What's not to like? For about $81 USD, the Yongnuo YN565EX speedlight is fully powered and fully featured. More power than a SB-700 for 1/3 the price. There are models for Nikon and Canon cameras. It works well in TTL and Manual modes, and its SL slave mode even works as a wireless remote with the Nikon Commander (channel 1-4, groups A,B,C). It has all the necessary features to use it: Zooms 24 to 105 mm (24 mm will cover 16 mm DX lenses). iTTL of course, bounce head tilts to 90 degrees, head rotates left 180 degrees, right 90 degrees, pullout bounce card and wide angle diffuser (says 14 mm FX). It has compensation for TTL mode, in 1/3 stops (and the camera can of course do it too). It has slave modes and PC sync connector for Manual flash (in third stops down to 1/128 power level). FV Lock and Rear Curtain Sync work of course (those are camera functions).
Metering a dozen flashes at each Full and at 1/4 power was consistent within 0.1 stop (the meter's precision). It recycles full power level in 2.5 seconds (Eneloop NiMH, batteries Not included). Comes with a fabric case and a plastic flat slave stand. Foot has a steel hot shoe plate. Sync voltage is a very safe 3.2 volts. Says it accepts Yongnuo SF-18 external battery pack (same one can be used for Nikon SB-800). I think HSS FP flash mode is the only missing feature in this model (the YN568EX model at higher price also has HSS, but without an external battery port). There is more description about flash features at Beginners Guide to Select a Hot Shoe Flash.
In the Nikon iTTL system, this TTL menu action defaults to actually be TTL BL mode (Balanced Fill Flash, same as the SB-700 mode). And like the Nikon flashes too, indoor TTL BL flash often is better exposed with up to about +1 EV flash compensation, but that's the camera metering system, not the flash. Camera Spot metering mode switches the flash metering out of TTL BL mode, to be actual TLL mode, but Spot metering itself is only about the ambient light, and the flash system does not use Spot metering (more below). The camera controls TTL flash and TTL metering. Yongnuo must not have a tilt switch on the flash head, because direct flash is not troubled by incorrect D-lens data - which is a real plus on zooms, or in umbrellas on hot shoe extension cables (see Below and Here). That seems a feature to me.
The YN565EX does do the job very well, it is a very usable flash, powerful, versatile, and seems dependable. I am well satisfied with the flash and its features and power and performance, and the price for this much flash seems amazing. If a few hundred dollars of price has put off acquiring a good usable flash, consider this one. The price is a great feature, which simply buys more in this model.
Yes, there are a few little things. Like you cannot see any LCD letters if your eye level is slightly above it... you literally have to get down even with it for the letters to appear. Then in some lighting, I sometimes have to press the left button to illuminate the LCD to be able to read it (which becomes orange then).
Based on the few I have seen, the following appears to be true of all third party flashes:
This is written January 2014, perhaps later versions might finish some of this? Maybe it is no Nikon, but it certainly is a good flash, it does the job and performs great and well, and really, did I mention the $81 price? Minor things can be forgiven in view of the high power and the good performance and the unbelievable price.
Maybe one weak point. This picture is my (old) battery door. There are three identical retaining lugs on each side that holds the door closed. Two lugs (on both sides of door) eventually broke off and failed after about 18 months, and the door would not latch closed. Fortunately, Ebay is full of Yongnuo battery doors (replacements), about $5 including shipping from China (at least two weeks). Replacement works like new, but I suspect this could happen again. FWIW, the Nikon SB-700 also has battery door issues (also available on Ebay, about $30).
The Yongnuo YN565EX, Neewer VK750 II, and the Aperlite YH-700 flash heads are larger than some, and if you might want a clear snap-on diffuser dome for bounce flash, those for a SB-900 Nikon will fit all three of them. I am not a fan of the domes, I prefer the pull out bounce card, but I bought one to check size. The one I tried for $4.50 was Neewer Flash Bounce Light Diffuser Dome for Nikon SB900 Flash Speedlight and it fits all three flashes well.
It is a powerful flash, and the high maximum power can be a load on the batteries. When the batteries went dead (it was more than 200 flashes, most at high power. and I had played with the LCD menus a lot), then it quit, and started beeping, and flashing P.L. (Power Lost?) It took me a minute, but now I know. :) 1900 mah Eneloops took a 1950 mah recharge then. The next time, recycle just got balky, would not complete to Ready (dead batteries). I have dropped it twice on carpet, once all the batteries flew out, and it fully survived.
