The new Meyin RF-604 flash trigger by Rikon are another inexpensive 2.4Ghz trigger, but with a few unique features. And of particular interest at the moment, the ability to act as an alternative transmitter option to the very popular new YN-560 III manual flash unit with radio receiver built in.
- 2.4Ghz with 100+ metre range
- Transceivers (Tx and Rx are the same, so you have back up transmitters)
- Group feature – 3 groups with fast individual buttons
- Pass through TTL hotshoe (allows a full TTL flash to be used on camera)
- Remote shutter release function
- Standard AAA batteries
- Standard 3.5mm miniphone sync port (our favorite type)
- Auto channel matching – allows an infinite number of channels
- Flash wake up feature
- Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus/Panasonic version available
- Inexpensive – around $20 each or $35 a pair
The short version
RF-604 as Flash Triggers in General
There are so many just half decent manual radio triggers available now I’m reluctant to add more to the list of good options, unless they really get all the basics right or have something special to add. The Meyin RF-604 are of particular interest at the moment anyway due to their RF-602 (and therefore YN-560 III) compatibility. As general triggers though they also have some very good and unique features for the price. Though at the same time still not quite getting all the basics right either.
The RF-604’s strong points, as triggers in general, are that they do get most things right (see the feature list above). But the main unique advantages are the RF-602 compatible mode, and (for a trigger of this price) the grouping feature, which has fast individual group switches conveniently located on the back face of the unit (similar to the higher priced Phottix Strato II). Also a a clever auto channel matching feature, which ensures you will never be on the same channel as another RF-604 user (unless you want to be).
The RF-604 have 2 main issue though. The first being the locking rings are tiny, which is mostly an issue when trying to use the pass through hotshoe. And the other thing is the RF-604 are simply not made solid enough to support a full sized flash on top of their pass through hotshoe anyway. The pass through is still of value though, as discussed further down. Other more minor factors are the low 60 volt safe trigger voltage (instead of 300 volts most triggers accommodate now), and a reasonable, but not super fast sync speed.
So if you’re just looking for some good inexpensive manual speedlite triggers, the Meyin RF-604 offer a decent option, particularly if the grouping function is important to you. Though mainly at the expense of a good pass through hotshoe. (Advantages with RF-602 compatible use are discussed below).
A good similarly priced alternative with a fairly solid pass through hotshoe (but without the group feature) are the Commlite T320. If you want to have your cake and eat it too, its worth paying the extra and going straight to the Phottix Strato II, which where really designed right, and a couple of years ago now.
The Meyin RF-604 are better than the popular but ageing YongNuo RF-602 and RF-603 triggers in almost every way.
RF-604 as RF-602 Compatible Transmitter – also for the YN-560 III
The Meyin RF-604 have an RF-602 compatible mode, allowing the 2 different trigger systems to have some compatibility together.
Though there are some significant limitations when using the RF-602 mode with the RF-604 –
- RF-602 mode only works as a transmitter (so any receivers still need to be RF-602)
- RF-602 mode only works on one channel (channel 16 on the RF-602 receiver)
- RF-602 mode disables the group feature on the RF-604 (which is one of its nicest features)
So this means when using the RF-604 as a transmitter, all receivers still need to be RF-602 receivers (or YN-560 III flash units with receiver built in).
Currently the main interest in RF-602 compatibility is due to the very popular YN-560 III manual flash with RF-602/3 receiver built in.
The Meyin RF-604 are a better trigger than both the RF-602 and RF-603, so they do provided a better transmitter option for the YN-560 III as well.
Having said that, the basic RF-602 transmitter generally still does the job ok. The main reason the RF-604 transmitter would be an advantage is if you need the pass through hotshoe either for
- also mounting a flash on-camera, or
- also mounting another manual radio transmitter on top
The reason people may want to mount another transmitter unit on top (as seen here), is so they can fire their existing radio triggers and lights, as well as add some YN-560 III flashes into the mix (using their built in RF-602 receivers).
If the second transmitter also has a pass through hotshoe then the RF-604 transmitter is not desperately needed, as the RF-602 transmitter can be mounted on top of the other transmitter instead (as seen here).
