YongNuo radio triggers
This article discusses YongNuo radio triggers for flash and digital cameras. These triggers are among the most popular at the lower end of the radio trigger marketplace. The YongNuo triggers are produced in China and are sometimes referred to as Poverty Wizards or FleaBayTriggers.
In my opinion, TTL power control is great for a single on-camera flash, but when you start using several off-camera remote flash units, leaving control to the camera system does not always work well. I tend to use manual flash when I have several lights off-camera, so plain radio triggers is what I actually prefer to use.
YongNuo has received a lot of praise for the RF-602. It was the first really reliable low-cost radio trigger. In March 2011, they introduced its successor, RF-603. This is a modest update on the original model. Below is a my review of both.
Both YongNuo models use the 2.4 GHz band for signalling. This band is unregulated ISM-band worldwide, so you don't have to keep a separate set if you travel between Europe and the USA.
If you are a Canon-user, it is also nice to know that the 2.4 GHz band is not affected by 344 MHz radio noise emitted by certain Canon Speedlites.
Note that these units should not be connected to a flash with a trigger voltage above 12 volts. All modern dedicated flash units designed for use with digital camera are well below this limit, but older flashes may have trigger voltages as high as 380 volts and may fry modern electronic equipment.
Both units are manual triggers, and does not support TTL. They are unusual as far as manual triggers go, because they come in two different versions, one with the hot-shoe that fits Nikon, and another one that for fits Canon. The main reason for having two different versions is to be able to “wake up” dedicated system flashes. A flash unit usually “goes to sleep” (standby) if it is left idle. The standby feature helps you save power and preserve batteries. The YongNuo triggers are supposed to “wake up” a compatible flash in standby-mode when you half-pressing the camera's shutter button.
The mechanical construction is solid. The only negative aspect is that there is no locking collar or locking pin on either model. When you mount the transmitter or transceiver on the camera, it is only held in place by friction. The shoes are reasonable tight, but I always like to lock the equipment down.
Both models feature 16 selectable channels, to reduce the risk of interference from other triggers in a crowded environment. Units must be set to the same channel to be able to communicate. The channels are selected by tiny dip-switches that have a rather awkward placement and are difficult to operate without a tool such as a tiny screwdriver.
The YongNuo RF-603 from YongNuoPhotoEquipment is probably one of the best low cost radio triggers currently available. It typically sells on eBay for USD 37 for a basic kit. (Search eBay for this item).
The RF-603 is the successor to the popular RF-602, and shares a number of characteristics with its predecessor, but also some improvements.
The main difference, compared to the YongNuo RF-602, is that there is no longer a separate transmitter and receiver. Any unit may act as either transmitter or receiver, and roles are assigned automatically by by the unit by sensing whether it is connected to a camera or a flash when the photographer pushes the round button on top of the unit.
The hot-shoe on top of the unit is the same for both models (see image above). In addition to the edge contact (ground) it has six round contacts. The centre contact is of course the x-sync trigger. The four in front is of the centre contact matches the extra pins of a Canon hot-foot, the three closest to the centre contact matches the extra pins of a Nikon hot-foot.
Since the transceiver has a hot-shoe on top, you can install another radio transmitter, or, in theory, a flash, on top of the camera mounted transceiver. However a typical Speedlight such as the Nikon SB-900 is quite heavy. The omission of a locking collar means that if you move around with such a combo on top of the camera, you hazard that it will slide out of the hot-shoe and fall crash to the ground. So I do not recommend that you do this. The hot-shoe is useful for mounting a radio trigger from a legacy system (e.g. YongNuo RF-602) to combine the two systems, but it is in my opinion to risky to put a flash there without being able to lock the unit in the camera's hot-shoe.
Underneath the transceiver is a Canon or Nikon hot-foot in a metal-mount. There is not a tripod mount.
The tiny dip-switches to set channel is located inside the battery compartment – ergonomics is obviously not a high priority in the YongNuo design department.
Unlike the Phottix Strato II (that also features a hot-shoe) this hot-shoe does not pass through enough of the signal to let you use a dedicated flash with TTL-control. However, you can use it to trigger a camera-mounted flash in manual mode.
The RF-603 comes in two basic flavours, RF-603C (for Canon) and RF-603N (for Nikon), each with a dedicated hot-foot underneath for the corresponding system. The dedicated foot means that you need to get the correct transceiver for the brand to want to use it with. In particular, a transceiver put on the “wrong” brand will not detect the camera and will therefore not understand that it is supposed to transmit. The Canon and Nikon versions are compatible, so a RF-603N transceiver mounted on a Nikon camera will communicate fine with a RF-603C transceiver hooked up to a Canon flash unit.
The proprietary socket on the RF-602 has been replaced with a screw-lock pc-socket for the flash triggering signal, and a 2.5 mm stereo jack socket for the shutter release cable. There exists different shutter release cables for different camera models.
Another big improvement is that the new transceiver units runs on two standard AAA 1.5 volt batteries. The expensive disposable CR2 lithium battery used in the RF-602 transmitter is gone.
