To 3rd Party, or Not?

The YN-560 is a huge upgrade from an old Vivitar. The price is right, it has a wide range of functions and seems durable (may have taken a few tumbles off of a light stand) but it does lack some features like TTL and rear curtain sync.

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In the market for cameras and gear, there is a huge price gap between Functional and Extensive.

The Yongnuo brand seems to be a promising competitor in the Functional category. Their flashes have more power and often more ability than minimum functionality products from first market competitors.

For comparison, take the Canon 90EX: lower power output, no swivel, no zoom control. About $129. What it does have on the Yongnuo speedlights, though, is the ability to control other Canon flashes (where a transmitter and receiver system is necessary otherwise), and the benefit of custom functions from Canon cameras like rear curtain sync (which is useful for night-time photography).

The  Yongnuo YN-560 II is a more valuable on-camera flash. The Canon 90EX, not having swivel, zoom, tilt or height above the lens, pales in comparison. Someone with really deep pockets who could afford to buy Canon and nothing but Canon would benefit from the high-tech capabilities of the flashes, but on a budget the 3rd party products make sense.

The YN-560 II, at about $100, has the same physical functionality as the Canon 430EX III-RT, at about $400. YN also has two slave modes for syncing with other flashes (one flash can act as a “master” to trigger slaves) which closely mimics the Canon flash’s ability to control each other.

1 flash with many software capabilities, or 2 flashes with light stands and umbrellas?

This argument depends on your needs, but I value the versatility of many lights and simply can’t afford Canon models. Trustworthy 3rd party producers have allowed me to do things with photography that I would not have been able otherwise. Not without a much larger investment.

I would love to own Canon flashes. There are many times when the extra functionality would have made for great creative shots to add to my portfolio. Instead, I chose a route to quickest monetize my equipment and skill. It seems I made the right decision…

Yongnuo isn’t left in the dust for software capability, however. They keep releasing new models with better specs that remain in a similar price margin. Their new wireless system appears to be very promising, and even boasts TTL and Rear Curtain Sync. For about $400, when combined with two speedlights and light stands, this system allows a purchaser to gain greater capabilities for about the same price as a flagship Canon flash.

The Canon flashes, being all inclusive for functionality within themselves, are a tighter package. However, with slave mode on the Yongnuo flash, only two wireless transceivers are required to activate many lights. They don’t take up a lot of room in a camera bag.

Cautions with 3rd party products:

  1. Don’t drop them. Same goes for all camera gear, but these may not be made with the same durability.
  2. Keep away from water/dust. Again, this should be standard with all gear. A light mist is probably OK, but prolonged exposure should be avoided.

I should let you know that if you click a link here and buy something from Amazon I will make a small commission. You can consider me a salesman, but I am definitely not hiding anything. Everything I list I have faith in as a product enough to recommend it, or have used myself.

I hope to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision about your purchases. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me, and if you plan on buying a product I’ve mentioned, please use my links!

Unlock the Real Potential of the SLR (Manual Modes)

I’ll be posting more detailed articles about these modes later, for the time being, you can check out your camera manual to get a good idea of how to use them…


 

Cameras these days advertise as “will do it all for you! An idiot could take pictures with this camera!” Wrong. You are the photographer. You decide on creative choices like shutter speed, aperture, ISO and angle. Also, a camera is an idiot in a lot of situations.

Because the camera is an idiot, I avoid program modes at all times. On a Canon camera, the running man, person, mountains… They are very functional in their specific conditions, but I am experienced enough (most of the time) to be fast without them. I just recently made a lot of use of the P mode, considered one of the creative modes on a Canon brand, but still too automated for my liking.

Tasked with photographing a fundraiser for a young-and-expecting women’s shelter, I was confounded by a tiny bar’s mixed-light. From the front, a huge bay door converted to windows provided a pool of natural light that faded away towards the back, where the left was a yellow-looking light and the right appeared to be tungsten lit.

First I shot with flash, eliminating ambient light with a fast shutter and closed aperture. I assume people will be annoyed with flash, so I avoid using it as much as possible. Especially in enclosed spaces. I then switched to natural light only, switching between a slow 18mm – 55mm EFS and a fast 50mm EF.

Near the window things went OK, but creatively was limiting. Anywhere else and people looked all sorts of odd colours. Trying to figure out the best settings left me chimping constantly, and I’m sure I missed a lot of moments. I decided on the P mode as my best option, and switched only my white balance for the latter half of the evening. I even gave up so much as to use auto-ISO, which isn’t as terrible as I always thought it would be. 

 

The “Creative Modes” are common in function in most DSLRs. They may have slightly different names, but they essentially perform the same. Some have extra modes, but the main ones are (as appearing on a Canon camera):

P – sets aperture and shutter speed automatically. Allows user to set ISO. Seems to do its best to set up for hand-held photography, but not always (Not a very creative mode, actually)

Av – Aperture Priority: user sets aperture, camera decides on shutter speed. User sets ISO.

Tv – Shutter Priority: user sets shutter speed, camera decides on aperture. User sets ISO.

M – Manual: User sets everything. A.K.A Master Class, Man(ly) Mode. User sets ISO.

Extras…

A-Dep – as far as I know sets aperture to make sure as many things are in focus as possible, then sets shutter speed. Does not prioritize for hand held. User sets ISO.

These modes are so-called creative because they allow you to make real decisions about how a photo looks, like the depth of field or motion blur. At first, they are confusing. With experience, a photographer is able to snap the camera as close to the preferred look as possible, only to make minor adjustments. It takes experimentation, a lot of it, but these modes do become second nature.

My advice: using these modes at first might be a little slow, and you will mess up a few shots. That being said: are you a photographer? Then get into them! You will be thanking yourself less than a year later. Promises.