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Yongnuo YN-560 vs Nikon SB-600

Yongnuo YN-560 vs Nikon SB-600

By: Hoan K. Trinh

I recently bought a third party flash, the Yongnuo YN-560.  I went through about 100 frames and so far, it has been great.  Here are a few first impressions and a mini review:

This Yongnuo flash is big and powerful.  Yes, in photography, size does matter.  The bigger the camera, the more professional it looks.  Also, with a guide number of 58 m at maximum zoom, this flash is as powerful as the flagship flashes of Canon and Nikon.  The zoom range of 24-105mm is also impressive for any price range.  Standing next to the Nikon SB-600,  the Yonguo YN-560 just towered over it more expensive baby brother.  Also, anyone noticed that the YN-560 kind of look like the Canon 580 EX II?

Side profile, again, the Yonguo YN-56o is a much bigger flash.  I don’t know why I get hung over the enormous size of this thing ,  but I am.

From the back, Yongnuo YN-560 does not have a have display panel like that of the Nikon SB-600.  Everything on YN-560 are control by buttons on the flash body. The controls are very intuitive and I was able to figure everything out in a very short amount of time.  The only thing is, on YN-560, the power setting is not exactly marked (this is no longer an issue on new model, see below) so you don’t always know exactly what the power output is.  You kind of have to memorize the power chart in the manual in order to do that, but my guess work is pretty good though.  The Sb-600, on the other hand, needs you to dig through its menu to find the all the options you need, a much more complicated system to get used to.

The biggest drawback of the YN-560 is that it is a manual flash only, it does not have the i-ttl like the SB-600.  The i-ttl function essentially allow you to put the flash into automatic mode and this could be quite useful for events where the lighting conditions change drastically in a very short amount of time.  Personally, I prefer to use my SB-600 in manual mode for most of the time anyway so the transition into YN-560 is not a big deal.  For photographer who like to exploit the i-ttl system, then this flash probably isn’t a good choice for them.  For $70 bucks though, you really can’t ask for too much.

It is worth the money?  Well, only time will tell.  If I can use it reliably for at least a couple of years, then it could be considered quite a bargain.  Also, I am planning on doing a bit of weddings and portraits work this summer so having the YN-560 will allow for some extra creativity as well as providing a solid backup in the system.  Would it last as long as its Nikon and Canon counterparts?  Probably not and I have seen plenty of Nikon flashes from the mid 90’s still in use today.


After almost a month of extensively using the YN-560 flash, I am pretty happy with it.  One little problem I have is I can’t test fire the flash with the “pilot” button or whatever you would call that.  It is either I am doing it wrong or it’s broken (Update: you have to use your fingernail to push the button all the way in in order to for the “pilot” button to fire off a test flash). It is of little annoyance, but I figured I disclosed such information for those who are looking for a thorough review.  Otherwise, the flash work like a charm, its optical trigger works very well and I haven’t had any misfire yet.  The controls on the YN-560 is very intuitive and did not take long to to master them.  The flash is quite powerful and the versatile zoom range can be very helpful.

That said, the fact that the YN-560 is a completely manual flash and that could get annoying times.  First, you can not change the flash power setting right from the camera, you have to walk over to the flash in order to do it.  This could be awful if you set the YN-560 is some really strange or remote places, I learned to put my YN-560 in the easy to reach places and put my sb-600 in the harder to reach areas.  Second, since there is no TTL, using it as an on camera flash could could get cumbersome if the light conditions change  drastically.  While I do enjoy shooting in manual most of the time, having TTL could mean the different between getting the shot and not having the shot at times.  But for $70, it’s hard to fault the YN-560.  The only test left for the YN-560 is reliability, and hopefully I won’t have to update this article with any bad news for a long time.

Second update:

I put these flashes to use in a real life photo-shoot, you can see the results here: Switching Lights.  During the photo session, I used my SB-600 as my main source of light with the YN-560 as the kicker or hair light.  The reason being that it was just much easier to control the SB-600 from the camera (I was using the Nikon CLS system), as I had to adjust the power of my key light much more often than my secondary light so the SB-600 was the natural choice.  So while the YN-560 is the more powerful flash, in a real life photo session with a waiting model who is a little cold, you just cannot afford the time to mess with the setting of YN-560.  And while the controls on YN-560 are very intuitive, the fact is they did not clearly label the power output levels, which required a little guess work that you probably won’t have time for in a professional environment.  One last comment, I also have done some stuff with YN-560 attached to the camera, it work perfectly fine, has quite a bit of power, but again, I still prefer the Nikon SB-600 user interface much better.  I know,  I know, the YN-560 is a $70 flash, which is a great value, but the SB-600 is not a poor value in comparison either just because of its compatibility with Nikon’s cameras alone.  See, photography is not always about the spec sheet.   The ease of use and the joy that a piece of equipment bring to your photography experience is hard to quantify, but it would definitely make a difference between getting the shot and not getting it at all.

Third update: I just bought the version II of this Yongnuo 560 known as the Yongnuo YN-560II.  This version of the flash is essentially the same thing except that it have a large lcd screen in the back which make your life a lot easier.  It’s like $10 more than the older version but boy does it make your life a lot easier.  I like the newer version a lot better than the older one just because of that feature alone.




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4 thoughts on “Yongnuo YN-560 vs Nikon SB-600

  1. Was waiting for a cost effective flash and I think the YN is the perfect one. I had an SB600 and it fried on me =\ so I’ve been reluctant to purchase another expensive flash ever since.

  2. I agree that Yongnue is a very good flash. For some strange and probably irrational reason however, I feel a little uncomfortable having it sitting on the hot shoe as an on-camera flash so I use it mostly for off camera flash work. The few times that I’ve used the Yongnuo on the camera, it was almost always with an older camera. I have shot on my SB-600 for a few years now and it has taken some abuse as I’ve shot a lot of indoor events. I think it’s quite a reliable flash and wouldn’t hesitate to get another. That said, any flash could overheat if pushed too hard so do try to be careful. 10 consecutive full power flashes from the Yongnuo and will required some rest to avoid overheating, 20 consecutive full power flashes for SB-600. Granted, full power on the SB-600 is not as powerful.

  3. Doha Expat on said:

    For a beginner like myself, would you recommend the Yongnuo YN560-II or the Nikon SB600? I usually shoot indoors, with furnitures and light fixtures more often present.

    • Hi Doha!

      That’s a difficult question because the price difference is so steep but if you are just starting out and might not be interested in messing around too much, I would get the Nikon one. They don’t make the SB-600 and the SB-700 is an absolutely gorgeous flash and it’s worth the money. The Yongnuo is a great flash too, but if I could have one, I’ll spend the extra money for the Nikon flash.

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