Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Update: Yongnuo RF-603 Radio Flash Triggers

My review of the Yongnuo RF-603C Radio Flash Triggers drew a lot of traffic...and a bit of controversy. Since posting it, I purchased another set of two of these triggers, have used them on literally hundreds of shoots, and have come up with some simple ways of overcoming some of their shortcomings. Read on for an update...

The first issue I dealt with was the Yongnuo's lack of a locking shoe foot or tripod screw, making them challenging to mount on a light stand or tripod, and more than a little bit flimsy. As the image above shows, for mounting on light stands I purchased a couple of Umbrella Adapters with locking hot shoe mounts; since these have their own locking screw, they hold the triggers securely in place (shown above with a Sigma EF-530 DG Super flash attached), and have an umbrella mount as well. The one I use is made by Calumet, but a similar swivel adapter with a locking hot shoe is available from CowboyStudios. With one of these swivel adapters, the triggers sit very securely on any light stand.

For mounting on a tripod, I use my Canon E-TTL off-camera cord, which has a 1/4-inch tripod screw built into the bottom. Though the Canon cord doesn't have a locking shoe, it's shoe is spring-loaded and *very* snug, and the Yongnuo trigger fits into it snugly and stays put.

For speedlights with PC-cord sockets (like the Vivitar 285HV in the image above, mounted on a tripod on the Canon cord), I skip putting the Yongnuo triggers in a hot shoe altogether, and just use the flash's own locking shoe. To securely hold the Yongnuo triggers in place and not have any strain on the PC cord, I put Velcro tabs on my flashes and on the triggers. They stay in place very well, and this setup lets me quickly stick a trigger onto a flash very securely, and also takes care of the problem of the Yongnuo trigger's on/off switch being hard to reach when a flash is mounted in it. Velcro "hook" tabs are on all of my flashes, and "loop" tabs are on the bottom of all of my Yongnuo triggers, as see in the photo below.

I've also put matching Velcro "hook" tabs on all of my studio flashes, for easy mounting of the triggers and no cord strain. It's a great and simple solution.

Speaking of studio use, I used these triggers for all of my Senior Portrait work this past summer -- over 200 studio portrait sessions, and well over 100 outdoor sessions. The good news is I had exactly zero misfires...that's ZERO as in none, zip, nada. In the studio, at the beach, at the park, in my outdoor area at home, from as close as 4 feet from the camera transmitter to as much as 60 feet away, not a single misfire. I've also used them on 6 weddings since getting them, with the same results. There's no longer any question about reliability of these inexpensive triggers -- they work every time.

I purchased a set of Sanyo Eneloop AAA Rechargeable Batteries to use with my Yongnuo triggers as well...I'm happy to report that this combination works very well. I have yet to run down a set of AAAs in one of my triggers on a job, and while I make sure and charge them up before a big shoot like a wedding, for quick jobs I'll just pull them out of the bag where they've been sitting for a few days without a charge, and use them -- they just work.

I have yet to come up with a solution for the non-locking foot when the trigger is mounted in the camera's hot shoe as a transmitter...but the main reason I haven't dealt with that is because it hasn't been a problem for me. The fit in the hot shoes of my two Canon DSLRs is snug, and I haven't had one wiggle, fall out, lose contact, or have any other problem on hundreds of shoots. I *don't* put the transceiver in the hot shoe and then put flash on top of it (which brings up some of the controversy, see below); but for my kind of shooting I can't see a use for that setup anyway, so it's just not an issue.

As for the controversy; I reported in my original review that the transceivers had E-TTL passthrough -- that is, when the transceiver is in the camera's hot shoe, you can mount an E-TTL flash on the transceiver's hot shoe, and get E-TTL functionality from the flash *and* wireless triggering from the transceiver. Some readers pointed out that others have found this does *not* work with Canon-branded flashes...I didn't test that because I don't *have* any Canon-branded flashes. I did test it with a Sigma flash (which is Canon E-TTL compatible), and it did indeed work. But here's the thing: I don't personally see why you'd want to use the transceivers in that configuration anyway. I assumed the on-camera flash in E-TTL mode would get confused by other flashes *not* in E-TTL mode, and not get the correct exposure. So I tested that using my Sigma flash, and that was indeed the case. The Sigma correctly figured out E-TTL flash exposure when it was the only flash firing (in the transceiver's hot shoe mounted on the camera), but when I added radio-triggered non-E-TTL flashes to the mix, since they weren't accounted for when the pre-flash calculated the E-TTL flash exposure, when they all went off flash exposure was not correct. Do your flash in manual mode, even if you mount one on the camera, and this just isn't an issue.

