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I recently purchased a Nikon D3200 and I have a PE 2505 Flash sitting in my garage. Can I use that on my Nikon D3200? I was going to try it but I didnt want to damage the camera in anyway.

The flash is very old, and uses 4 AA batteries. If it is not compatible, what is the best next cheap solution for a beginner?

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You also need to consider the trigger voltage supplied by the flash and the voltage the camera's hot shoe can tolerate without being damaged. Older flashes often have higher voltages than newer DSLRs can tolerate.

When the camera's shutter is released by pressing the shutter button all the way down the shutter begins to open. When the first shutter curtain is fully open exposing the entire sensor at the same moment (if the shutter speed selected is slower than the camera's flash sync speed), the connection between the center pin and the ground (on either the hot shoe and/or, with some cameras, the PC terminal connector) is completed inside the camera. When this circuit closes it allows voltage from the flash to flow through the camera and back to the flash where it causes the flash to discharge the energy stored in the flash's capacitor(s).

A word of caution about using an older undocumented flash with your expensive DSLR: When a charged flash is connected to a hot shoe and the hot shoe completes the circuit a lot of voltage can flow through the camera's circuitry. If the voltage supplied by the flash is higher than the camera can tolerate, you will probably irreparably fry your camera's circuitry, or at least those parts connected to the hot shoe.

Different cameras have different flash voltages they are designed to tolerate without damage. Some can only handle a few volts in the 6-10 volt range. Others can work with flash output voltages of 250 volts or more. Check the specifications for your camera and do not allow more voltage than for which your camera is rated to flow through the hot shoe! There are voltage reducers available, but even those can be overloaded beyond their specifications. The one linked above is rated to reduce up to 400 volts to less than 6 volts.

Another safer option is to use a set of cheap manual wireless triggers. At the worst case scenario you'll only fry the receiver of an $18 set instead of your camera.

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You also asked if there is a next best cheap solution.

The Nikon SB400 is cheap and I had one but I don't think it's a very good flash to learn with due to its inability to swivel and I regret its purchase. The ability to swivel a flash is important.

A quick search showed up the Sigma EF-610 which is low cost and available for Nikon (with i-TTL metering). If you wanted something new I'd recommend that as an option.

Or, get something second hand, but look out for one that's compatible with recent Nikon cameras, so that you get TTL metering (ie automatic exposure information communicated from the camera to flash).

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