Yongnuo YN460-II Flashgun Review

Yongnuo YN460-II front

Price and availability

Yongnuo are essentially a cheap and cheerful accessory maker for camera gear. From what I know, they are a Chinese brand, but the items are bought in by eBay sellers, therefore making them available in the UK. They have started to become more well known since the strobist market grew, and are now an acceptable budget option for those looking to get in to off-camera flash.

There are a number of different flashes available from Yongnuo, with the 460-II being one of the newer, but cheaper versions. They do have TTL flashguns, and others with more functionality. However, the 460-II is completely manual.

I paid around £35 for mine so they should be available for around that. Now this is fairly cheap for a flashgun, meaning there wasn’t much loss if this flash turned out to be a waste of time.

Packaging

Now depending on who you order from the delivery time may differ. However, I received mine very quickly. The flash comes in a small Nikon-like box, containing the flash itself, a soft carrying pouch and a small stand. It is all packaged surprisingly well, so there were no concerns of any damage in transit.

Build quality

Upon first inspection, the build quality of the 460-II was surprisingly good. I gave it a thorough inspection, twisting and turning the head quite a lot to see how it got on. The only thing that could be called a little flimsy is the battery cover. However, considering how little this part of the unit will be used, I was very pleased with the overall quality of such a cheap flash.

Functions

Being a simple flash, with no TTL functionality, the 460-II can only be used in manual mode. The rear of the flash shows the three functions available, manual and two slave modes. There is also a row of LEDs that denote the power that the flash is set to, which is adjustable via the +/- button. Along with an on/off button and a pilot light, this makes up the entire rear of the flash unit. Switching between functions is obviously very simple, and i’ve found the basic layout to help when you want to simply adjust the power, especially when compared to some of the more complicated flashguns out there.

The head of the 460-II can be turned a full 180 degrees to face backwards, as well as point directly upwards. This is great for bouncing the flash and directing it through a light diffuser. The movement is smooth, and i have no worries that it is going to suddenly fall apart while doing this.

A couple of great little features that the 460-II has is the built-in bounce card and wide angle diffuser. A couple of things you’d expect on an expensive flash, but a welcome bonus on something so cheap.

It’s important to mention that the 460-II secures itself to your hotshot with a screw fitting, meaning tightening and loosening the unit is fairly easy, but over tightening can sometimes be an issue.

In-use

So far i’ve had no real issues bar one (see below). The unit is slightly smaller than other flashguns i’ve used, which is a bonus for traveling, but the power is more than enough for me. The recycle times can be an issue with weaker batteries, but i’ve found a freshly charged set give surprisingly good recycle times.

All in all I’m very happy with this flash. It is a very simple unit, and for the price it can’t really be beaten. I actually showed mine to a professional photographer that i know fairly well, and he was so impressed. He used SB900’s whenever he isn’t in the studio, but after seeing the little Yongnuo he noted down the name so he could order some himself.

Issues

I had my first 460-II for a couple of weeks before I had an issue with it. Everything turned on just fine, but it wouldn’t flash. I contacted the seller of the unit and they immediately sent out a replacement. The replacement has worked flawlessly every since.

Now, once I had the replacement I began looking in to why the first one died. After reading lots about it on various websites, I decided to open it up and have a look. Now it turned out to be nothing that I had read about, and was simply a loose wire. I reattached the wire and secured it with some electrical tape. This original flash has now been working perfectly ever since. I definitely wouldn’t have opened up a £300 Nikon/Canon flash, but with a £35 flash i had no problems doing this.

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Strobist work

Well as you may have seen, i’ve just got all of this lovely equipment which allows me to experiment with some strobist shooting. So taking photos with off camera flash.

I’ve not had many opportunities yet, but here are two photos that i have taken with the setup. Now getting this sort of shot right with a manual flash and manual exposure is more difficult than you’d think, but with a little time it can be very rewarding.

This first photo is actually of myself. I was out shooting with Danielle, and at her request i spent a few minutes on the other side of the lens. The camera was all set up and the light ready to go. All she had to do was press the button while pointing the camera at me. She did rather a good job if you ask me. The flash was to the left of the camera, about 10 feet from myself, shooting through my white umbrella.

