Best Bang for Buck Inexpensive Manual Flashes

What’s the best inexpensive manual off camera flash at the moment? I hope to compare these in greater detail at some point, but I get this question quite often, and the answer is really pretty straight forward –

 

YongNuo YN-560 II – $60

Currently at around $60 Amazon Fulfilled the YN-560 II can’t really be beaten for the best bang for buck manual flash currently available. The later YN-560 III below is worth the extra $20, but if we’re looking at the lowest price flash which still offers the works, the YN-560 II is hard to beat. There are decent cheaper options too, but at around $60 the YN-560 II is definitely in the sweet spot at the moment.

The YN-560 II is virtually a full power flash, just a few 10ths of a stop under the top end Canon/Nikon TTL flashes, with fast 3 second full power recycle. It has an external HV battery port so you can add an inexpensive battery pack like the YongNuo SF-18, or better Pixel TD-381, to bring full power recycle down to a second, and fire all day. Full power adjustment down to 1/128th in third stop adjustments. PC sync port for attaching radio triggers or sync cord to the camera. Power zoom from 24 to 105mm. And a nice clear LCD screen.

Built in S1 and S2 optic slave mode, so you can trigger the YN-560 II with the on-board flash from virtually any camera, even if that is TTL only.

YN-560 II

YongNuo YN-560 III – $80

The YN-560 III is currently around $80 Amazon Fulfilled. $20 more than the YN-560 II, but if you can afford the extra, or intended to spend a little extra on radio trigger later anyway, the 560 III is even better value as it has an RF-602 and RF-603 compatible radio receiver already built in. Most receivers cost at least $20 anyway, and this saves a lot of extra hassles with extra gear and extra batteries.

Otherwise the YN-560 III is pretty much the same as the YN-560 II above. One very big possible bonus down the track though, is a fairly high possibility there will be a new transmitter that will allow remote manual power level control with this flash. There is nothing official on this yet, but all the signs are there.

So the YN-560 III is not the lowest price flash alone, but it is the best bang for buck once if you start factoring in radio triggers as well. See the full YN-560 III review here.

 

Lower Priced Options

 

There are still decent option bellow the YN-560 II, though the lower prices mean compromises in features and build quality. So its really a matter of which compromises suit you better. And they are fairly big compromises for relatively small savings.

 

Godox/Neewer TT660 – $53

Currently around $53 Amazon Fulfilled, the main compromise compared with the YN-560 II is one stop less power, and no 1/3rd stop power adjustments. Slower 5 second recycle vs 3 seconds. No LCD screen, and built quality is not quite as nice. You still get full power zoom and external HV battery port, as well as PC sync port.

  • 1 stop less power
  • No 1/3rd stop power adjustments
  • Slower 5 second recycle Vs 3 seconds
  • No LCD screen

 

YongNuo YN-460II  – $53

Currently around $53 Amazon Fulfilled, the YN-460II is equal in power to the YN-560 II (which is surprising for such a small flash unit) but it looses other major features. Zoom is fixed at 35mm, no external HV battery port, no PC sync port. No LCD screen, and the interface is a bit dated with rubber buttons. Note – the YN-460 MK I is one stop less power, so the MK II has the big power advantage.

  • No Zoom – fixed at 35mm
  • No HV external battery port
  • No PC sync port
  • No LCD Screen

 

Godox/Neewer TT560 -$39

Currently around $39 Amazon Fulfilled the TT560 does save a few dollars over the YN-560 II, but it still comes at a good 1.5 + stops of power loss. Fixed 35mm zoom and no external HV battery port, or fine power adjustments. There is a TT520 version as well but its another 0.5 stops less power and only a few dollar less.

  • 1.5 + stops less power
  • No Zoom – fixed at 35mm
  • No HV external battery port
  • Plastic foot
  • No LCD Screen

 

The YN-560 II and YN-560 III have the best build quality, and its really very impressive for the price. But you still have to be careful as quality control varies, and if you buy from China it can cost more than its worth in postage to return the flash if there are any issues. Even the official YongNuo Ebay store requires you to pay postage both ways. Then it can take weeks to months just to get back in business.

Amazon on the other hand ship fast with free local shipping, and you have 30 days no hassle fast exchange if there are any issues. So Amazon provides a very reasonable option to purchase these flashes at bargain prices without the risk or hassle.

 

Higher Quality options

 

A number of people have asked what are the best options, if minimum price is not such a priority.

Well there aren’t many purely manual speedlite options, in fact the soon coming Lumopro LP-180 will be just about the only one. Expected somewhere under the $200 mark, and to be released later this month.

From there its mainly the TTL capable options, which will off course work fine in manual as well, provided they do have full manual adjustments. The new Phottix Mitros, $299 at ADORAMA and Amazon, is likely the nicest current option there. That’s a full power flash for the price of the lower power Canon/Nikon versions (430EX II/SB-700).

Not quite a regular speedlite, but the Cheetah Light CL-180 would be the next step up in manual flashes. Around the power of 2 speedlites, but with bare bulb head, remote manual power control, and even FP HSS with an appropriate transmitter. Around $650 with lithium battery pack.

 

The Lumopro 180, Phottix Mitros, and CL-180 all have the more reliable 3.5mm miniphone sync socket for connecting manual radio triggers like Pocketwizard Plus X etc. In fact they are currently pretty much the only hotshoe flash units with the 3.5mm miniphone sync port, which goes to show there heritage with manual off camera flash use in mind.

2 Comments
  1. Kris 4 years ago

    Sweet spot, I think, rather than sweat spot. 🙂

    • Author
      Flash Havoc 4 years ago

      lol…Thanks Kris, you don’t want a sweaty flash!

      Fixed that (and updated the Prices too). Thanks

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