Forums > Photography Talk > Cheap off camera flash for beginners?

Photographer

Bethany Souza

Posts: 1464

Pensacola, Florida, US

I'm in the market for a cheap off camera flash! I've just been using natural light basically this whole time so I'm artificial lighting retarded.  I've looked online everywhere but I'm having problems finding one that I can use in the field. I don't need anything fancy, just something simple, easy to use and cheap.
Do you have any personal suggestions?
I found the Yongnuo YN-560 Speedlight, but I'm not sure on it.

Sep 19 12 05:07 pm Link

Photographer

Frozen Moments Photo

Posts: 1312

Monroe, Michigan, US

I have been using the Yongnuo YN-460II. I have 2 of them and love them. They are completely manual, but since I use them off camera it works out great.

I have only used them on 2 outings, so I can not speak to longevity, but another photographer on here uses the heck out of them. It is because of him that I bought mine.

Sep 19 12 05:13 pm Link

Photographer

Quinn Photography

Posts: 3

Rapid City, South Dakota, US

Hello,

    I have used the flash you are talking about and it does get the job done. I would say that using a flash trigger from the same maker would be a good option to go along with it. Using the slave option on the cheap flashes can be hit or miss. Good luck     Cowboy studio has some good low price studio options for strobes as well...

Sep 19 12 05:15 pm Link

Photographer

A M Johnson

Posts: 8024

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

You haven't made your needs clear so I'll give you some general thoughts. (1) I use off camera flash with a radio (Paul Buff Cybersyncs) and have them on manual. (2) I use the flashes in E-TTTL mode with a coily-cord that I hand hold the flash at arms length when I use just one.

My flashes are all around a GN of 58. I don't want to turn the day into night so I don't need much flash power, just enough to raise a models face about a half stop to a stop and to soften shadows, particularly on the nose.

Sep 19 12 05:18 pm Link

Photographer

Bethany Souza

Posts: 1464

Pensacola, Florida, US

So I would need to absolutely need to buy the trigger also?

Sep 19 12 05:19 pm Link

Photographer

Kaouthia

Posts: 3152

Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

Yongnuo YN460, YN460-II, YN560, YN560-II.

Any of those, cheap, great flashes.

560 & 560-II have a much better build quality, little bit more power, and they're lower at minimum power if you're doing any closeup stuff, zoomable head and a socket for an external battery pack (the 460/460-II don't have any of that).  YN560-II also has a MUCH faster recycle time, and stroboscopic flash mode.

For the price difference, personally I'd go for the 560-II for the most versatility.

I mostly use SB-900s when I use speedlights, but also have some YN560s that are equally as fantastic if I'm not being lazy or have an assistant to walk over to the flash and change the power for me. smile

Sep 19 12 05:19 pm Link

Photographer

A M Johnson

Posts: 8024

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

Bethany Souza wrote:
So I would need to absolutely need to buy the trigger also?

How far away is the flash from the camera? For this setup quite a bit http://cafe1956.com/creative/IMG_6361-600.jpg so I used the PCB Cybersyncs. For this one, http://cafe1956.com/creative/02790019-600.jpg it was a foot or so from the camera on a cord.

Sep 19 12 05:32 pm Link

Photographer

Kaouthia

Posts: 3152

Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

Bethany Souza wrote:
So I would need to absolutely need to buy the trigger also?

You could use them as regular optical slaves with either a speedlight on the hotshoe or using a popup, if the body you're using has one (set on minimum power, so that it triggers the slaves without actually contributing to the shot).

Radio triggers, however, would generally be more reliable.

Sep 19 12 05:34 pm Link

Photographer

John Draper

Posts: 87

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

I have 4 of the Yongnuo YN560-II which I use primarily for my water drop photography ... have had them for about 6 months now and am very happy with them.