Ignore my stupid posing, i was trying to not look like an idiot – and failing.

This second shot, believe it or not, was simply taken in my bedroom. I’d set the lights up, and just clicked away. So i’m fairly pleased with how this one turned out, as i wasn’t expecting anything great. The flash was at about an 80 degree angle to Danielle, shooting through the umbrella, getting just the right amount of catchlight in her eyes.

Off camera lighting really is an excellent thing, and should be tried by everyone. Hopefully these are just the first of many photos that i’ll be putting on here using this setup. Who knows, maybe i’ll even have a photo of someone different!

T.

New Year – New Kit

Well hello, you.

It’s been a while since i’ve put anything up on here, so for anyone who cares, i’m sorry. I’d like to say i’ve been very busy, and although i have, i’m sure there was time to enter something on to here. I’m not going to bore you with any excuses, but will simply soldier on.

Right, it’s 2012, hooray. This is the year i take better photos and generally become a photographer, and not someone who takes photos. With this in mind, i have invested in some new equipment to get me going. This kit has been a long time coming, and i’m kind of annoyed i didn’t buy it sooner. But never mind that.

Right, the new kit i have gotten isn’t exactly anything special, but here is it.

Nikon D90

Bought one of these second hand for a very good price. It is a very dated camera now, but one that i think is still excellent. It has all the bells and whistles i will ever want from a camera at the moment, and still holds a candle to the newer cameras out there. The way i see it is there is no point in buying a more expensive body if i’m not making money from photography. I’ll save the money for glass, thank you very much. Anyway, my new camera has only done around 5,000 actuations, and therefore is like new. Everything works, and i couldn’t be happier. Now i just need to put a grip on it to sort out it’s tiny size.

Yongnuo YN460-II 

This, if you didn’t know, is a flashgun. Yongnuo are a cheap and cheerful manufacturer who mainly sell their stuff on eBay. Now before you say anything, they actually have a fairly good reputation in the photography community. Couple that with their very good prices and i thought i’d give it a go. I paid around £35 delivered for mine, and couldn’t be more satisfied. It is fully manual, meaning you have to adjust the power yourself, but i would be doing this anyway. This also means it doesn’t support TTL, like Nikon flashes do. But i’ll mostly be using this off camera anyway, so doesn’t bother me so much.

Yongnuo RF-603

These are flash triggers/receivers, and allow me to remotely fire my flash from my camera. Now the D90 can use it’s onboard flash in commander mode, meaning it can fire a remote flash without the need for triggers. However, with the Yongnuo flash i’ve found this to be a little unreliable, and these triggers allow me to fire from over 100m away. Why i’d ever want that i don’t know, but it’s nice to have it.

Konig light stand

This, i think, is a crazy bargain. It is a simply light stand, that can be used for a number of things. All i will be using it for is to hold my flashgun somewhere away from my camera, along with an umbrella or similar. It does this job well, and without fuss. All for the grand price of around £10 delivered. Check out 7dayshop or Amazon, they both have it at similar prices. Bargain of the century. I’ll no doubt be buying another one soon.

White shoot through umbrella

This is another bargain. Yes you can buy expensive umbrellas that are possibly better, but for £5 delivered these are just too cheap to miss. They can be bought at this price from a number of places, and are very good for what they are.

I also bought a Manfrotto light adapter, which allows me to mount my umbrella and flash however i want. Could have gone for an off brand one of these, but this is something i’ll likely keep forever.

Anyway, i’ll stop boring you with this rubbish. With any luck i’ll be posting up a short piece about a couple of photos i managed to get with this new kit.

Motorcycle + Camera =

Good evening, you.

Well over the weekend i was mostly out and about on the bike, riding through the forest and generally enjoying the lovely weather we’ve been having.

Now i saw a photo recently that gave me this idea. So i thought i’d give it a go to see what i’d come out with.

This involved taking a photo while riding along, attempting to get the bike and scenery in the shot. I wanted to get the front of the bike in focus, nice and sharp, but with the scenery flying past. This may sound easy, but it really is not.