The Yongnuo YN-568EX model has very similar specifications, for $104, but with HSS mode, and without external battery port. Not all camera models can offer HSS mode.
It is $81 currently, shipped by Amazon, but Amazon vendors rotate and the price can vary (several times a day). Price seems more stable now, but if an expensive price shows up, just wait a bit, or also see Amazon's other vendor selection, it varies. Good deals also from Ebay (free shipping from Hong Kong probably takes a couple of weeks). However Amazon provides considerable consumer protection, 30 day return, etc.
It copies the look of a Canon 580EX flash. You have to hold the power button down two seconds to turn it on or off, but function Fn 08 makes it be instant (I don't see any downside, other than waiting for the initial recycle). The Mode button cycles through menus for TTL, Manual, and a repeating flash mode called Multi. Some text is small on this model, you may need your glasses.
Yongnuo has both the wheel and pin shoe lock, so you have to rotate the wheel all the way up, which retracts the pin, then you can remove the flash.
For Nikon, its TTL mode is actually TTL BL mode (same default as the SB-700, SB-400, camera internal flash, and Commander - Nikon is a TTL BL system). TTL BL is automatic balanced fill flash in bright ambient (i.e., reduced flash when affected by ambient level, not necessarily the full metered exposure flash level). Camera Spot metering switches it to be actual TLL mode (more below). The camera Exif reports this TTL BL mode. The Exif reports both Yongnuo and Nikon SB-800 flashes as "ExternalFlashFirmware: 2.01 (SB-800)". A few flashes (the Nikon SB-600, SB-800, SB-900) have a menu with overt TTL vs TTL BL override choices on it, but the rest (without said menu) default to the TTL BL system (I think also true of most third party flashes - the Exif can tell you). The TTL LCD distance scale shows maximum direct TTL range for the camera settings. The horizontal buttons are compensation control for TTL or SL mode, and of course the camera flash compensation works too (preferable to me).
Manual mode power (to 1/128 power level) is changed one stop at each half power step (1/2, 1/4, 1/8, etc.) with the horizontal buttons, and does 1/3 stop clicks with the vertical buttons. For off camera use, it has a PC sync connector (threaded), and slave modes. If on the camera, the Manual LCD marks the distance on the feet/meters scale indicating Guide Number exposure for the current camera settings (zoom, ISO, aperture) - so for direct bare flash, your initial try can simply adjust power or aperture or ISO to show the correct distance.
Zoom - if the M is showing with Zoom, it still zooms manually with the arrow keys, but if M, it will not zoom automatically with the lens, which is expected. To remove the M, the method I find is to tap Zoom, and then step to one setting lower than 24 mm, which is an Auto position, which resets M off, and probably comes up as 35 mm. At such change, it doesn't always zoom to the lens until you half press the shutter button, and then zoom will sync to the lens, and will follow it (24 to 105 mm).
The AF Assist light is a large pattern (above, seen in a second camera), but its center spot must be a laser pointer, surprisingly bright at very many feet. Probably objectionably too much - certainly I would keep that bright center spot out of anyone's eye. And it all flashes once a second continuously in the slave modes? (can put a piece of tape it over it). AF Assist can be turned off (Fn 04) if on hot shoe, but not if a standalone slave. It is rarely needed in a lighted room. I normally leave it off, but it sure does work. In a pitch black room, I aim it where I think something is. I cannot see anything except the red pattern, but the picture is easily well focused. Left picture is full frame, right picture is heavily cropped off center.
Slave Modes - Holding the Zoom button two seconds brings up a screen to select SL, S1, or S2 slave mode, or Off. The slave modes then wait to be triggered (off-camera use). S1 is a normal optical slave (manual flash mode). S2 is manual flash, but can be triggered by TTL, for example, from compact cameras without manual flash. And SL is the AWL wireless remote mode for the Commander, which can be TTL or manual flash. This SL screen above selects Channel 1-4, and Group A, B or C. Note that the little N below the word Zoom selects the Nikon commander. C selects Canon, or it can be cn, to respond to both. You do have to buy the right Nikon or Canon version, the hot shoe pins are Not compatible, but the SL remote slave mode can be compatible. To exit a slave mode, hold Zoom again, and select slave to be Off.
