I recently managed to sell some of my old computer books that I felt I would never read again and the money I got turned out to be almost exactly the amount I needed for a new toy, or two new toys, to be precise.
I’m talking about two YN560 flashes. I haven’t had much time to play with them yet but I still thought I should give you my first impressions. This won’t be a proper review (there are much better places for that), what it will be is my honest opinion of this flash, based on a first look and a couple of photo opportunities. If my opinion is something that you value, this might be of interest to you, and if it’s not, well, then you can just ignore this.
Fair warning: this will be a long post so if you want the final verdict or a discussion of the photo to the left, scroll down after cons and read from there.
So, why the YN560 instead of LP160, of which I already have two? The answer to the query is of monetary nature, they’re simply a lot cheaper. You buy these from eBay and they’re shipped directly from china, cutting out the middle man. The shipping is free as well. Granted, it’s not very fast (though it didn’t take more than two weeks) but you really can’t argue with that price. If I take into account the price of the flashes, the shipping and customs fee – the latter being something I would have to pay when I order the LP160 but didn’t have to pay for the YN560 – I could basically get three YN560s for the price of one LP160, so yes, I thought it was worth giving them a try.
Let me tell you, I’m very glad I did give them a try. They give a very good first impression and they feel like something that could easily cost twice as much. As far as pure performance goes I can’t really comment, I don’t think I’m an advanced enough user to notice any real difference in that department. However, I’m going to give you a few pros and cons, based mostly on the usability of them. Hopefully this will help those of you trying to decide which flash to get if you’re just starting out. One thing to keep in mind is that both of these flashes are completely manual, there’s none of that TTL wizardry, it drives up the price and it’s not something that I need, your needs may be different. Lets get started:
- More dedicated controls. The LP160 only has one button to change zoom and one to change power. This means that if you want to go back one step you have to cycle through all the options instead of just pressing back once. The YN560 has extra buttons for this, which makes changing settings faster.
- Brighter LEDs. The LED’s on the YN560 are brighter and for me that’s a good thing. The reason it’s good is that I often have my flashes fairly high on light stands and I can’t always see the indicators very clearly. If they’re brighter they’ll be easier to read and I won’t have to bring the flash down to see what I’m doing.
- Small power increments. The normal buttons increases or decreases power by one full stop but the YN560 has two additional buttons (up and down) that moves the power in 1/8 (I think) increments. This extra control can come in handy if you want to make small adjustments to the light ratios.
- 1/128th power. Perhaps not something that will be used very often but the fact that you can go all the way down to 1/128th of the power is a plus. The LP160 only goes down to 1/64.
- The lock wheel is bigger. Very minor but I feel that the wheel you spin to lock the flash in place in the hotshoe is easier to get a grip on with the YN560.
- Update: I would like to add one more item here that slipped my mind at the time of writing. The YN560 saves the last settings you used, which is something the LP160 does not. This can be useful if you do some test shots ahead of time and the turn of your flash to conserve battery.
- Only one year warranty. The YN560 has one year warranty while the LP160 has two years. This may be a deal breaker for you or maybe you don’t care at all. Either way it’s worth mentioning.
- Harder to read the settings. This might seem contrary to the LEDs being brighter but the reason I say that the settings are harder to read is that the same LEDs are used to display both the zoom and power levels. If you press a zoom button it will switch to zoom, if you press a power button it will switch to display power. There also aren’t any numbers to indicate what power level the LEDs are representing so you have to count for yourself. To me it’s not a big issue but I can see how some people might find this annoying.
- Less rigid flash head. Don’t get me wrong, the flash head certainly isn’t loose, in fact the way it turns feels really nice, but it won’t support as much weight as the LP160. I haven’t tried it yet but if I attached my softbox to the YN560 I don’t think the head would stay in place.
- Less sync options. This is actually one of the main reasons I got the LP160 as my first flash, it can be synced via a miniphone cord, which is both cheap and reliable. The YN560 doesn’t have that option so unless you’re triggering it through the optical slave, you would have to use a pc cord.
There you have it, my first impressions. With all that being said, I can say this: I would not hesitate to recommend this flash to anyone who’s looking for a cheap and very capable, all manual flash. When this flash first came out there were a lot of reports of poor quality control but they seem to have corrected most of the issues with the second version of the flash (the one I got), so although it’s something you should be aware of, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. The ones I got were in perfect condition and time will tell if they continue to be reliable. Besides, if one of them should break, they’re almost cheap enough for me to get two new ones instead.
This has turned into a rather long post but I still want to discuss the photo at the top before I let you go, so stay with me a while longer. With two new flashes, of course I had to take my own product shots. The first shot is one I’m very happy with, it looks appropriately techy and professional. I used three flashes in the setup, two LP160s and one of the new YN560s. First we have a snooted LP160 from camera right, coming in from behind to provide the rim light you see at the top edge. Next we have another LP160 from camera right in softbox, feathered a bit so the side of the flash only gets the edge of the light. Some of this light also spills onto the table to provide that nice patch of light there. I actually hand held this one so I had to do some contortion to get everything in the right position. Finally we have a YN560 that is bounced off an aluminium foil reflector. I wish I had a better reflector because, as you can see on the display of the flash, the light here isn’t a smooth as I would have liked. Still, I’m very happy with this, especially since product shots isn’t exactly my speciality.
To prove that last point, have a look at the second shot. I used the exact same setup and just turned the flash around – it doesn’t really work. What I should have done here would have been to move the snooted LP160 from camera right to left. That would have gotten rid of the light at the top and would have given us a nice rim light from the other side instead. That would have brought out all the shapes a lot better. You really have to pay attention and not assume that the same setup will work for everything.
There, all done, you’re free to go.