Yongnuo are one of a growing group of low-cost photography equipment manufacturers whose reputation is improving by the day. Alongside Neewer and Godox, Yongnuo entered the speedlight market several years ago, and their off-brand Canon/Nikon copies are really surprisingly sophisticated!
The Yongnuo 568EX III is, for the money, an amazing piece of kit. As with any budget kit, there are drawbacks. But if you have $100 in your pocket, not the $600 you would need for a Canon 600EX-RT, then you could do a whole lot worse than Yongnuo.
I went out and got myself a YN568EX III out of pure curiosity. I use speedlights a LOT. Like, on every shoot. And I shoot probably 4 out of 7 days of the week. I use speedlights so much that I buy AA batteries in batches of 400. And that won’t last me more than a couple months.
I am now the proud owner of no less than 15 speedlights – 14 Canons and (now) 1 Yongnuo. The next purchase will be a Godox, to see how they match up. And then maybe one of the Neewers after that.
Why I need 15 speedlights…
I like having a range of speedlights available to me, I don’t want 15 of the same model. I want to be able to assign speedlights to do different jobs, depending on what I need from them. For example, on a multi-person portrait shoot I will often use two or three of my four Canon 580EX II units as my key lights. I’ll link them up in a big 7ft parabolic umbrella. Because they are big and powerful I can keep the power low, meaning they recycle quickly and batteries last.
I’ve been racking my brain trying to work out where the Yongnuo fits into the stable. And despite all its, really quite surprising, qualities, it doesn’t quite fit into the existing wolfpack. It is a different breed. And whilst it does really well at some jobs (especially at being cheap) it doesn’t quite play well with others.
Here are my thoughts on using the Yongnuo YN568EX III…
The good things about the YN568EX III
- It’s cheap– the price is great. And it makes you wonder how Canon and Nikon can continue to charge the prices that they charge when you can get 95% of the quality for 30% of the price.
- It does everything it needs to do – it is a functioning flash unit, you click the shutter button, it fires, it talks to your Canon camera to give you 100% e-TTL functionality. Functionally, there is no difference between this flash unit and the top of the range Canon units (the 600-RT has an in-built radio trigger, but otherwise they offer the same things.)
- It’s better than the equivalent Canon that you could buy usedfor the same price.
- It has High Speed Sync– this is actually quite a big deal. Canon flash units have only been doing this for a few years, and at some cost. So for Yongnuo to have crowbarred this in here, really deserves some applause (I’ll talk more about this later, see below).
- It has a big, pretty LCD screen– again, right up until the 580EX II the Canon units were still putting out a screen that looked like a 1980s Casio watch, and wasn’t much bigger. The YN568EX III screen is big, well lit, easy to read, and looks great.
The bad things about the Yongnuo YN568EX III
- It’s not that powerful– once again putting it side by side with my array of Canon unitsand in practical tests I felt it was on par the 430EX II, rather than up there with the 580EX II, where it should be. I tried using it to overpower the sun on some close ups and even at full whack it was struggling. Neither the 580EX I or the 580EX II struggle with that, and the 580EX II is 11 years old!
- Battery life isn’t great– following on from above, while I was using the Yongnuo cranked up to 1/1 it really gets through those batteries. I have always wanted to do side-by-side tests with all my flash units on manual, popping them at 1/1 until they die, see exactly how many pops you get per battery change… but it would be super tedious. Maybe I’ll get around to it one day! But for now, the Yongnuo doesn’t fare well in battery life tests.
- It seems to have a slight color cast– I’m pretty sure I was getting a yellow-ish hue to my images. I have to offer a caveat here that I didn’t use the Yongnuo in isolation, I only used it as fill flash and for some creative stuff. But in post I was having to dial down the yellows on every shot. It’s a consistent color cast, but a cast nonetheless, and one which isn’t present in Canon units.
I think that’s about it. So, definitely more good points than bad! And if we take the standard BudgetProPhoto ethos, where we look at the bad points and decide if we can work around them, then you’re in pretty good shape with this flash.
