Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Yong Nuo YN-560 first impressions and surprises

UPDATE 1: I found out how to make the YN-560 sync with the pop-up flash in commander mode! http://betterfamilyphotos.blogspot.com/2010/07/news-flash-yn-560-syncs-with-nikon-cls.html

UPDATE 2: other tests of the YN-560: http://betterfamilyphotos.blogspot.com/2010/08/yongnuo-yn-560-flash-update.html

So I finally got the YN-560 today, a little less than 2 weeks after I ordered it. In the meantime, speedlights.net has posted a very thorough review of the YN-560, so I'll just mention the few things that I found so far that were new or different. I didn't have a lot of time to test it but because there's some possibly disappointing info, I wanted to bring this to potential buyers' attention right away.  Note: the camera I used was a Nikon D300.

1. Power: I don't have a light meter, but based on my very unscientific test, I would guess that the power is closer to the SB800 (per Kurbster.com) not the SB600 (per speedlights.net). What I did was to put the 2 flashes approximately the same distance from the wall, side by side, then compared their output. The output looked identical in terms of intensity at 35mm zoom and at 105mm zoom, though the SB800 covered a slightly larger area. I plan to conduct more a more rigorous test (by comparing the histograms) this weekend.

2. When the flash is attached to the camera, my camera acts like there is no flash, i.e., shutter speed is not limited to sync speed, even with Auto FP disabled.  This is useful for trick shots like this one: http://strobist.blogspot.com/2008/08/on-assignment-50-years.html , and fortunately the rear curtain appears at the top of the D300's frame, which means shooting upside down is not necessary.

3. Whether on-camera or as an optical slave (either mode), the flash can sync at 1/320 with no noticeable decrease in output (at least on low power -- I plan to test this more thoroughly this weekend). At 1/400 and at higher speeds on-camera, the flash is visible but blocked by the rear curtain. At 1/400 off-camera (as optical slave), the flash output isn't visible at all.

4. The digital optical slave (which ignores the preflashes) works with TTL flash but not in CLS AWL commander mode. In commander mode the YN560 doesn't only fail to sync -- it doesn't fire at all. I tried various combinations of the popup flash being on TTL or manual, and the SB800 being on TTL, AA or Manual. I tried different channels, and assigning the SB800 to Group A or Group B. No combination worked except for the popup being on TTL and all other channels being deactivated (which is in effect just like using the pop-up on TTL mode). This is contrary to the experience of speedlights.net owner's fransener ( http://www.flickr.com/groups/strobis...7624196263437/ ), so I'm very disappointed but will conduct more tests. I've also contacted him to inquire.  To be fair, the YN560's manual does state on p.33 that the digital optical slave is NOT designed to work for red-eye flash, Nikon's commander mode, or Canon's wireless flash (including the ST-E2).

For now, if the YN-560 doesn't work with the commander mode, my plan is to use the pop-up flash on manual mode (covering it with an SG-3IR if I don't need it as on-axis fill), then use the SB800 in SU-4 mode in manual, and the YN-560 in S1 (regular optical slave) mode.  Alternatively, I can connect a TTL cord to the SB800 to fire it in TTL off-camera, then put the YN-560 in S2 (digital optical slave) mode.

5. The optical slave (both modes) works even when I cover the flash with an SG-3IR infrared filter, implying that the YN-560 is triggered by infrared, not visible light.  I plan to double check this (it's possible that the pop-up flash reflection from the SG-3IR was sufficient to trigger the YN-560).

Overall, I'm ok with the flash so far.  I also plan to see how well the digital optical slave works with my point-and-shoot (Casio Exilim EX-V7).  A P&S camera doesn't have a mechanical shutter, so I think I can sync at its highest shutter speed of 1/800, which would be very useful for underexposing bright ambient light.  At that speed, the practical limit becomes the flash duration (at full power, the YN-560's t0.1 flash duration is 1/320).  

All of those coming up this weekend...