Sep 19 12 05:46 pm Link

Photographer

1472

Posts: 1059

Pembroke Pines, Florida, US

check out vivitar .. i've had one for a few years dropped it a good # of times .. still works like a charm

Sep 19 12 06:00 pm Link

Photographer

Lester Hartness

Posts: 14

Bakersfield, California, US

I have a variety of Yongnuo flashes, love all of them.  Most of my shooting is in VERY low light situations, too low to focus manually, and too low for my Canon 6d to autofucus reliably.  So I put the YN 468II on the camera, for it's focusing assist light, and turn it away from the scene, towards a YN 560 set on slave.  This has been very reliable for me, even when the slaved flash is inside a diffused umbrella.  When I have to get my YN 462s involved, I use an optically slaved trigger for them.

Sometimes, when I need a lot more power, I'll drag out the pair of Vivitar 285s, put an optical trigger on them, and go.

If I'm not in a situation where I need the focusing light from the 468II, I just use YN 602 radio triggers.  I've never had any reliability problems with them, but they're not easy to find now.  I assume the 603 works as least as well, but they're not backwards compatible.  When I run out of triggers, I fire any additional flashes I might need optically. 

All of this for the cost of two of the lowest priced Canon TTL flashes.  I never use anything on auto, so why pay for all that?

Sep 19 12 06:01 pm Link

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Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6700

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

+1 on the Yongnuos. I do disagree with Kaouthia on one point though, power of 560 vs 460II - I've tested them a dozen different ways (seven 560s, and many many 460IIs) and once in a modifier, I have seen no power difference, bare with the zoom head out, yeah the zoom beefs it up, but in a softbox/umbrella/BD, no difference. They're faster (2 sec vs 2.5-3 at full, but I'm usually at 1/18 power or so, so they're both instant)

I personally don't need anything the 560 gives (zoom, PC, external battery) so my kit right now is a dozen 460IIs and a 565ex.

I've been using the YongNuo RF603 triggers lately. Used the 602 kit for years, no problems aside from dead batteries from leaving them on tongue


And regarding reliability. Using this kit, I have had zero problems. No misfires except due to user error (wrong channel) and several flashes have fallen and tumbled dozens of feet down mountains. Several have been submerged in lakes, streams, etc for up to a minute (all still work) Very much worth it.

Sep 19 12 07:01 pm Link

Photographer

Kaouthia

Posts: 3152

Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

-JAY- wrote:
+1 on the Yongnuos. I do disagree with Kaouthia on one point though, power of 560 vs 460II - I've tested them a dozen different ways (seven 560s, and many many 460IIs) and once in a modifier, I have seen no power difference, bare with the zoom head out, yeah the zoom beefs it up, but in a softbox/umbrella/BD, no difference. They're faster (2 sec vs 2.5 at full, but I'm usually at 1/18 power or so, so they're both instant)

Depends on the modifier, but the very nature of a zoomable head gives the potential for more power in a focused area that isn't possible on the 460-II.

But, even with the 560 zoomed to the same beam width of the 460-II, I've noticed a slight higher power from the 560 (admittedly, not much, but it's been there in the ones I've tested personally).

Full power and 1/2 power on the 460-II is also pretty much identical (unless they finally got around to fixing that problem), which means that 1/128th power is actually 1/64th power.  The 560's 1/2 power is actually a stop less than full power, which means 1/128th power is 1/128th power, so it also goes lower than the 460-II for closeup & very wide aperture situations.

-JAY- wrote:
I've been using the YongNuo RF603 triggers lately. Used the 602 kit for years, no problems aside from dead batteries from leaving them on tongue

Totally agree with you on that one, and remembering to take the batteries out of the Tx so that they don't get half-pressed rumbling around in your bag and draining.  Always carry a pack of 8 CR2 and a couple of dozen AAA batteries around with me on shoots, just to be safe. smile

Sep 19 12 07:12 pm Link

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Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6700

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

Kaouthia wrote:

Depends on the modifier, but the very nature of a zoomable head gives the potential for more power in a focused area that isn't possible on the 460-II.

But, even with the 560 zoomed to the same beam width of the 460-II, I've noticed a slight higher power from the 560 (admittedly, not much, but it's been there in the ones I've tested personally).

