Sunpak Flash Sync Plugs
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the correct sync port plug to use on the various Sunpak flash units. This short "tip" will attempt to clear up many of these issues, especially with regard to the Sunpak 383 flash, which is currently a popular flash for off camera manual mode use.
There are many models of Sunpak flashes. Sunpak flashes have been very popular for many years. But, Sunpak has used several different sync connectors on the various flash models. The differences in some of these sync connectors are often very subtle, yet still very important.
There are a few Sunpak flash units that use a three-pronged variant of the HH connector, like the Sunpak 555. This "tip" will not deal with the units that use this HH variant.
Several other Sunpak flash units use a variant of the very common sub-mini-phone connector (3/32" — 2.5mm). These are the Sunpak flash units covered in this particular "tip".
Many are convinced that Sunpak is actually using the standard sub-mini-phone connector, but this is not accurate. The Sunpak versions are longer than a standard sub-mini-phone connector, but have the same 3/32" (2.5mm) diameter. In the picture below, the connector on the left is a standard sub-mini-phone connector, the other two are different versions of the Sunpak connector. The Sunpak connectors are clearly longer.
The plug in the center is the Sunpak connector that is packed with a new 383 flash. Note that that this 383 version does not have the small groove just below the tip as is present on the Sunpak connector on the extreme right. This groove is a very important feature.
The Sunpak plug version with the groove will fit into a Sunpak 383 sync port, but if it is inserted, in many (most??) cases the inserted plug will not be able to be removed without damaging the 383. It is likely that some internal feature in the 383ís sync port gets stuck in this groove feature near the tip.
The plug on the right with the groove is for use in many of the Sunpak 5XX series of flash units (the 544, 522, etc) and possibly other models of Sunpak flash units. The groove near the plug tip end locks the plug in place on these flash units, but you can still pull them out with a reasonable amount of force (unlike with the 383 where you just cannot get this grooved plug out). The 383 version (center one), without the groove, can also be used on the 5XX series flash units, but the plug does not stay in the 5XX series flash unit port with nearly as much tenacity as the one with the groove.
Further complications for the 383:
The geometry of the area around the sync port on the 383 is very confining (see image below). There is an overhang feature that really limits things. The plastic part of the plug that you grasp when you insert and remove the metal sync plug must be very small in diameter. I estimate that the diameter of the plug part that you grasp cannot exceed about 0.350 inches (3/8 inch is 0.375 inch). If the diameter is greater than about 0.350 inches (8.9mm), it will collide with this overhang and the plug cannot be inserted into the 383 (even though the actual metal plug that inserts into the sync port might be the correct diameter).
What cord to use on the 383?
I have been trying to get any flash cord from Tocad (Sunpak in the USA) that will fit the 383 for over 8 weeks now. They sent two batches of cords labeled as fitting the 383 (and several other Sunpak flash units), but they had the problematic groove feature. They finally dug three cords from a drawer of cast-offs and sent me those. But, they indicated that these were the last cords of this type they had, and expected to never have any more.
I have carefully reviewed Paramount Cordís offerings. All of the cords that I reviewed either had a groove (which makes them unusable on the 383), or have a plastic grasping area with a diameter so large so it will likely collide with the overhang shown in the image above. So, I do not believe Paramount has any cord end that will work with a 383.
I have looked at images of cords sold by B&H labeled for the 383, but all images that I reviewed depict the problematic groove.
So, I have absolutely no recommendation for a source of proper cords for the 383.
I am trying to source useable cord stock for the 383, stay tuned. Update 01/23/08 - Suitable cords sourced. See flashzebra.com/wizardcables/0016.shtml, flashzebra.com/radiocables/0017.shtml and flashzebra.com/short_pc_sync/0054.shtml.
As a side note, the Sunpak 333 has a sync connector that from the outside looks identical to the one on the 383. I believe that all the info regarding the 383 above also pertains to the 333, but I have not physically confirmed this, so there is some possibility I am incorrect.