SL slave mode was triggered by the Nikon Commander up to 75 feet (measured direct line of sight). Commander is a much more complex signal, but SL does seem to offer more sensitivity and possibility than Nikon remotes when flash is hidden behind subject. I am taking no bets, but workability is undoubtedly as good. The SL picture at right hides the Yongnuo on a stand, centered behind the 12 inch square post, completely out of sight of commander, behind the X, 10 feet to post, 14 feet to flash, far wall 24 feet. Flash and its front sensor is aimed at the right wall (12.5 feet from flash, 5 feet under the ceiling), hidden out of sight with no possibility of direct line of sight, from center of room so reflection opportunity seems small too. I thought there was no chance, but it obviously worked, every time (24 mm lens, D300 commander). There are of course limits, but it does feats the Nikon SB-800 has not done.
S1 slave mode is a simple optical slave (manual flash mode), just set it out there and it will flash with the other manual flashes. It was triggered by a D300 internal flash at only 1/128 manual power at up to 75 feet (measured direct line of sight - and this little internal flash would compare to about 1/512 power in other speedlights). It is plenty sensitive indoors with working power flashes, anywhere in a reasonable room, even if hidden behind subject. The range is almost what Nikon SU-4 mode will do, the slave being powered by the batteries, and is much better range than most external optical slaves.
Slaves and Standby: With flash on the camera, half press of shutter button wakes it up from Standby. Cameras have no way to wake up a remote flash from standby (there is no connection). You can either press a button on the flash to wake it up, or you can turn off the standby function, or set a long time before standby occurs. Nikon flash models disable standby in Remote modes, and Yongnuo has menu to do that too (called Power Saving, Off).
A radio trigger offers immunity to line of sight obstacles, or works in bright sunshine and over vast distances. This one seems quite good and very decently priced, but frankly, I'm more a fan of optical slaves for indoor work, because of fewer connections, fewer batteries, and fewer power switches to remember. But these 603 are very popular, and the II do work fine. You could use a radio receiver on all flashes, or all but one could use optical slaves (S1 slave mode above).
The RF-603 II can also work as a remote shutter, to trigger the shutter of a distant camera from the handheld transmitter. The included cable is only used in this shutter mode, used to trigger the shutter. The camera unit becomes the receiver then. My experience is that Both units have to be set to TRX mode for the shutter to work.
I use optical slaves, so I just use a PC sync cord from meter to the light I am measuring (from the subjects position with an incident meter). But if you're using radio triggers, you can handhold both the transmitter and meter (so you can meter from the subjects position), and simply use its trigger button with the meters cordless mode.
Or, you can connect the meter to the transmitter with a PC sync cord, so the button on the meter (cord mode) will trigger the flash (in which case, the transmitter can be in your pocket, or elsewhere). You cannot connect the meter to the trigger PC port - because the PC port and the top hot shoe are "outputs", and they will not trigger the transmitter. Instead, the meter PC sync cord must connect to the "input" on the transmitter foot.
All you need to do this is an inexpensive PC sync port adapter for a speedlight foot. This allows connecting a PC cord from the flash meter to the transmitter foot (temporarily, only for metering to set the power level - then the transmitter goes back on the camera hot shoe). This unit has the pin lock too but its foot is not used for this. This works fine, unless you forget and put the PC accessory on the top shoe. It must go on the bottom foot.
See A comparison of power capability of a Yongnuo YN-565EX, a Neewer VK750 II, and a Nikon SB-800.
Then to first to show what the flash below is doing.
The flash does its job well, but much of what we see happens in TTL BL flash mode is not actually about the flash unit. Even for a third party flash unit, the camera metering system runs the TTL show. All any TTL flash has to do is to respond correctly (it flashes), with the programmed power level. It helps us if we realize what the flash is being asked to do.
YN565EX: Manual flash mode, direct flash, full power, 24 mm, ISO 200, f/13. The distance was measured to be precisely ten feet (tape on the floor). The Yongnuo guide number for 24 mm is 91.9 (feet). For ISO 200, multiply by 1.414 which is GN 130. Therefore, this exposure is f/13 at ten feet, ISO 200, determined from the Guide Number chart.