Full power and 1/2 power on the 460-II is also pretty much identical (unless they finally got around to fixing that problem), which means that 1/128th power is actually 1/64th power.  The 560's 1/2 power is actually a stop less than full power, which means 1/128th power is 1/128th power, so it also goes lower than the 460-II for closeup & very wide aperture situations.

I know they've made changes within series throughout (metal foot on the 560, button upgrade on the 460II, etc)

Just from personal testing, When the zoom of the 560 zooms in, it doesn't hit much of the reflective surface of reflective umbrella/softbox, and is less efficiently distributed. Zoomed in a shoot-through, or in a 'sweet spot' for a modifier... yeah I can see there being a slight bump to the 560, but if we're talking a quarter of a stop, I still put that as 'the same' but that's just me.

The 460IIs I have (the three i randomly grabbed and tested) put out

f/11 - 7/10 at full
f/8 - 8/10 at half    that particular problem at release seems to be fixed. At least in random sample I tested.

I'm just all about the budget. If power is "the sameish" and the extra features aren't needed, and you can live with an extra half second/second, or if you shoot at half power or less (most typically would, I'd wager) the 460II is the perfect flash out there, I think.

Sep 19 12 07:21 pm Link

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Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6700

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

-JAY- wrote:
I've been using the YongNuo RF603 triggers lately. Used the 602 kit for years, no problems aside from dead batteries from leaving them on tongue

Kaouthia wrote:
Totally agree with you on that one, and remembering to take the batteries out of the Tx so that they don't get half-pressed rumbling around in your bag and draining.  Always carry a pack of 8 CR2 and a couple of dozen AAA batteries around with me on shoots, just to be safe. smile

Another reason I love the 603s. It's all AAA. I've actually been using dollar store batteries (8 for $1) and they've been going strong for several months. I've got several backups for all of them, for just a couple bucks, too.

I initially didn't like the 603s cause I heard they wouldn't operate as a handheld trigger for testing lights, etc as they don't register as a transmitter unless they're mounted... but just put a finger on the contacts on the shoe and it goes into transmitter mode.

Sep 19 12 07:24 pm Link

Photographer

ImageX

Posts: 998

Saint Louis, Missouri, US

I also use Yongnuo flashes.... in combination with my Nikon SB flashes. I would reccommend them for a beginner but would HIGHLY suggest a TTL model like the Yongnuo 465 or 468. Someone who is completely inexperienced with off camera lighting might find a manual flash to be frustrating.

Sep 19 12 07:24 pm Link

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Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6700

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

ImageX wrote:
Someone who is completely inexperienced with off camera lighting might find a manual flash to be frustrating.

But once you hit that learning curve... the whole world opens up

Sep 19 12 07:26 pm Link

Photographer

Bethany Souza

Posts: 1464

Pensacola, Florida, US

So what would you suggest buying as a starting kit then?

Sep 19 12 07:44 pm Link

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Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6700

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

Bethany Souza wrote:
So what would you suggest buying as a starting kit then?

3 YN460II flashes - $135
2 RF603 kits (four transcievers) - $60
3 cheap lightstands - $75
3 umbella brackets - $30
3 modifiers - $30 - $100


$330 - $400 - will get you a very capable kit. Replace parts once you determine you need (better) I still use pretty much this here, though I've upgraded stands to a bit heavier duty.

Sep 19 12 07:56 pm Link

Photographer

Bethany Souza

Posts: 1464

Pensacola, Florida, US

I'm not looking for more than 1 or 2 flashes right now. I'm going to start off with just 1.

Sep 19 12 07:58 pm Link

Photographer

Bethany Souza

Posts: 1464

Pensacola, Florida, US

You guys are being so helpful! Last time I tried making a thread like this people were just smartasses telling me to google everything.

Sep 19 12 07:58 pm Link

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Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6700

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

Bethany Souza wrote:
I'm not looking for more than 1 or 2 flashes right now. I'm going to start off with just 1.

yn460II - RF603 - heavy duty stand - umbrella bracket - decent modifier.

