Best low cost flashgun? Yongnuo YN-560 review + the NEW YN-560II!
New Yongnuo YN-560II
Looks like a brilliant new flash is coming out! I came across it by accident while on Yongnuo's website. Not yet available, the YN-560II (photos below) was only announced about a week ago as far as I can see. No pricing as of yet, but I estimate it will cost £60 from china, maybe £70 in the UK. It features a few improvements over the YN-560 (photos below), namely a SEXY new LCD screen and a 'multi' mode (What Canon calls 'Stroboscopic' mode). More below.
Yongnuo vs Canon Yongnuo make some brilliant low cost flashes, although not perfect, they are amazing for people who need multiple off-camera flashes rather than TTL (Through-The-Lens metering, this means the camera decides how much power the Speedlite gives out). Yongnuo also have some great TTL flashes, but a little more expensive, still under £100 for their flagship model, the YN-565EX (photo below), which is far below the cost of a decent Canon Speedlite which rarely go below £170, and that's a used one or a chinese import, a new Canon 580EX II in the UK (photo below) is priced at a whopping £300. For example, wedding photographers tend to use Canon Speedlites, mostly on-camera, especially while shooting important parts of the wedding, because there's simply no time to play about with flash settings, this is where Canon's Speedlites really excel. On the other hand, a commercial photographer like myself (I do weddings too, but not as often) would generally need 3 flashes at a minimum for those shoots when I can really pose the subject and take a bit more time to perfect the image and lighting. Usually each flash unit will have it's own light stand and none spend much time on the camera's hot shoe.
Cool story bro! I actually almost lost a great photo once (Photo above) because I only brought out one flash to a shoot I did with a friend of mine. (The light on her face was not really how I wanted it, but I got away with using a bit of ambient light at the location) It was not a paid job and I didn't want to carry the heavier studio lights. I only took the bare essentials, a Speedlite, umbrella, stand, and a PT-04 wireless trigger (which I have now sold and ordered a YN-603c trigger set as it looks more convenient, more on that to come - Photo below).
Yonognuo YN-560 - features Yesterday I received my YN-560, an absolutely brilliant flash which, at the cost of £42 (inc shipping), is an absolute steal! - eBay LINK!
Whilst being an almost identical replica of the Canon 580EX II Speedlite, the YN-560 is missing a few features that some photographers would need, such as TTL (Through-The-Lens metering, this means the camera decides how much power the Speedlite gives out) and 'multi' mode which literally strobes the Speedlite a few times over the length of your exposure. There are other differences too, the Canon features a quick release hot shoe lock, better buttons and a proper dial, but for the most part it's the same flash with almost the same power and recharge speed. The YN-560 looks nearly identical too, except it's unattractive LED power and mode indicator panel, where you would usually find a sleek looking LCD screen on a Canon flash. (UPDATE: I have grown a little fonder of the Yongnuo's LED panel, which looks and feels much sleeker in person.) As you can see from the photo, it's a very large flash unit. Honestly, I was hoping to get a smaller flash unit so that I could more easily use it on camera when needed but I chose the YN-560 for it's power and speed and I'm very happy with my choice.
Yongnuo YN-560 - Power and speed! I have yet to shoot extensively with the YN-560 but overall it's a very powerful speedlite with a GN (Guide Number, the standard speedlite power rating) of 39, although in real use it's a little weaker than Canon's flagship 580EX II. One of the things I really LOVE about the YN-560 is it's INCREDIBLY FAST recycle times! Here's my quick and dirty (and super impressive) test results: Shot 100 images at 5.8 FPS (!!) on my 40D with the YN-560 at minuimum power. It did waver a little in brightness (which is expected) but did not miss a single shot. Minmum power on the YN-560 gave a perfect exposure in a dark room with the subject about a meter away from the camera at the following settings: 100 ISO, 1/50, 2.8 - which means I've got an incredible amount of room to work with. If I need a brighter image I could up the flash's power a bit, up the ISO a bit, use a longer exposure (although I try to avoid shooting handheld below 1/30), use a prime lens or any combination of the above and still get good recycle times and a clean, properly exposed image - Especially if using it in conjunction with ambient light or other flash units. At half power, the YN-560 gave me 10 shots at 5.8 FPS before missing a shot, which again is incredibly impressive.
The new YN-560II will be the first Chinese-made manual flash available which will support 'multi' mode. I also LOVE the new large digits on the display! This will surely be an attraction for strobists like myself. If this flash is priced right it will be the ultimate low cost Speedlite for strobists, I can see this flash becoming really popular just as many of Yongnuo's other products have. I will try to get one in for a video review.
Recommended Yongnuo Speedlites
The flashguns discussed in this article are the ones I would recommend, there are others from yongnuo, these are my favorites. All prices are eBay's best at time of writing and include shipping. Flashes listed by price from low to, well, low, but still a little higher. :)
The lowest cost flash with an optical slave function (trigger it via another flash). Very basic but nice. Approx £25 (Some £6 extra buys you the mkII version, which features faster recycle times and some other improvements)
By far the best choice on the market for those looking for a non--TTL flashlight. For a few pounds more than the YN460/II you get incredible performance and speed. Approx £42
I look forward to finding out how much this costs! :D I will update this post when more information is available.
The best and most fully-featured Speedlite Yongnuo has to offer. A really great light at a third the cost of a Canon 580EX II (Pictured on RIGHT). Approx £95
RF-603 wireless triggers
A set of these wireless transceivers (a device comprising both a transmitter and a receiver) allow for wireless transmission of a signal which will set off your flash lighting unit from afar, thus providing you with the ability to move freely and position your lighting and camera equipment with less restrictions. Approx £20 for a set of two.