Flashpoint 1820A monolight power switch failure

May 08, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

One of the big photo houses in NYC is Adorama.  A really good and huge photo vendor.  They have a "house" brand which is Flashpoint.  Some of that brand gear is really good, and some not so much.  

One of the best lines they offer is a monolight series.   A monolight is a big strobe that has it's own power source (no external power pack).  They come in a number of different power capacities.  In a monolight, or really any flash, power is listed as Watt Seconds and abbreviated "w/s" or just "ws" most of the time.  The bigger the more powerful. A typical shoe mounted flash that fits on your camera is going to be around 80-100 w/s and could get up around 150 w/s.  A moonlight can be as low as 160 w/s and can get as high as 1600 w/s.  Beyond that an external power pack is often required.  In any case, they're really bright.

The Flashpoints are solidly built and a great value, with one huge exception.  The power switch fails on the higher powered models.  I have four 1820A lights, they're rated at 900 w/s and I use them all the time.  Every day.  Every one of them has failed within a year of use.  Adorama warranties them no problem, and that's great, but they always fail when you need them to work.  I mean, you don't set up and plug in these babies to use as mood lighting in your home, you set them up when you need to shoot and you need them to work right then.

Because they can and do fail at exactly the wrong time, they are hard to trust.

When the unit is new and working, the power switch has a nice crisp, distinct "click" feel to it when you turn the unit on or off.  At some point that switch's tactile feel becomes mushy, indistinct and the "click" goes away.  When that happens, the unit will probably fail the next time you turn it on.

I've searched the web for a DIY fix and found none, so I experimented on my most recently failed 1820A and am reporting success.

My feeling all along was that the failure point was just the power switch itself, which if you buy a thousand of them, will run 12 cents each.  That's a pretty unfortunate choice by the manufacturer.  I'm betting if they procured the 18 cent switch these failures would stop altogether. 

Anyway, I picked up a Double Pole, Single Throw switch (DPST) at my friendly Radio Shack, removed the power leads from the original switch and put them on the new switch, and it worked!  The unit powers up, fires, shuts down and is overall a real happy unit, which in turn makes me really happy.

Now you have to have just a tiny bit of ability to unscrew things and solder some wires in the same order you took them off, and maybe a smidgen of experience with a dremel tool and a tube of super glue, you're good to go.  You probably will need to solder a couple inches of wire to the existing wires to extend them far enough out to work on, but that isn't a big deal at all.  It's not going to hurt to have some heat shrink tubing available to keep things tidy after you're done soldering.

Oh yeah, don't touch the wires together - just in case. And don't poke around the capacitors either, they carry a lot of power and there's no good reason to mess with them.  I have no idea how much residual power is left in them, but I'm not taking any chances of discharging them.

So is this worth doing?  If the new switch provides a long term, reliable solution, then yes.  I'll put this unit back in to service and we'll see how it goes.  In a year I'll post another message with the update.  

On the other hand, getting a return authorization from Adorama only takes a few minutes.  It'll run you about 15 bucks to ship it back to them and then they'll send you a new one in another couple days.  

That's really good service, but it doesn't increase my trust in the reliability of the flash much at all.

 


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