Where I don’t like it so much is that color cast – that makes me nervous about using it alongside my existing stable of Canon units. There is nothing worse than getting your photos into the edit and battling with mixed color temperatures. I have never won that battle yet, any photo where you’re trying to get decent skin tones from mixed light, always ends up a little disappointing.
But, now we’ve got what I don’t like out of the way, let’s talk about what I do like!
Three words for ya…
High Speed Sync
I have a confession to make… until a few days ago I thought high speed sync was totally unnecessary. I was often to be found telling people how you just don’t need it, you can use the flash power up power down cycle to freeze action, what do you need HSS for?? (check out one of my articles on it here)
I am converted.
The potential applications of high speed sync are not new to me, I knew it meant you could use high shutter speeds and therefore open up that iris even in sunny conditions. I knew all that, but I also knew that I could achieve those things via other routes – for example using a reflector on a sunny day, instead of fill flash.
But what I didn’t really appreciate was that I could just leave the flash on and kinda go about my business, with the flash still there all the time.
Reflectors or fill flash?
Reflectors, as any of you who have tried to use one will know, are not all that easy to manage by yourself. You can get stands that hold the reflector in place and allow you to angle it toward your subject, but they don’t offer any flexibility. And attempting to hold a large heavy camera in one hand and manipulate a reflector in the other is fairly futile. I’ve done it, you can get away with it, but it’s hard work, and you look like a bit of a fool as you do it!
So here’s where HSS comes in – you switch on HSS, and then you forget all about it. You let it run and whatever you change your camera settings to, your flash is still right there behind you saying “no problem, I can do that”.
I was able to leave that flash on all afternoon as I snapped away with my kids. I was regularly turning it to bounce of different surfaces, and getting some nice effects. And I never once had to worry about how high the shutter speed was creeping.
It was refreshing and liberating. And it meant I started using the speedlight in a whole different way to what I would usually do.
Low power and poor battery life
It was that afternoon of revelation about HSS that also brought up the power issue, and consequently the battery life issue.
The two are intrinsically linked, because trying to get the right power flash for the shots I was taking meant cranking it up, and that in turn meant that the batteries were doomed from the outset.
Here’s a scenario for you – I was inside, with a late afternoon sun outside, not shining straight at the window, but out there. I was photographing the girls with the window behind them, and using the Yongnuo YN568EX III, bounced off a magnolia wall maybe four feet away, as a softened, angled fill light.
I’ve done the same on the Canon 580EX-II and been on about 1/8, or maybe creeping toward 1/4 if the wall was a bit farther away.
Same set up with the Yongnuo and I was never below 1/2. Most of the time I was on 1/1.
It’s that low power, and consequent over-cranking that meant I got through two complete battery changes in an afternoon.
Why the YN568EX III doesn’t fit into my collection of speedlights…
There are two big factors in my basically deciding that, while I AM keeping the Yongnuo, it’s not going to get into the main lighting boxes that come with me on shoots.
The first big factor is that color cast… I can’t have one of my lights putting out a slightly different color to all the rest.
The second factor is power. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get enough power out of it to keep up with the other speedlights I’m using. If I can avoid it I would rather not be running it at 1/1 all the time, because I’ll spend the whole day changing that damn batteries.
I don’t want an 8 light set up where 7 of the lights are running at between 1/4 and 1/2, and just one light in the middle of the pack is running at 1/1.
It’s also worth noting that my favorite thing about the YN568EX III is the high speed sync. And unless you have clever off-camera triggers that will also do HSS, that will only work on-camera. I do not have clever off-camera triggers that do HSS, so I can’t use it off camera. And when I’m shooting multi-speedlight set ups, I shoot all off-camera. I don’t use master-slave configurations.
So the Yongnuo is only of any real use to me on-camera and when being used as a lone unit. But that’s ok! I will keep it and I will use it for that. I’m pretty happy with some of the results from my day of testing. What do you think? Let me know.
All the best, the BudgetProPhoto team. X