First problem, you can’t take a photo while riding a motorbike. Well, i’m sure you could, but i’m also sure it wouldn’t be safe. Therefore i needed some help. Enter a passenger.

Now what i decided to do was put the camera around my neck, set up the lens and settings that i thought i would need, and set off.

I set the lens nice and wide at 19mm. Placed the camera on manual and set the settings as follows – f3.5, 1/50sec, ISO800. This would allow a good depth of field, some movement from the surroundings, and enough sensitivity to allow for a bright shot.

The camera would hopefully be facing the right way, and all the passenger would need to do is reach around and press the shutter button. This was done a lot, as i told her to simply keep taking photos as we wouldn’t know what we got until we stopped.

This is something i want to try again, maybe at night with some lovely lights wizzing by. Could look nice, couldn’t it?

Anyway, here is the favourite of the bunch. It is mostly sharp and in focus, with some nice interest from the sun coming in from the side.

Now i’d advise you do not try this yourself. It was perfectly safe in the situation, but i cannot stress enough how dangerous just riding a bike is, so this sort of action should only be carried out by someone who knows what they are doing and if the conditions allow.

Enough of me, here is the shot. I shall look in to the others a bit more and maybe carry out some edits to see if i can find any other shots worth showing.

T.

This week i will mostly be using…

Good evening, you.

I am lucky enough to be using some of my dream equipment at the moment, and shall be using it to take some photos in the near future. I shall also endeavour to let you know what i think of each bit of kit, just in case you care.

So for now i shall leave you with this quick shot. I shall be putting up real photos soon enough, some that i have taken with this stuff. But for now, you can just look at this…

This is the D300s with the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8.

Quite simply the best lens i have ever used, maybe. It’s currently a toss up between this and the 85mm f1.4G.

However i’ll be using the Canon equivalent soon too, so this could all change.

 

T.

Long Exposures and stuff.

Good afternoon, you.

Well it’s been a while. You know this whole blogging thing would be a lot easier if I had good computer at home, or at least a working internet connection.

Anyway, excuses are for the weak, like me.

So this weekend just gone I was off out and about trying to get some water shots for work. I needed to head down to Hengistbury Head really, and get a couple seascape images. This was no problem at all – it is close to my house and I have transport (more on that later).

However, I also wanted to try my hand at some long exposures with the water. Something I have never really done, but something I’ve always loved. Now I didn’t necessarily have the ideal kit for this, but none the less I was going to give it a good go.

I was using a Nikon D300s – brilliant camera. I also had a Sigma 10-20mm lens – excellent lens, although the autofocus had decided not to work. This definitely becomes a problem when you’re looking through a dark filter in the late evening.

Anyway, excuses, for the weak.

Now it wasn’t a particularly nice evening. It wasn’t raining, but the sunset wasn’t brilliant. However the amount of photographers, with tripods an’ all, down there was crazy. Also annoying because one of them was stood exactly where I wanted to be, meaning I couldn’t get the shot I actually wanted.

Here is my little setup for taking the shots. Just a little behind the scenes, because i know you want to see it.

So, on to the actual photos. This one is simply a shot of the water and sunset, nothing special I know. It is also very similar to a shot I got before of this area, but I needed to be here for work.


I also took some general shots while I was waiting for the sun to go down a bit. This one is my particular favourite. A lone fisherman was casting his line out to sea, although it didn’t look like he was having much luck. He seemed very happy though, and was probably enjoying the peace and tranquillity more than anything.


This next shot is what I managed to get using the ND filter and a looooooong exposure. It was originally only one photo, however using the RAW file I turned it in to 5 with different exposures. I was then able to put it in the Photomatix Pro and make a HDR long exposure shot. Now I haven’t edited it brilliantly, so I will re-do this one when I get the chance.


That’s about it for the photos I took. Now the other thing I was occupied with this weekend – my new steed. Recently passed my big boy bike test, so I have been riding this. It is not mine, but is my friends old bike that he is very generously letting me borrow for the time being. It’s nothing special, but is faster than anyone actually needs off of the race track. Enjoy.


