Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Yongnuo YN565EX flash

I have had a Yongnuo YN565 EX flashgun for over two years (purchase Aug 2011) and found it an excellent piece of kit. It is a Chinese-made copy of the Canon 580EX, its biggest advantage being that it is only a fraction of the cost (today on Amazon: YN565 EX - £80; 590EX - £375).

It closely resembles the Canon 580EX both physically and in the range of functions it offers, It makes you wonder how they get away with it! It lacks only two significant features of the Canon:
  • It can only act as a slave in a multiple flash wireless setup (the 580EX can be the master),
  • It lacks the high speed sync feature of the Canon. This allows the 580EX to be used as a fill-in flash at shutter speeds above the maximum flash sync speed offered by the camera (1/250 on Canon EOS 60D). This is done by producing a rapid sequence of lower powered flashes.
(The Yongnuo YN565EX II has been announced with both of these features added, but does not yet seem to be available - so I could not find a price.)

I have used it mainly in two situations: Firstly, as a background light when using the Canon MT-24 macro flash and secondly as a fill-in flash for bird photos from a hide.

Background light for macro-flash

One of the main criticisms of macro photos lit by flash is that they often have a very black background where the lighting from the flash does not reach. This can be tackled by using another flash to light the vegetation or whatever is immediately behind the main subject. The YN565EX, mounted on a tripod, and set up to be controlled wirelessly as a slave does this job nicely. I find that the infrared communication between master (Canon MT-24 twin macro-flash mounted on the camera) and the slave (the YN565EX) works well over the sort of range I normally work at - providing I  make sure that the red window on the front of the YN565EX faces towards the camera. Since the flash head tilts and swivels, this is not hard to achieve. The the ratio of power from the MT-24's two heads and the YN565EX can each be controlled from the camera's menu - so no fiddling abut with the Yongnuo's control panel is required once it is set up in slave mode (which is quite fiddly!). Generally, the power of the fill-in needs to be turned down (it can go down to 1/32 of full power) relative to the main light from the MT-24 heads, but this is best judged by taking some tests shots and checking them on the camera's LCD screen.

Fill-in for bird photos

I have used a hide in the garden both to photograph nesting birds coming in with food and, in winter, stuff coming to my feeders. Obviously, I tend to go for bright daylight conditions to get a fast shutter speed, but that often leads to quite harsh shadows. This can be tackled using an off camera fill-in flash to put a bit of light into the shadow areas. I use the YN565EX for this, mounted on a clamp on the ouside of the hide via a hot shoe extension cable. Again, I bought a Yongnuo made extension equivalent to the Canon OC-E3 (Yongnuo - £10; Canon OC-E3 - £60 - how does Canon justify these sort of prices for accessories!). Again, a bit of experimentation may be necessary, but a flash exposure compensation of -1 to -3EV is usually needed and this is simply dialled in on the back of the camera. So no need to be able to reach the flash once you are set up in the hide.

Robin at one of its favoured perches on the way in to feed young in nest. Sigma 150-500mm at 267mm, F5.6, 1/250, ISO400. Somewhat back-lit with fill-in flash from below-right. Camera in Tv mode with -3EV flash compensation.