Finally, I've had some snarky comments about how no "pro" photographer would use $30 radio triggers, they'd only use high-end PocketWizards. I personally find such comments elitist and rather silly -- I use what works, and these work. Every time. Since I can buy around 5-6 pairs of these for what a single PocketWizard transceiver would cost, and they do everything I need them to do, I don't consider it "non-professional" to use them...I consider it smart to use them. That way I can spend more money on other things I need .

I still recommend these inexpensive little radio poppers. They have their issues, but they're not too hard to work around; they're cheap, and they're very reliable. I love 'em.

You might also enjoy:
Yongnuo RF-603C Radio Flash Trigger Review


  1. I have a question concerning using these triggers with older film cameras. I own a Hasselblad 500CM, and the only port it has on it is a PC sync for flash work. I currently own a pc to hotshoe adapter. Would I be able to plug one of the transceivers into the adapter, plug it into my Hassy's PC sync, and be able to trigger all my flashes? I own nikon flashes and vivitars, and plan on buying the nikon model triggers, but the adapter I have is universal.


  2. You will need to do a slight modification (solder/wire in a resistor across a couple of leads) to one of your transceiver units to make that work. As they come, they're designed to pick up the "wake up" signal in the Canon (or Nikon) hot shoe in order to configure themselves as a transmitter, and the modification makes it so they're always a transmitter and will work in *any* hot shoe.

    Crix describes the modification here:

    It's not hard at all if you have a little bit of soldering experience!


  3. A professional uses equipment that has been purchased after weighing cost against benefit (i.e. equipment that will turn a profit) from the reviews I have read these sound like a good investment.

    If you're not doing the level of work that can turn a profit from triggers that cost £150 each and yet you still fork out for the most expensive ones then you aren't a pro, you're an amateur who is able to support a hobby by earning a bit on the side form it.

  4. I have 4 of the Yongnuo 603 triggers and they work perfectly on all my lights. In studio and outdoor. I also use Yongnuo flashes. They were great until they stopped working but I changed a very inexpensive resistor and they have never once let me down.

    You are correct about the elitist attitude that many Canon users have... If you don't use canon you're not a professional, well As one photographer put it: show me the photographs not the gear.

  5. These days its all about the gear and not the pictures according to these "pro photographers" who swear by their 4k dollar lenses. They're all merely posers, hiding behind their expensive gear to justify the sub-par photos they take. Branded gear or not, it means nothing if u cant take a decent picture. I love affordable-dependable-decent gear that doesn't hv to burn a hole in my wallet.

  6. that was a good point about the TTL with extra flash not getting correct exposure.

    You might care about TTL through the trigger if you mount trigger and flash on camera to use the ability of the trigger to connect as a shutter release.

    Assuming single flash on camera as only flash you would probably want the TTL to work through the trigger.

  7. Hi Paul, great work with your blog here. I'm off to camera gear shop tomorrow to buy these triggers (and a flash too) and I couldn't have stumbled upon your review at a better time. Reading the review got me pondering on a couple of points though. First off, do these things work with multiple flashes? I read somewhere that you have four of them. But on Yongnou's own site, they say one transceiver (on camera) can fire two more. Is that right or you use all for of them (1 transmitter + 3 receivers) at the same time? And second one, can these fire non-ttl flashes as well? On manual mode of course. Not sure if you'll see this comment as this is quite an old post, but still trying my luck.

  8. Yes, you can fire as many flashes as are connected to RF-603s. These are designed for TTL flashes set to manual or non-TTL flashes. Yongnuo just came out with the YN-622 transceiver that will work with TTL flashes. They also just came out with the YN-560 III flash unit that has a built in transceiver that will work with the RF-603 or the RF-602. Hope that helps.