Closer to $200 for the better stand and modifier, but you're in a better starting place. Still all depends on your budget. For outdoor use, improve the stand first... then the modifier... the flash and triggers are solid, and shouldn't need anything 'better' until/unless you discover them wanting in some respect

Sep 19 12 07:59 pm Link

Photographer

Mark Salo

Posts: 8381

Olney, Maryland, US

Photographers are giving you recommendations for lighting according to their taste.  I suggest that you check out the work of the photographers below.  Then decide what suits your style.

Books and DVDs by Joe McNally
http://portfolio.joemcnally.com/

David Hobby
http://www.strobist.blogspot.com/

Neil van Niekerk and his books
http://neilvn.com/tangents/flash-photog … echniques/
Frankly, I don't remember how much of his info is outdoors.

Edit:

Bethany Souza wrote:
Last time I tried making a thread like this people were just smartasses telling me to google everything.

I hope you don't think that I am a smart ass.

Sep 19 12 08:18 pm Link

Photographer

ImageX

Posts: 998

Saint Louis, Missouri, US

-JAY- wrote:
But once you hit that learning curve... the whole world opens up

Agreed. I just think a TTL flash would be easier for a beginner to get good exposures. Then, once they start learning the science of light, they could flip it into Manual mode and start experimenting. I think everyone.... including Pros... should have at least one TTL speedlite.

Sep 19 12 08:21 pm Link

Photographer

MKPhoto

Posts: 5665

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Personally,  I am perfectly happy with a $

Sep 19 12 08:25 pm Link

Photographer

You Can Call Me Pierre

Posts: 761

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

I love my trio of YN-560 but I wish I had gotten the RF-602 instead of RF-603.
I also recommend Dean Collins' 4-set DVD.

Sep 19 12 08:54 pm Link

Photographer

Matty272

Posts: 218

Dunfermline, Scotland, United Kingdom

ImageX wrote:

Agreed. I just think a TTL flash would be easier for a beginner to get good exposures. Then, once they start learning the science of light, they could flip it into Manual mode and start experimenting. I think everyone.... including Pros... should have at least one TTL speedlite.

I think there is a risk with TTL flash in that many folks won't bother to learn more than how to do some flash exposure compensation. Having flash that can only be used manually forces the user to learn.

On the last point: I have 2 TTL canon flashes. Alas, they're EZ models, so the TTL-ness doesn't work with my digital kit and I have to use them in manual  wink

Sep 20 12 12:41 am Link

Photographer

TareqPhoto

Posts: 291

'Ajmān, 'Ajmān, United Arab Emirates

They released YN-568EX, has some improvements there, and the price is still reasonable [~$178], for that price with the features or specifications listed there i can go with 2 or even 3 of this flash, just few more bucks over YN-560/YN-565, give it a look or give it a try, and i will say, give it a buy!!!

Sep 20 12 04:15 am Link

Photographer

Kaouthia

Posts: 3152

Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

-JAY- wrote:
Another reason I love the 603s. It's all AAA. I've actually been using dollar store batteries (8 for $1) and they've been going strong for several months. I've got several backups for all of them, for just a couple bucks, too.

If I didn't need the PC sync socket from the original RF602Tx (for Nikkormats, Mamiya, and laser/sound triggers), I'd switch to 603s without hesitation.

Sep 20 12 06:50 am Link

Photographer

Kaouthia

Posts: 3152

Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

ImageX wrote:
Someone who is completely inexperienced with off camera lighting might find a manual flash to be frustrating.

Personally, I think TTL flash would be more frustrating, because when you don't know what you're doing with it, it can be highly inconsistent and you have no idea why.  At least with manual flash, if it's too dark, you can just brighten it up, if it's too bright, you just knock it down.

Sep 20 12 06:52 am Link

Photographer

KFM Designs

Posts: 685

Flagstaff, Arizona, US

I would not do cheap, I recently upgraded the 580 to the 600EX RT and WOW!

