out, the battery door is difficult to open. With all four batteries in place, the battery door is easily knocked ajar, leaving a 1.5-2 mm gap at the top of the battery door (see photo). From this slight open position, the battery door can and does with little force, pop open letting the batteries to spill out. I had the flash in my hands for just 3-4 minutes before that event happened and when I need my flash the last thing I want happening is for the batteries to fall out into my camera bag or on to the floor.
If you are right handed like myself, because of the natural area where a person tends to grab the flash, to release the flash head position lock button, by default causes the battery cover on my flash unit to pop partially open. Only once in 3 attempts was I able to till the flash head without disturbing the placement of the battery compartment cover and knocking the cover partially open. I have been using flashes of this similar design and nature since the old Vivatar 283 days of the mid 70's and never have I seen a case where the act of tilling a flash head could cause a battery compartment to open.
The second area of concern is the flash shoe. Like another review stated the shoe uses a small metal pin to help keep the locking mechanism align while the user moves the compression collar. The compression collar on my shoe is not well registered mechanically. I can see this device failing and perhaps cracking in the field.
Also the flash unit, with hot shoe locking collar released, fits much too tightly in the camera hot shoe. For this reason, the flash unit is difficult to remove from the K20D hot shoe and always requires close attention during the process as I need to hunch over and use both hands, one placed near the flash hot shoe, and one placed near the camera hot shoe. Then I have to wiggle the flash unit back and forth till I unseat the flash.
If not, I get the impression that over torquing during this process could lead to serious mechanical damage to both the flash unit and camera body. I'm use to using just one hand to perform this task, of seating and unseating a flash unit atop a prism housing, and this is the most difficult flash unit I have ever mounted.
In fairness, I thought I should make sure that the mounting issue was with this Pentax flash, so I tried to see how a backup Vivatar 2000 flash unit would sit on the K20D camera hot shoe, and I was able to seat and unseat the Vivatar flash on the camera hot shoe with a single hand. Hence the fitting (mechanical tolerance) issue rest with the Pentax flash itself. From feel, I estimate the Pentax flash hot shoe pad to be about 0.005" of an inch too think.
In terms of illumination control, the flash works well under most situations. I have at times have had some difficulty getting the flash to expose properly when used with a K20D camera in AF mode for object further than 20 feet away in very dark situations. This seems to be a function of the K20D camera as the camera tends not to be able to properly determine the correct distance to the object as the K20D is without an AF assist illuminator.
For objects at close distance, it is possible to get very precise illumination control in most situations and especially helpful, the wireless function when capturing macro images. Note in the posted image of the moth that the working distance to the object was ~2 inches from the lens.
Today, all of my photo shooting is done for fun, but that does not preclude my desire to still use and operate equipment that is reliable and robust enough that I can operate in the field and not be overly concerned about the state of my equipment or if the equipment will even survive little more than casual use. From what I have seen of the Pentax 360 Flash, makes me wonder if an investment in other Pentax gear is such a wise move. If Pentax is incapable of doing the very basic mechanical functions well like keeping a simple battery cover closed tight, then how can they be trusted to be any better with the more complex tasks?
From this product if not already, Pentax needs to initiate a Technical Lessons Learned (TTL) database, so this sort of fiasco in elementary mechanical design does not surface in a future product.
This sight unseen purchase, should I return the item will costing me $35 dollars for a 180 dollar sale. Beach Camera wants to charge a 10% restocking fee to take what I see as an inherent design and manufacturing flaw plus cost to return ship. Maybe, Beach Camera should not sell what they are not willing to stand behind, or they would take a defective product return without conditions. Also, why would you need to restock a defective item? Because of their return policy towards Amazon customers and the fact that they are not open on Saturday, I give a neutral recommendation for Beach Camera.
Minus 0.25 for battery door design & quality of parts used.
Minus 0.25 for battery door function.
Minus 0.25 for hot shoe design.
Minus 0.25 for hot shoe function.
Minus 0.25 for hot shoe material selection.
Minus 0.25 for casual use & field reliability.