  9. Hello, I have 6 of these and love them. The only issue I have is when I'm metering my lights I have to half press the shutter release, then press the test button on the 603 while its on the camera. I did notice one day while my finger was on the contacts that the secondary LED would light up and I could fire my strobes. Is there a way to trigger the other 603's while the one is off the camera?

    For metering I thought running a small pc to pc from the meter to the trigger would work, but not sure? Any advice?

  10. I have a Canon 7D and a Canon 40D. I would like to use the 603C to trigger the shutter on the 40D when I hit the shutter on the 7D. Is this possible? I haven't found the right magic to do this yet.

  11. I need your help on flash triggers. I bought a pair of YN RF-603C tranceivers.

    Its written in the manual that it can work as both trigger and receiver. In my setup, I want to trigger a (YN560II + RF603) with the other RF603.

    I can trigger the flash when I attach the other RF603 to my camera hotshoe. But, I want to trigger the flash wirelessly using the shutter button at RF603 without attaching it to the hotshoe.

    Is there anyway I can do that ?

    Reason for this setup -
    Canon doesn't support off camera external flash triggering at 2nd curtain. Hence I need the setup to trigger the flash manually just before the 2nd curtain closes.

  12. Yongnuo 603RF Flash triggers: How to fire studio lights to spot meter? Modify? or 602 better
    This minute
    I'm just starting with studio lighting. I bought Travelite 3-Light Kit by Bowens, a battery pack, and a Sekonic L358 flash meter.

    I'm looking for flash triggers for the lights and am leaning toward the Yongnuo, either the 603 or the 602. My understanding is that the 603 are transceivers and one has to be mounted on the camera to fire the flashes. How does that practically work to meter each light? It seems that I either need to:

    1)buy the 603 (which have the advantage that it doesn't use the CR2 battery) and modify it by adding the resister described at to make it a permanent transmitter,

    2) buy an extra 603 so that I can used it as a shutter release to send a signal to the a 603 mounted on the camera so that I can meter the lights, or

    3) buy the 602 which can fire the strobes while not mounted on the camera (but does have tripod thread)

    Please enlighten me if I'm way off, or missing something obvious. I can't figure how you could use the 603 and fire the flash to meter, unless you use another 603 as shutter release.

    Thoughts or recommendations?

  13. Ok so I have a solution for fixing your trigger on a tripod with the flash on. I am wondering how could you not spot it.

    All flashes come with a Flash-stand at which the flash's bottom slides and it makes the flash stand desktop. These flash stands has the screw-in hole which you can mount on a tripod. Just slide the trigger on that flash stand and then slide the flash over the Trigger. You are done.


  14. Tem como o RF-603C funcionar na maquina NIKON?

  15. I just bought a pair of these and so far I am impressed by how good they are for the money. They seem to work well on both my 600D and 400D - and are even able to act as flash trigger and shutter release simultaneously (in reality, you would want a third one - I was just testing to see if it was an option. I bought these to overcome the fact that my AC flash slave fires on the first flash and I have a portrait shoot to do soon. Another thought was that I can use flashes from my film days without risking frying the camera and trigger a further one as an optical slave. I may give the 1960's Mecablitz that gives a big blue spark its retirement!

    Question 1 - is there any way of using these as a receiver with the Canon wireless flash transmitter built into my nice new 600D? I have tinkered but without success so far.

    Question 2 - if I bought a second pair, could I trigger two cameras plus a flash from a fourth one as the transmitter?

    Regarding elitism .... I thought I was getting that from people whose cameras begin with an N rather than a C, or whose model numbers were shorter! If it's good kit and it works well, then it is fit for purpose. I use Eos x00D bodies because I have had good experiences with them. They are light, making great travel cameras - my 400D has been around the counter numbers nearly twice, and has been terrific in heat, cold, extreme humidity and torrential rain. Some people who have "all the gear and no idea" have a tendency to sneer.

    Really good blog.



  16. I love these little triggers!!! I have one dilemma... I would like to use these on my Calumet lights -but I'm not sure what kind of cable to buy to essentially plug one of my triggers in to it... Any thoughts???