That’s it for now. Maybe I’ll even put some more photos up soon, rather than writing all this nonsense.

T.

Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR – First Review

Good afternoon, you.

Well I have been using the Nikon 80-400mm lens this week, and what sort of person would I be if I didn’t let you lovely people know what I thought about it?

Not a very good one, that’s what.

Ergonomics

Well let’s get started then. This lens is very big, that much should be obvious before you actually get your hands on it. It completely dwarfs many cameras, and is not light at all. So be aware that you will probably want to build up those muscles before you spend a day with this thing. It actually weighs in at over 1.3kg.

To be honest, I didn’t find this a problem at all. You know what you are getting yourself in for with a lens like this, so if you complain of size and weight then you are the one to blame.

Because of this lens’s size and weight, it is incredibly well built. It feels like you could drop it many times and it would just soak it up. Even the inner barrel is made of metal.

While on the subject of the ergonomics, I have to talk about the manual focus setting. The actual focusing is absolutely fine, no problems with that at all. It is switching this damn thing on to manual focus which really gets to me. It is not a simple switch on the side, but a button to press down, while you rotate a small focus ring. This is not so difficult to do normally, but when you are composing a shot and want to switch focus modes, it is near impossible.

In Use

I have been using this lens with the Nikon D300s, which is an excellent camera. However, I have only had the chance to test it while out taking wildlife shots.

The main, well-known flaw of this lens is it’s AF speed, so this was probably not the best place to test this lens. I was hopeful for some animals that would like to stay still for more than a second, and I think I got some good shots. However, this is just not the lens for the job. It doesn’t grab focus quick enough, and it was almost impossible to track fast moving animals and get a decent shot. The focusing is actually very reminiscent of the cheap and cheerful 70-300mm zooms from Tamron and Sigma.

Never mind, I fully expected this.

I will hopefully be taking this lens out for a nice test later on this week, but it will be at an air festival. So instead of animals going 10mph, it will be jets flying at 1000mph. Good idea, right? Well hopefully I will be able to take some shots of more static attractions, and maybe some candid portraiture.

At the same air festival, I will also have the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 which I reviewing recently. I should therefore be able to return with a direct comparison of these two lenses, showing the benefits of each, and the downfalls.

The focusing issue really isn’t that much of a problem if you know the limits of this lens. The same can be said about any lens, but this one can produce some excellent photos when used in its comfort zone.

The 400mm reach came in very useful for getting close-up portraits of many of the animals, and when used with the crop sensor of the D300s, it is effectively 600mm. While on this little shoot, I was with another photographer, who was using a 300mm lens on his full frame body. So I had double the reach he had, which really showed in some of our comparative shots.

This lens has a maximum aperture of 4.5-5.6 as you go up the zoom range. This is not so bad, but it is far from great. Obviously to get a wider aperture, or a constant one, you’d probably have to double the cost of this lens. But for a lot of situations I found I wanted that extra stop, that extra speed, and some more light in to the camera. For a lot of the shots I was boosting the ISO right up to around 1600, which although is no real problem for a higher end Nikon, but it did mean I had to be careful when it came to processing shots.

Now on a side note, there is also a very slight chance that I will be able to test the D300s against the Canon 7D while at this air show. These are direct competitors, so using them both simultaneously could be interesting. Now it is obvious that I am a Nikon man, but I already think the 7D is better than the 5D mark II, so the bias is already dwindling, and I hope to give a fair test.

Both cameras have their strengths, and I fear the 7D’s 8FPS shooting may put it ahead for this little test, couple that with the fact it will have the Tamron 70-200mm lens, where as the D300s will have the 80-400mm.

I shall report back with more soon. But for the time being, here are some shots taken with the 80-400mm.

Test shots

Final Verdict

This lens definitely has the ability to be very sharp, and produces some great photos, especially when stopped down a little. Now I know I was testing this in the wrong setting, but I will continue to test it and will add to this review. However, it is already clear that speed and low-light are not this guy’s friend. However, I have no doubt that lighter conditions and still subjects will be a home away from home for this lens.

T.