Yongnuo are a Chinese brand which have been producing cheap flash equipment for DSLR’s for a number of years now. Their popularity have grown immensely as their prices are often a fraction of what the original manufacturer’s are charging. But are the flashes any good? This is a debate often found on the Internet forums as both amateurs & professionals are trying to decide what flash is best for them. We all have budgets and is it worth paying that much more for the brand name.
So I’ve decided today to write this review on two of the flash heads I own. Both currently as I type the top of the range for each manufacturer. The Yongnuo 568EX and the Nikon SB910.
Well at first glance they look very very similar. They’re both quite big units and roughly the same size. The Nikon is slightly longer and made in Japan whereas the Yongnuo is unsurprisingly made in China. Now whether or not that makes a difference to you I don’t know. But both seem very well built and neither feel like they would fall apart in my hands after a bit of use. The Nikon does have the locking lever at the bottom which makes it a lot easier to secure on the camera’s hotshoe whereas the Yongnuo’s using the more traditional locking ring where you have to turn it until it’s locked.
In terms of features both are very well equipped. Both include all the features you’d expect from a top of the range flash including HSS, TTL, zoomable head and and sync port. The YN-568EX has a zoomable head from 24-105 whereas the SB910 will go from 17-200. In addition, the Nikon flash also includes a front charging port so you can connect an external battery pack and can be used as a master controller. Unfortunately the Nikon version of the Yongnuo flash cannot be used as a master controller.
Now unfortunately I don’t have a light meter so I can’t compare the power of each flash. The official GN number for the Nikon at 35mm at ISO 100 is GN34 and for the Yongnuo it is GN39. However we all know that we should take these figures with a pinch of salt. It’s a bit like car manufacturer’s MPG figures. In reality I’ve used both at plenty of weddings and haven’t been left wanting more power from either flash. What I mean is that in the real world they’re powerful enough. Well, until you start moving into strobist stuff then you’re in a whole different world anyway.
Front of Nikon SB910 and Yongnuo 568Both flash heads move 270 degrees but on the Nikon you have to press the button at one side of the flash otherwise the head is ‘locked’ into the last position you put it in. That annoys me a bit since if I am under time pressure, moving the head quickly is a good feature and I find the lock mechanism frustrating. That said I do know some photographers prefer it instead of the way the Yongnuo can freely be positioned.
The wide angle diffuser and white card is quite difficult to pull out on the YN568 but thanks to the protuding plastic head on the SB910, that’s really easy to pull out. Again, it may only be seconds but when you are shooting weddings, sometimes every second can count. Plus if you are a professional wedding photographer, it doesn’t look good when you are faffing around with your equipment.
This is quite important to most photographers. Especially at weddings when a quick recycle time will often mean the difference between getting that shot or not. Well the Nikon has the slight advantage of being able to have an external battery pack plugged in like the Nikon SD-9. This would bring the recycle down to around 1-2 seconds. Now Nikon claim that it takes 2.3 seconds to recharge from a full power flash using NiMH batteries. Yongnuo say 3 seconds. But again, I have to warn that these stats shouldn’t be taken as gospel just like you shouldn’t take the guide numbers as the absolute truth. The best way to know is to test them yourself….so I did.
Below is a YouTube video I created showing the difference in recycle speeds. To keep things fair I used freshly charged Sanyo Eneloops in both flashes. Both were set to M 1/1 power at 50mm zoom then fired using my wireless triggers (YN-622N). You can see for yourself and draw your own conclusions as to which is faster and if the difference in speed is an issue for you.
Well this bit is obviously my own personal opinion and I know there are many people who will instantly discount the Yongnuo flash simply because it is not made by Nikon (or Canon if you are a Canon shooter). Some will say that Yongnuo flashes won’t be as reliable and to be fair one of my 565’s did break down last year which took Yongnuo about 4 months to replace! The Nikon definitely has the better feature set and I’d argue the faster recycle time. So slam dunk eh? Nikon’s the winner! Hurrah! Well……not really.
You see….the SB-910 costs £319 new (amazon.co.uk) whereas the 568EX costs £65 (amazon.co.uk). So is the SB910 5x better than the Yongnuo? Absolutely not. That price differential is incredibly tough to ignore.
Sure, the SB910 is a tiny bit faster to recharge from a full power flash but other than that what do you lose? Master commander mode I guess. How many people use that? Hardly anyone.
Another thing to consider, especially if you are a wedding photographer like myself then you need to consider backups and spares. Dropping and smashing a £319 speedlight is going to put you in a very bad mood. A £65 one? Annoying but you’ll shrug it off and carry on.
If money is no object, get the Nikon. However if like the rest of us you want to make sure you get the best that you can afford then the Yongnuo 568 is tough to ignore.
Since writing this blog post, I’ve since replaced my Yongnuo flash with another flash I think is better. Click here to find out which and why!