Yongnuo YN600EX-RT: Separated at Birth?

Yongnuo YN600EX-RT

Yongnuo YN600EX-RT

You may be forgiven if you assume that the Yongnuo YN600EXRT is a sibling of its far-more-expensive Canon counterpart. Raj Lalwani puts this high-end flashgun to the test.

Look at the Yongnuo from afar and you’d surely hear dramatic music, the kind that usually accompanies a family reunion scene in a Hindi movie potboiler. How did a thirdparty company manage to achieve such similarity to Canon’s designs? Sure, camera manufacturing history has seen remakes, clones and copies, but the Yongnuo is particularly uncanny, down to some details. Second, are there any differences in the way the YN600EX-RT actually behaves, when put to the test? Third, if you get a Canon-like flash for one-fourth the price, would you actually buy the original one? What does one gain or lose?

The YN600EX-RT is a high-end flashgun that is compatible with Canon’s new 2.4GHz RT radio system that the proprietary 600EX-RT strobe features. The radio system allows TTL triggering and strobe control in a setup that’s easier and more reliable than IR, especially as it does not involve direct line-of-sight mechanisms and will also work through obstacles.

The other features seem identical as well. The Guide Number is 197’ at ISO 100 and 200mm. The zoom head has an excellent range of 20–200mm (14mm with wide-angle panel). A Power Saving mode and overheating protection are two of the important features.

Interestingly, the Yongnuo is not sold with colour filters or gels. If you wish to balance ambient light conditions of different temperatures, experimenting with gels is an absolute must, and this is quite an oversight with the Yongnuo.

The design of the Yongnuo is a near copy of the Canon, right down to the tiniest of details in terms of what button lies where. But hold the flashgun in your hand and you’ll immediately realise the difference. The Yongnuo is a third of the price, and it definitely lacks the premium feeling that Canon’s flagship flashgun has. The YN600EX-RT is made up of cheaper, softer plastics. The battery doors are flimsy and the rubber port-covers do not stay on. The flash head swivels without needing to press any buttons.

I personally missed a warming gel, but with critical control over shutterspeed and illumination, you can still control the final look of your photo. Exposure: 1/20sec at f/9 (ISO 1000). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

I personally missed a warming gel, but with critical control over shutterspeed and illumination, you can still control the final look of your photo. Exposure: 1/20sec at f/9 (ISO 1000). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Ergonomically, this is a complex flashgun, but if you invest time in studying its various possibilities and modes, you will be able to make good use of it. There are some nice touches that the Yongnuo has. One, it has a battery level indicator that is accurate and useful. The LCD screen is easier to read, in fact. The autofocus-assist beam of the flashgun is quite unique, brighter than other flashes and thus, more useful.

The YN600EX-RT performed admirably in our tests. It is powerful, consistent and versatile. The recycling time is admirably fast. Colour rendition is accurate, though there are times that the flash has had a tendency of being a little too cool-toned. Power efficiency seems to be a problem as the batteries I was using kept running out faster than they would have, otherwise.

I can understand some users having concerns about the Yongnuo, preferring to stay with the proprietary brand that they trust. Especially, if you are a seasoned pro who needs a workhorse flashgun to make pictures in tough conditions, you may want to skip the Yongnuo YNEX600-RT. On the other hand, strobists, particularly those who wish to control a great number of flashguns simultaneously, will look at the Yongnuo favourably. Even though the build quality is a lot inferior, you can literally buy four such flashguns for the price of one Canon flagship.

Compatible with Canon’s new 2.4GHz RT, no coloured gels or filters
Very fast recycling time not power efficient
Build Quality
Not as sturdy as proprietary counterparts
Bright, clear LED panel, button layout similar to Canon flashguns, no head swivel lock
Warranty & Support
No service centres
MRP USD 118.99 (approx. Rs. 7700)
Who should buy it? Student photographers wanting a high-end, but inexpensive flashgun.
Why? This is one of the most incredibly feature-packed flashguns in the market, and it’s only a fraction of the cost of the product it takes maximum inspiration from.
Tags: Raj Lalwani, December 2015, Flash review, Yongnuo YN600EX-RT