Ta da - The Guide Number was accurate, it is a good flash exposure (and GN is independent of subject colors, etc.). However, "correct" exposure is always debatable, and it may meter a little lower, but here, there is the tiniest 255 spot on the yellow roses.
SB-800: Guide Number is 98 (0.18 stop more), but this is same 24 mm f/13 on same tripod (full manual power). YN565EX is the same power class as the SB-800 (which is a lot).
Unless otherwise specified, this group of test samples are: D300, camera manual mode M, 1/60 second, ISO 200, Matrix metering. Nikon 24-70 mm lens at 24 mm. Direct flashes on hot shoe.
TTL flash is still automatic flash metering even in camera M mode.
YN565EX: TTL mode (actual TTL BL), same f/13.
Routinely in Nikon systems, TTL BL intensity is down a bit. It is the camera system that meters it, and sets the flash power level accordingly.
In this image, Photoshop ACR white balance on the white card (in window) was 6600K -13 tint (a little more blue and green, corrected now). Which is no big deal, flashes vary color with power level, other situations will vary, and all images always need attention.
FWIW, I do WB in Raw, but use camera Auto WB for the embedded JPG shown on the rear LCD. Adobe reported Camera "As Shot" Auto WB was 6800K -7 tint. Auto looked OK that way, but could be closer.
SB-800: TTL BL menu mode, f/13. Photoshop ACR white balance on the white card was 5700K -5 tint.
This Nikon flash was nine years old ($320 then), and the flashtube color had aged lower. Then immediately after this, Nikon replaced this flashtube (routine service check, $75 each), and then this same scene went to 6100K -6. The point is, flash color varies, with power level, and with age.
This is a Porta Brace White Balance Card, 5x7 inches, plastic, durable, washable, accurate, $5 at B&H. It is all that is needed, plus some software to click it. The WhiBal card is also very good.
YN565EX: How much correction is that 6600K? This is the same image as just above, alternating with standard Flash White Balance (5500K in Adobe).
White Balance is NEVER one single constant value, not for flash, not for anything. Color varies with power level, so it is questionable for a variable power flash to even specify a color temperature (Nikon and Canon flashes do not, only the camera says what it will assume). There are many colors of flash, of incandescent, of daylight, etc. My point is that a white card makes handling WB be trivial, especially if Raw. All images here are White Balance corrected. Correct White Balance can matter more some times than others, but it always matters.
YN565EX: TTL mode (actual TTL), f/11, Spot metering (on green leaves) to force TTL. The flash system does NOT use Spot metering. Only ambient watches the spot (but ambient level can affect TTL BL level). And this is camera M mode anyway, so ambient settings did not change (and the green leaves were no factor here). Since TTL BL balancing is not possible with ambient Spot metering, Spot metering switches metering of the flash to be actual TTL mode. This switches Off both D-lens distance monitoring, and also balancing with ambient. The Yongnuo seems unaffected by D-lens distance, but ambient does affect TTL BL (except not in this Spot case - See More). And the manual ambient exposure of the leaves (1/60 f/11) is -5.5 EV below what metering their ambient would want. So here, Spot simply forces TTL mode. Normally, TTL is a little brighter flash than TTL BL mode (not held back by balancing with ambient or D-lens).
SB-800: TTL mode, f/11, Spot metering, which switches TTL BL menu to be actual TTL mode.
Spot metering is often misunderstood by novices. Spot is only about the metered ambient, but it does NOT make the spot be correct exposure. It only makes the spot be equivalent of a middle gray tone, which may or may not be what you want (probably is not correct for faces, not without knowledgeable +1 EV compensation). Typically indoors, the 1/60 second Minimum Shutter Speed With Flash prevents properly exposing the weaker ambient. But Spot is only about ambient (and this is camera M mode which cannot respond), and flash does not use the Spot metering (flash has its own system). But Spot does convert TTL BL to be TTL mode.
YN565EX: TTL mode (actual TTL BL), f/11, Matrix again, with +1 EV flash compensation, which is routinely often better flash exposure for TTL BL flash indoors.
Obviously if f/13 is maximum manual power, we cannot expect +1 EV at f/11. But TTL BL is not quite doing maximum power at f/13 (so we can, and often should). TTL BL exposure is affected by ambient level, and is routinely down a little, much of the time.