The basic kit consists of transceiver pair, and also includes two cables: One cable with a 1/4" (6.35 mm) mono jack-plug for connecting studio strobes, and one cable that can be used to trigger the shutter of a compatible camera by radio. A 1/4" to 3.5 mm mono-plug adapter included in the basic kit.
Unlike the RF-602, the RF-603 has a special channel to be used exclusively for camera triggering. The timing of this channel is separate from the timing of the channels use to trigger remote flash units, because the camera and remote flash units need to be triggered at slightly different times (the camera's shutter does not operate as quickly as the flash. RF-603 require only 3 units to perform both functions: One in hand to start the process, one on camera to trigger its shutter, and one under the remote flash unit to trigger the flash.
This illustration (taken from the manual) shows opp to use separate channels to trigger the camera's shutter release and off-camera flashes. Youngnuo refers to this in the manual as “function extend”.
- Install one of transceiver in the hot-shoe of the camera. Also connect the tranceiver to the camera's shutter release socket with the shutter release cable.
- Install an off-camera flash unit in the hot shoe of another transceiver, and/or connect an off-camera studio flash to another tranceiver with the approproiate sync cable.
- To trigger the both the camera's shutter release and the off-camera flash units. handhold one of transceiver and use ut as a remote control transmitter. Press the shutter release button halfway on the handheld transceiver to focus. Press the shutter release button on the handheld tranceivercompletely to trigger both the camera's shutter release and the off-camera flash units via separate channels.
On the downside, the separation of channels means that you can no longer trigger a remote flash by means of a handheld unit. Pushing the round button on top of the unit will only trigger the shutter channel, not any of the flash channels. (The off-camera flash channel is triggered by the camera-mounted tranceiver.)
The YongNuo RF-603 appears to be very reliable as long as you use good batteries. As long as we had line of sight between the units, we experienced no problems with reliability within the claimed range is 100 meters.
Both Canon and Nikon flashes (except the Nikon SB-600) are reported to benefit from automatic wake up from sleep mode on a shutter half-press. The RF-603C is wirelessly compatible with the RF-603N, allowing Canon cameras to wake up and trigger Nikon flashes and vice versa.
The bad news is that the RF-603 units are not compatible with the older RF-602 units. However, by putting a RF-602 transmitter in the hot-shoe of the RF-603 transceiver, you will be able to wirelessly trigger remote units hooked up to either type.
On the subject of compatibility: It is possible to modify the RF-603 to work as a transmitter with any camera, not only the camera system it is designed to work with. This DIY modification entails fitting the unit with a mechanical switch to toggle between transmitter and receiver modes. See NikonRumors for details.
The YongNuo RF-602, introduced in 2009, was the first really reliable low cost Chinese radio trigger. It has been replaced by the RF-603, but is still available on eBay for USD 30 for a basic kit. (Search eBay for this item). Since it the channels are not compatible with the RF-603, it may good idea for photographers invested in the RF-602 model to stock up with extra units while stock lasts.
A basic kit consists of one transmitter, one receiver, batteries, and two cables: One cable with a 1/4" mono-plug for studio flashes, and one cable that can be used to trigger the shutter of a compatible camera by radio. There is also a 1/4" to 3.5 mm mono-plug adapter included in the basic kit.
It is unusual as far as plain triggers go, because it comes in two different versions, one for Nikon, Fuji and Kodak DSLRs, and another for Canon, Pentax and Samsung.
The main reason for this is that it is supposed to support the “wake up” functions of dedicated system flashes. A flash unit usually “goes to sleep” (standby) if it is left idle. The standby feature helps you save power and preserve batteries. You're supposed to be able to “wake up” a compatible flash in standby-mode with the RF-602 by half-pressing the test button on the transmitter.
The wake-up function does not work with all flash units.
- For the Nikon version, it is reported to work with all the legacy (pre i-TTL), while the Speedlight SB-800 is the only i-TTL compatible flash it is able to wake up. As for the SB-900, it simply will not go into standby when mounted in the RF-602 RX hot-shoe.
- It will not wake up the Sunpak PZ42X. To disable the sleep mode on the Sunpak PZ42X, hold down the mode and select (SEL) buttons as you power up.
The transmitter uses one CR2 3 volt disposable lithium battery (included) The receiver uses two standard AAA 1.5V alkaline batteries (included).
I've tested the Nikon model with the following Nikon flash units: SB-28, SB-600, SB-800, and SB-900 as well as the Nikon version of the third party Nissin Di866, and have experienced perfect reliability. I've not myself tested the unit with the Metz 45-series hammerhead flash units, but have been told this combination does not work, even with low voltage models of the Metz. I know of no other issues.
The transmitter RF-602TX has a metal hot-foot that matches the camera's hot-shoe. It has no locking collar, but the unit is light weight and friction is sufficient to hold it in place. Unlike the RF-603 transceiver, there is no hot-shoe on top, so you can't mount anything on top.