Sep 20 12 07:20 am Link

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Photographer

-JAY-

Posts: 6700

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

Kaouthia wrote:

If I didn't need the PC sync socket from the original RF602Tx (for Nikkormats, Mamiya, and laser/sound triggers), I'd switch to 603s without hesitation.

They have PC.

Sep 20 12 07:24 am Link

Photographer

RINALDI

Posts: 2543

Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands

Same here, +1 on the Yongnuo's. I use them with CactusV4 transmitters. I also have a LumePro and although it was more expensive than the Yongnuo, it misses once in a while.

Sep 20 12 09:46 am Link

Photographer

Kaouthia

Posts: 3152

Lancaster, England, United Kingdom

-JAY- wrote:
They have PC.

Wish I'd said nothing.  Somebody always says this when I mention the sync socket the RF-602 has that the RF-603 doesn't. smile

The sync socket on the RF-603 is an OUTPUT.  You plug it into a flash, so that when the transceiver receives a signal it fires the flash.

The sync socket on the RF602Tx is an INPUT.  I can plug it into any camera with a sync socket, or I can hook it up to sound triggers or laser triggers to fire the flashes independently of the camera.  The RF-603 does not provide this ability.

Sep 20 12 10:10 am Link

Photographer

Lester Hartness

Posts: 14

Bakersfield, California, US

After buying two Vivitar 285s, and five manual YNs, I thought that I should have a TTL flash.  I can't remember why I thought that.  So I got a YN 468II to add to the kit.  Now, I use that one mostly for the focusing light, turning the flash head sideways or backwards to fire slaved flashes. 

I tried the TTL mode, and wasn't impressed.  I felt that I had lost some control of the situation.  Learn to use your camera and flash in manual mode.  It's not that difficult, and your photos will show the extra care.

Dec 09 12 10:39 am Link

Photographer

GM Photography

Posts: 6100

Olympia, Washington, US

I like the YN-560 II a lot.  Lots of power with the ability to go down to 1/128th power, zoom head, PC port, and nice build quality and display.  I have a YN-460 II also and much prefer the 560 II.  I also have a collection of Sunpak 383, 522 and 622 flashes, but if I was starting out now with speedlights, I'd probably build my kit around the 560 II's.

Dec 09 12 11:38 am Link

Photographer

ELiffmann

Posts: 1411

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, US

ImageX wrote:

Agreed. I just think a TTL flash would be easier for a beginner to get good exposures. Then, once they start learning the science of light, they could flip it into Manual mode and start experimenting. I think everyone.... including Pros... should have at least one TTL speedlite.

I think there is something to this... If you wanted to shoot events etc. a TTL flash, cord, bracket and diffuser make things EASY.  100 more for the TTL version, 20 for the cord 20 for the bracket 10? for the diffuser if you get it on amazon.  You'd make that back in one job.

Dec 09 12 03:20 pm Link

Photographer

AVD AlphaDuctions

Posts: 10557

Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

Bethany Souza wrote:
You guys are being so helpful! Last time I tried making a thread like this people were just smartasses telling me to google everything.

we know you know how to google 'smartass' so what was the point this time?

dunno what you asked last time but this is pretty straight forward question with a small range of answers.  my suggestion would be to replace the lightstands with reasonably inexpensive tripods so you can take the kit on location. that's the beauty of speedlights!  to go where no studio strobe has gone before...to seek out new life...new civilizations...but I digress.

tripods do have their limitations and lightstands rock in the studio but if you are just starting out, why not have fun with it?  you can put a tripod in flowing water with a YN speedlight on it and yes, there's a risk of drowning but if you are careful, you can get shots you couldnt even if you brought a studio strobe out to the river/falls/whatever.

Dec 09 12 04:57 pm Link

Photographer

name removed3

Posts: 264

Boston, Massachusetts, US

Metz makes nice flashes low cost

Dec 09 12 04:59 pm Link

Photographer

AVD AlphaDuctions

Posts: 10557

Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

Northern Lights Images wrote:
Metz makes nice flashes low cost

same price/performance as YongNuo?  we are all interested.

Dec 09 12 05:05 pm Link