My +1 EV compensation may be 1/3 EV too much this time, the D-lens is not holding it back, and the yellow roses slightly started to clip. Slight clipping is not always bad, it depends on what is clipping, and how much (if it is important or not). Adobe stuff shows "what" and "how much" by holding the PC Alt key while moving Exposure or White Point.
SB-800: TTL BL menu mode, f/11, Matrix again, with +1 EV flash compensation.
Exif reports Nikon 24-70 mm D-lens distance was 2.0 meters at 24 mm. However, the actual measured distance is 3.05 meters, half again more. Matrix sees the sunny ambient outdoors, and the white roof is clipping. So there are a few things happening, and in general, near +1 EV flash compensation routinely does help TTL BL indoors.
This need is not due to any flash unit, this just happens in the Nikon TTL BL system. There are multiple reasons. A little compensation works wonders. Simply do what you see you need to do, to get what you want.
YN565EX: Bounce flash, f/5.6, 90 degrees up at ten foot ceiling, using pull out bounce card. TTL, +1 EV Flash Compensation (because it is TTL BL). f/5.6 blows out the sunlight outside (I could have increased shutter speed, because Matrix does not like that), but now it will require +2/3 stops more flash to start clipping the flowers. This compensation is in no way unusual for TTL BL, for any flash. TTL BL reduces the flash level according to the ambient it sees (which is quite bright here). Just use Flash Compensation, and simply do what you see you need to do, to get what you want.
In this bounce case, Photoshop ACR white balance on the white card (in window) was 4900K -14 tint.
SB-800: Bounce flash, f/5.6, ten foot ceiling. pullout bounce card. TTL BL menu mode, +1 EV Flash Compensation.
SB-800 has menu to select TTL mode, which I would normally use indoors. But a bit of +EV flash compensation does the same thing. We have to watch both modes, so it is merely a matter of degree.
Photoshop ACR white balance on the white card was 4750K -8 tint.
YN565EX: A crop of same Youngnuo frame just above.
The pullout bounce card is plenty large enough. If you are bouncing, don't play he-man and imagine you need some heroic size super-card - which then simply obliterates the bounce, and all you get then is direct flash. We can learn to simply look at results and then fix it.
Nikon AWL with two remote wireless TTL flashes. It works. D300 Commander, f/11, 1/160 second, ISO 200. Point&Shoot TTL, except +1 EV Flash Compensation (affects both flashes, Commander routinely needs it, and certainly all this white in the scene needs it too).
The Yongnuo YN565EX is wireless remote group B on camera right (SL slave mode). Nikon SB-800 is wireless remote group A on left. Both are zoomed to 24 mm in white reflected 45 inch umbrellas (at full shaft length). FYI, these three pictures were edited slightly (only these) to move the black level down (blacker blacks, more contrast).
Bare wall at 3.5 feet (FX view is 9 feet wide at 14 mm, 5.2 feet wide at 24 mm). D800 FX 14-24 mm lens, f/11, TTL.
YN565EX - 14 mm FX lens, 24 mm flash coverage
SB-800 - 14 mm FX lens, 24 mm flash coverage
YN565EX - Head aimed down 7 degrees (at 3.5 feet)
24 mm FX lens, 24 mm flash coverage (WB 6450K -3 Tint)
(these are DX 16 mm equivalent, DX 24 mm would be 2/3 this wide)
SB-800 - Head aimed down 7 degrees (at 3.5 feet)
24 mm FX lens, 24 mm flash coverage (WB 6350K -2 Tint)
Note: the marked focal length of lens applies at infinity. Focal length is probably different at 3.5 feet, so this is Not good evidence that the flash does not fully cover 24 mm.
YN565EX 14 mm lens with 14 mm wide angle diffuser pulled down.
I guess flare at 14 mm is from close bright reflection, sorry.
SB-800,14 mm lens with 17 mm wide angle diffuser pulled down.
(17 mm should be 7.4 feet wide here, picture is 9 feet)
See a report on the ability of third party flashes (non-Nikon brand flashes) to ignore bad effects of D-lens distance on flash on hot shoe cords, and/or from the many zoom lenses reporting inaccurate D-lens distance.