GEAR REVIEW - YONGNUO YN-560II SPEEDLITE
Another piece of lighting equipment to be found in the studio is the Yongnuo YN-560 II Speedlite. These very capable flashes have been about for a couple of years and are in their 4th evolution now with the MKIII having just been released with built in triggers! The YN-560 flashes have achieved a very good reputation across the Internet, despite some reliability issues with the first models, which were ironed out in the 2nd incantation.
This model has a digital display, replacing the LED interface of the previous version. Like its predecessor its very simple and quick to operate on the fly. Its certainly got enough juice for most photographers with a guide number of 58 @ ISO100 105mm. 7 stops output from 1/1 to 1/128th power with fine tuning increments in between each level. Zoom functions from 24mm through 105mm all at the touch of a button.
Build quality is surprisingly good and the head rotates and tilts with resounding clicks. The footplate is made from metal too, which will withstand repeated hotshoe mounting. In fact, the build quality is better than my Metz 58 AF-1, which cost 5 times as much at the time of purchase. Granted, the Metz is an i-TTL flashgun whereas the Yongnuo is a manual unit but, for a sub £50 speedlite, the YN-560 II is a great piece of kit. Optical slaves mean the strobes can be used remotely, although I prefer to keep everything on wireless triggers which negates any line-of-sight issues, such as placing a flash inside a softbox or even in another room to light a doorway.
If you're new to photography or flash photography, the prospect of manual flashes may seem a bit daunting and something best left to the professionals. Don't let this put you off. Once you get your head around f-stops, understand the basics of the Inverse Square Law and the differences between hard and soft light sources, the mystery surrounding manual flashes begins to disperse.
In the studio, I prefer to use manual flashes. It gives you complete control over all aspects of your exposure. Certainly, you can't beat a monolight with a modeling lamp to see what the lighting is doing in real time but, for rim lighting and fills, speedlites like the Yongnuos make a superb and cost effective addition. On location and the move, where your exposure is constantly changing as a result of distance to subject altering between shots, you can't really beat a TTL (Through The Lens) based system for efficiency.
So if you're looking to venture into the realms of flash photography and don't want to spend a fortune, pick yourself up a couple of these strobes from Amazon. They are more than adequate to learn the basics and beyond. I own 6 of them. Half of which live permanently in the studio.