Apart from the pass through hotshoe, the other smaller advantages over an RF-602 transmitter, are the standard AAA batteries, and a locking ring and pin, which the RF-602 doesn’t have. But neither of those are generally much of an issue when using the RF-602 transmitter either.
Advantage to the RF-602 is the ability to change to another channel (RF-604 only allows channel 16) so that you won’t interfere with other photographers.
I would avoid the RF-603 as a transmitter choice to the YN-560 III unless you already own RF-603 triggers. That’s mainly because they have slower sync speeds, more compatibility issues with non dedicated cameras, and they won’t test fire the flashes when off the camera hotshoe.
Although the RF-604 generally have faster sync speeds, there is no advantage in sync speed from the RF-602 to the RF-604 transmitter when used with the YN-560 III flashes built in receiver. You can see more detail on transmitter options for the YN-560 III in the full review here.
RF-604 In More Detail
The RF-604 are transceivers, meaning the transmitter and receiver are exactly the same units. They are not self switching though, meaning you simply manually select whether the unit is to be a transmitter (on the camera), or a receiver (connected to the flash), via a switch on the side of trigger.
The third position on the switch is “for 602”, and this mode allows the Meyin RF-604 to act as a transmitter compatible with the very popular YongNuo RF-602 radio trigger receivers.
The other side of the trigger only has an ON – OFF switch, and a sync port to connect to flashes via a sync cord. Major points here to Rikon for using a standard 3.5mm miniphone socket (which we really wish was standard everywhere) instead of an outdated and unreliable PC sync style socket.
At the back of the trigger the RF-604 have a good group feature, which simple allows you to turn flashes, or groups of flashes, on and off from the camera. This is very handy when setting up and possibly metering lights, so you can evaluate the each light separately, and then all together for the combined effect. Also for simply turning on and off lights mounted in places that are not easy to access.
There are separate switches for each of the 3 groups, and bright red LED lights indicate which groups are currently switched on.
The is clearly modeled after the Phottix Strato II, which also has an extra 4th group. Up until the Strato II most triggers used a tedious scrolling method of selecting a combination of groups to turn on and off. So these seperate buttons for each group are a big improvement.
While we are looking at the Phottix Stratto II, note the huge difference in the size of the locking rings. The Strato II have one of the neatest fitting hotshoes and feet, so they are one of the best options for using a flash on camera via the pass through hotshoe. But the decent size locking ring also helps lock the trigger down to the camera hotshoe without movement. The toy like locking ring on the RF-604 makes it hard to lock down tight, but also its not as easy to access when mounting and removing either.
And the reason Rikon can’t simply add a larger locking ring now is because the trigger case needs to be designed properly to accommodate one. If you look at the Stratto case bellow, you can see that the whole case is actually longer. This allows the larger locking ring to fit without overlapping the battery compartment. Which is important otherwise the batteries would be hard to get in and out and the door would be difficult to open.
I don’t mean to be picking on the RF-604 considering the two triggers are in a different price range, but this just illustrates how the Strato II are designed properly. And it wouldn’t have added to the RF-604 price to make the same considerations here. Also note the RF-604 foot is not attached square to the case, which is also typical of a number or the lower end triggers.
Nevertheless, if you disregard the pass through hotshoe function, the RF-604 locks onto the camera hotshoe ok in general, and there is a safety locking pin as seen on the foot above.
Something I have not seen before though on the metal foot is a small lug stopping the trigger from mounting too deep into the camera hotshoe, but also stopping you from attaching the trigger backwards in the hotshoe. I’m guessing the later is likely its intended purpose.
No great issues here, the battery door cover is relatively light duty but snaps in place fine. The AAA batteries locate inside without any issues that I noticed.
Auto Channel Matching
One unique feature of the Meyin RF-604 is the lack of any channel switch or dip switches anywhere on the units. This is because the RF-604 have a unique auto channel matching function, which effectively provides an endless amount of different channels, selected completely at random. So its virtually impossible to accidentally be on the same channel as another photographer nearby.
