Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Under $200 Speedlight Roundup

With summer in full swing, and lots of outdoor photography to be done, you may be thinking about getting an extra speedlight or two for outdoor work. If you're on a budget and want something that will work on or off-camera, here's a list of speedlights to chew on: six speedlights under $200 that you can put to use!

Neewer (Godox) TT560 Around $40

The least-expensive speedlight in this set is also the least powerful. It does, however, have manual control with a good range of settings, a useful 2-mode built-in optical slave, and decent power levels. For fill, hair, or edge lighting in a multi-flash setup, for a ridiculous price, this is a viable option.

-Around $40. For a speedlight that works.
-Decent power (GN 38 meters @ ISO 100, 124 feet @ ISO 100)
-Tilt/rotate flash head
-8 stops manual power control
-2 slave modes, normal optical slave, optical slave ignoring TTL pre-flash
-Works on Canon, Nikon, Pentax, or any other standard hot shoe camera/trigger

-No zoom for flash head
-No PC sync socket or external battery pack connector
-Plastic (but locking) hot shoe
-No automatic modes of any kind (including TTL)

Vivitar 285HV Around $80

The venerable Vivitar 285HV lacks a motorized zoom head, as well as a swiveling flash head, but makes up for those shortcomings with a reliable non-TTL automatic flash mode (which can be used on or off camera), good power, and a reasonable price. I own and use two of these, and am very happy with them. Note that Vivitar's manufacturing is now being done by an entirely different company, and there may be some quality control issues with these newer units. The specifications are the same as always, though, so make sure to purchase from a good company (links to Amazon and Adorama are below, both reliable) with a good return policy!

-GN 140 feet @ ISO 100 (44 meters @ ISO 100)
-Zoom/Tilt flash head (3 manual zoom steps)
-4 stop manual power adjustment
-Automatic (non-TTL) modes, 3 f-stop choices
-Sync socket (proprietary), external battery pack connector
-Locking hot shoe
-Works on Canon, Nikon, Pentax, or any other standard hot shoe camera/trigger

-No optical slave
-Plastic hot shoe
-Manual (non-motorized) zoom head, limited to 3 positions
-Limited manual settings, missing 1/8 power (1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/16)

Vivitar 285HV at Adorama

Yongnuo YN-560II Around $85

For a few dollars more than the Vivitar 285HV, the Yongnuo YN-560II gives you a motorized zoom flash head, both tilt and swivel, a locking metal hot shoe, useful 2-mode optical slave built in, and more manual power options. For an off-camera second or slave flash, this is one of the top two contenders in this list, the other being the LumoPro LP160 (below).
- Exact same form factor as Canon 580EXII (so accessories fit)
- Metal Locking Hot Shoe
- PC Cord sync port, external battery pack connector
- Guide number 58 (meters @ ISO 100 -- 190 ft @ ISO 100)
- Tilt/rotate/Zoom Flash head
- 8 stops manual power control
- 2 slave modes, normal optical slave, optical slave ignoring TTL pre-flash
- Works on Canon, Nikon, Pentax, or any other standard hot shoe camera/trigger

- No automatic modes of any kind (including TTL)
- LCD display can be hard to read
- Lightweight build quality

Sunpak PZ42X Around $145

The Sunpak PZ42X, available in both Nikon and Canon TTL-compatible versions, is a good combination of on-camera TTL automatic flash and off-camera manual flash features. It offers decent power levels (more than the Vivitar 285HV, less than the Yongnuo YN560II), and a very good 7-stop range of manual power settings. It lacks an optical slave or a PC socket, so for off-camera use radio triggers will be a necessity.

- TTL Automatic (Canon and Nikon versions available)
- GN 138 feet @ ISO 100 (42 meters @ ISO 100)
- 7-stop manual power levels
- Tilt/Swivel/Zoom (motorized) flash head
- Locking hot shoe
- Better than average build quality

- No sync socket or external battery pack connector
- No optical slave
- Plastic hot shoe

Sunpak PZ42X at Adorama

LumoPro LP160 Around $160

Designed specifically for "Strobist" off-camera shooting and available only at Midwest Photo Exchange, the LP160 is a very good choice for all-manual off-camera flash work. It has good power levels, multiple sync connections, a motorized zoom/tilt/swivel flash head, and a built-in optical slave that can "ignore" TTL pre-flashes. It does, however, lack any TTL or other automatic modes, making it less useful than some of the others for on-camera flash work.
- GN 140 feet @ ISO 100 (43 meters @ ISO 100)
- PC and miniphone (3.5mm) sync ports
- Tilt/Swivel/Zoom flash head (motorized zoom)
- Optical slave (normal, and "ignore TTL pre-flash" modes)
- 7-stop manual exposure control
- External battery pack connector
- Locking metal hot shoe

- No automatic modes (including TTL)

LumoPro LP160 at Midwest Photo Exchange

Sigma EF-610 DG ST Around $165

I'm a big fan of Sigma flashes -- but a bit less so of the less expensive ST series than the Super series. The EF-610 DG ST model does very good on-camera E-TTL automatic duty, and off-camera E-TTL duty as well (for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, and other camera systems). It's not nearly as capable, though, as its bigger brother Super model when it comes to manual off-camera flash work. It lacks a built-in optical slave, and has limited manual power settings. A good choice for on-camera work at an affordable price, not as good as some of the others for off-camera work. It is, however, the most powerful of these under $200 models.
- TTL (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, others) compatible, fully auto modes
- GN 61 (meters @ ISO 100, 200 ft. @ ISO 100)
- Zoom/Tilt/Swivel flash head
- Manual mode, 2 power levels (full or 1/16 power)
- Locking hot shoe

- No optical slave
- No PC Socket
- Limtied manual power levels
- No external battery pack connector
- Plastic hot shoe

There are other speedlights in the under $200 price range, this list is by no means exhaustive. These six, however, are a good representation of the range of options and prices available, and give you lots of choices when looking for a new speedlight at a reasonable price that you can use either on or off camera. If you need some more summer light for your shots, pick one up and have fun!


  1. This "roundup" fails to indicate at what zoom setting the speed lights were tested which makes the reported guide numbers meaningless.
    I understand that manufacturers sometimes conveniently fail to report this, thereby inflating their supposed GN but, if you had the flashes at your disposal for testing, I would expect you to do the math for your reader.

  2. Non of these state for af assist and wireless triggers built in

  3. lol such ungrateful assholes. Do the work yourselves you effing princesses.

    Thanks for the work you did for us.

  4. Great post...! Thanks for sharing.. Really helpful and great listing too.

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