Underneath the transmitter there is four dip-switches for the 16-channel selector. There is a test/shutter release push button that has two steps, half-press and full-press. The battery door is is located at the back of the transmitter gives access to the CR2-battery. There is also a pc-socket of the screw-lock type. The transmitter has no on/off-switch. Normally, the transmitter uses no power when it is not in use, but it is possible for the its battery to run flat if something presses the Test button when it is stored in your camera bag.
The receiver RF-602RX has a metal hot-shoe on top. On the back of the receiver is there a proprietary port for connecting the included cables for camera and flash triggering. At the bottom of the receiver is a plastic cold-foot which has a standard 1/4" metal tripod mount and allows mounting the receiver on a flash stand or tripod. There is a sliding-type battery cover. The on/off-witch and four dip-switches for 16-channel selector are on the top of the receiver. Unfortunately these are not easily accessible with a flash mounted.
When you receive the units, the dip-switches to set the channel is behind a thin sheet of orange plastic. This plastic must be removed before you can change the switch setting. It is very thin. Use your fingernail or a toothpick to peel it off.
The switches are tiny, so a toothpick is also handy for setting channels. You will normally set the TX and the RX to the same channel in the range 0 to 14. If you set channel 15 (all switches in the “up” position) on the TX, it transmits on all channels 0 to 14 simultaneously, and the receiver will trigger no matter what channel it is set to.
You can use the RF-602 to trigger both flash and camera, but this requires two pairs of TX and RX units. The first pair should be used to trigger the camera (one unit in hand and the other attached to the cameras shutter trigger port). The second pair must be set to a different channel, with a TX in the camera's hot-shoe and RX attached to the flash.
YongNuo make different shutter release cables
The YongNuo RF-602 appears to be very reliable as long as you use good batteries. The best range is obtained by mounting the receiver with its long side facing the transmitter. In open space, this gives a maximum range about 100 meters.
I measured the trigger voltage of the RF-602 transmitter to 2.9 volts, so it is safe with all modern cameras.
In the manual, YongNuo says this about the sync speed:
When use the special flashgun of Canon or Nikon, the Shutter Synchronisation Speed reach to 1/250S. (p. 2) […] [When using the pc interface] the synchronisation time is reduced (p. 13).
So, according to the manual if you use it with the TX in the camera's hot-shoe, and uses the RX to trigger a dedicated flash unit of the appropriate brand, the the maximum sync speed is 1/250 second. If you use it to trigger any other type of flash, or you connect the TX to the camera with a pc-cable, sync speed will be lower.
My tests did not confirm this. Testing with a Nikon D700 and a dedicated Nikon SB-900 Speedlight, at 1/250 second I just had a tiny hint of the shutter obscuring the frame. Testing with Nissin Di866 dedicated to Nikon at 1/250 second resulted in a visible shutter covering about 1/16 of a frame. At 1/200 second both the Nikon SB-900 and the Nissin Di866 produced clean frames without any shutter in sight. However, when I used it to trigger an 1970ies vintage Vivitar 283, it synched fine at 1/250 second! Connecting the TX to the body by means of a pc-cable did bring down the sync time to 1/200 second. At 1/250 second, with a pc-cable, about 1/6 of the frame was obscured by the shutter.
I consider these units very good value for USD 29 for a pair. The fact that it can do double duty as radio controlled shutter release is a nice bonus.
Shutter release cables
As noted above, the YongNuo RF-602 and RF-603 can also be used as radio-controlled a wireless shutter release for certain cameras. The image below shows some of the types of cable available for the RF-602.
The table below lists all available cables and what camera each cable is compatible with:
|C1||Canon DSLR: 60D 600D/T3i/X5 550D/T2i/X4 500D/T1i/X3 450D/XSi/X2 400D/XTi/X 350D/XS 1100D/T3 1000D/XS|
Canon Powershot: G10 G11
|C3||Canon DSLR: 1D-series 5D-series 7D 50D 40D 30D 20D 10D|
|N1||Nikon DSLR: D3-series D2-series D700 D300/D300s D200|
Fujifilm: S3 S5
Nikon SLR: F6 F5 F100 F90/F90x/N90/N90x
|N2||Nikon DSLR: D80 D70/D70s|
|N3||Nikon DSLR: D7000 D90 D5100 D5000 D3100|
|S1||Sony: a900 a700 a550 a500 a450 a350 a300 a200 a100.|
Konica-Minolta: 7D 5D
DiMAGE: 9 7HL 7U 7 5 4X 3
|O1||Olympus: E-400 E-410 E-420 E-450 E-510 E-520 E-620 E-30 E-P1 E-P2 E-PL1 SP-510 SP-550 SP-560 SP-565 SP-570 SP-590|
|O2||Olympus: E-1 E-3 E-10 E-20 E-300 E-100RS C2500L|
The cable identifiers (C1, N1, etc.) are the same for RF-602 and RF-603 cables, but the end that goes into the receiver is different (proprietary 3-pin plug for the RF-602, Stereo jack 2.5 mm for the RF-603.
The N2, S1, O1 and O2 cables are only available for the RF-602.
- User reports about YongNuo radio triggers:
YongNuo RF-602 Wireless Remote Review, by Dennis Dixon