That is provided you do actually bother to enable the channel matching and pair the units. Otherwise all the RF-604 come from the factory in the same universal channel mode, so its guaranteed they will fire (or interfere with) any other RF-604 units that haven’t been taken off the universal channel yet either.
Speaking to Rikon they were very proud of this feature. And I do see that its pretty smart that you are almost guaranteed not to be on the same channel as anyone else. But at the same time, for most people, experiencing conflicting channels with anyone else is a pretty rare experience, and this auto channel now means there is only one channel available in RF-602 mode, which actually creates a possible significant issue. So Rikon have to some degree solved a problem that wasn’t there only to create another one. Nevertheless this is an interesting feature.
I tested the range directly side by side comparing F-602 and RF-604 transmitter and receiver sets, as well as comparing RF-604 and RF-602 transmitters, using the RF-602 as receiver, and YN-560 III flash with built in receiver.
The RF-604 where virtually the same as the RF-602. Both reached over 100 metres line of sight. And if anything the YN-560 III worked just as well as a receiver, if not better (with either transmitter). But I also placed the transmitter behind my back to see how they fair with an obstruction in the way, as this usually shows up the real difference between triggers pretty quickly. But again they were both around the same, at approximately 50 metres. (This behind the back test cuts the YN-622C TTL triggers range down to around 15 meters in comparison).
As with most reasonable quality 2.4GHz triggers now, there is no sign of any misfires or random fires.
Sync Speed / Latency
They way I compare the speed or latency of the radio triggers, is to simply push the camera past its X-sync shutter speed and compare how much shutter is showing in the frame (as a black stip along the bottom). The slower the triggers are the more shutter will show.
The Meyin RF-604, used as both transmitter and receiver set, where mid way between the RF-602 and other very fast triggers like the Commlite T320. This means the RF-604 are not particularly fast, but they have enough buffer to ensure you should always get a clean frame at X-sync, at least using a 1/250th X-sync camera (the Canon 5D series often won’t reach 1/200th with the fastest triggers). While the RF-602 can start showing shutter in the frame at 1/250th X-sync sometimes.
Interestingly, using the Meyin RF-604 as transmitter, and the YN-560 III flash as receiver, there is no advantage over using the RF-602 transmitter. So the RF-602 receiver inside the YN-560 III is the weakest link there. As above you can expect shutter may creep into the frame at X-sync sometimes with this combination as well then.
Pass Through Hotshoe
They Meyin RF-604 have a full TTL pass through hotshoe, allowing a TTL flash to be used on camera (in TTL) while firing other flashes with radio receivers in manual as well.
Unfortunately though the the RF-604 case feels a bit flexy with a full size flash mounted on top. I think you would have to be pretty careful using a full size flash on top like that at all. Mounting the YN-500EX (very similar in size to a Canon 430EX II) certainly felt a lot better though and I can see a smaller flash could be feasible. But you would still need to be quite thoughtful about tilting and swiveling the flash head without putting to much stress on the trigger.
The pass through hotshoe can also be very handy for mounting an extra radio transmitter or a TTL cord on top, and these don’t put any weight or stress on the hotshoe. So the TTL pass through is still a valuable feature.
Shutter Release –
The RF-604 also has a remote shutter release function, though the cord required must be purchased as an optional accessory.
Even though the RF-604 are transceivers they still require a separate set of Tx and Rx to release the camera shutter, and another complete set of Tx and Rx (set to a different channel) to fire the flashes (if you want to do both at once).
They RF-604 has a 2 stage button, and a half press wakes the camera and focuses. Single shot, continuous, delay, and bulb are supported.
The RF-604 are sold as either a pairs, or more commonly single transceiver units. The singles come in a neat little double lined box which just fits the trigger and instruction manual neatly. No other accessories are supplied.
The single units are ideal if your just after a transmitter unit for the YN-560 III flash units or RF-602 receivers.
Price and Availability –
The RF-604 are available in Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus/Panasonic versions. The the Canon and Nikon appear to be the main ones available at the time of writing. Transceivers are priced around $20 each sold separately, and slightly less as pairs.