Buying the Yongnuo YN560-II was a gamble — I’ve read the same reviews as everyone else.
Yongnuo has a reputation for producing really cheap flashes, and sometimes you get what you pay
for. But I had some Christmas money, so this flash only cost me half price. I figured it was a
gamble worth taking.
For me, it paid off. In my first few days of testing, the YN560-II was well worth the money, and it
had me itching for more. Not long after, I bought another one, which was perfect, unlike the
really good first one. The first one apparently suffered from a few glitches.
There’s no question why I chose this flash. The very low price combined with
Yongnuo’s slowly increasing reputation as a decent manufacturer made for a deal difficult to
pass up. To my knowledge, it’s the least-expensive fully manual, powerful flash available
from a company that’s not a complete rip-off machine.
As for why I bought another manual flash at all, that’s relatively easy too. For
years, I’ve been migrating to
off-camera flash. There are two main categories of off-camera flash users: (1) those who use
brand-specific ETTL setups, and (2) those who want exact and specific control of each flash unit.
Until this purchase, I had only one manual flash, the LumoPro
LP160. My Canon and ProMaster flashguns are just as powerful but (basically) uncontrollable in
Why didn’t I buy the mkIII version
(see my later review of it)? It was only
$15 more, but included features that I don’t need or want, such as a built-in radio trigger
receiver. If I’d already been using Yongnuo radio triggers, that might have appealed to me,
but I’m using Cactus triggers. Also, the mkIII’s menu system seemed more needlessly
Worst Things First
Logo on front of flash
The first YN560-II I received was from an early batch and had a few issues that later batches
didn’t have. I’ve indicated the difference below.
Low-Battery Indicator Is Unhelpful
This one is true of both models I own. The low-battery indicator, an icon on the LCD screen, is
supposed to warn the user that the batteries are low. For me, it only shows up when the flash
won’t fire anymore because the batteries are too low. There’s no point in having
the indicator if it doesn’t warn me ahead of time.
• Poorly Translated User Manual
One irritating (yet humorous) thing about the YN560-II (both of mine) is the user manual. I think
we’ve all heard of Chinglish; whoever
translated the YN560-II user manual must have been trying for that on purpose. Here are just a few
“Please place the batteries and the parts which can be swallowed mistakenly away
from children. Contact a doctor immediately when it occurs.”
As opposed to the parts that can be swallowed intentionally? And once the batteries are safe from
my children, I should contact a doctor? There are more:
“To avoid possible safety accident, do not use the flash light on the people who
need a high degree of attention.”
I have no idea what that was supposed to mean. Is it referring to the mentally challenged?
“Note: the sound can be closed.”
But my favorite part of the manual was this line:
“You can understand the function of each button by pressing them and observing
the displayed content.”
In other words: You don’t need no stinking manual. Just push the buttons and see what
• Flash & Batteries Got Hot — Fast (First unit only)
My first YN560-II had this issue; the second model did not. Any time the flash was turned on, it
started to get warm, just a bit. If I actually fired the flash, the body (especially at the
tilt/swivel joint) got very hot. After three or four flashes in succession — less than a
minute apart — then it was too hot to touch. An example: during a family portrait session, I
used this as my fourth flash. It was set at 1/4 power. After less than 20 flashes over the course
of 15 minutes, it turned itself off. The casing of the flash was too hot to touch; I was barely
able to get the batteries out; they were also too hot to touch. The second YN560-II was also used
on this shoot and didn’t get hot at all. The third unit, purchased a year later, did not have
this issue either.
• Short Battery Life (First unit only)
Like my first complaint, this one is limited to the first model I received. The second YN560-II
— from a newer batch — didn’t have this problem at all. The battery life was
surprisingly short, getting 50 pops or less from a fully-charged set of Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries.
My second model performed much better, getting 100-200 flashes (just like my
LP160 and LP180), depending
on power settings. The third unit was also fine.
Inside the box, besides the user manual and the flashgun itself, was a plastic stand (with female
1/4”-20 thread on bottom) and a nylon pouch. The pouch has little-to-no padding and no belt
loop. So it would only offer minimal protection (from scratches, I guess?) and is only for
Contents of box
Build, Quality & Size
After reading dozens of reviews about the cheap plastic that Yongnuo products are made from, I
half-expected the casing to be cracked right out of the box. But my Yongnuo YN560-II (all three units)
feels solidly built. Nothing was loose or wiggly. The casing didn’t feel thin or bendy
to me. The hot foot (simple single pin) is metal
(see image); the
locking wheel is firm. The control buttons are resistant without being difficult to press. The
swivel/bounce head requires a little more pressure than I expected; it tilts and twists with robust
In all, I was impressed by the construction of this flash. To my untrained eye, it seems on par
with my Canon 420EX Speedlite or ProMaster 5550DX Digital flash, while not quite as muscular as the
LumoPro LP160, but much more solid than my Vivitar Auto30D.
The back and front of the Yongnuo YN560-II
I was also surprised at its weight. Holding it, I thought it felt lighter than my LP160 or Canon
420EX, but it’s actaully heavier. The specs in the manual say it’s 350 grams, which is
exactly what it weighed on my kitchen scale. The LP160 is 320g (315g in specs), 420EX is 300g, and
my ProMaster is 250g (212g in specs).
It’s slightly longer than the LP160 and nearly an inch longer than my Canon or ProMaster
units. It’s as wide as the LumoPro (wider than the others) and slightly deeper.
Comparison of LumoPro LP160 and Yongnuo YN560-II
It’s the only flash I’ve ever seen where the battery compartment door is on the right
(see image). All
others are on the left.
1/128 power, plus 1/3-stop
Using the left/right control buttons on the back of the YN560-II, you can set the power all the way
from 1/1 (full power) to 1/128, for seven full stops of power adjustments (eight total settings).
Using the up/down buttons, you can fine-tune the power at 1/3-stops and 1/2-stops.
This makes it notably more versatile than my LP160, which only goes down to 1/64, and only goes in
full stops, and even slightly better than my LP180, which cannot change power in full
The YN560-II remembers your settings, even if you remove and replace the batteries.
This flash claimed to have a guide
number of 190.3 when zoomed to 105mm, which would make it half a stop brighter than my LP160
and 1.7 stops brighter than my LP180. In other words, it should be the brightest flash I own.
It is, without question. In fact, it’s actually about two times as bright as
the LP180, as demonstrated in the following non-scientific test.
In a direct comparison, I put my YN560-II and LP180 each 152.4 cm (60 inches) from the dark red
curtains in my office. Each was zoomed to 105mm and pointed directly at the curtains. At the same
power setting (see image),
the Yongnuo was indeed quite a bit brighter than the LP180. In the following image, the YN560-II is
set to 1/16 power, while the LP180 is set to 1/8 power:
YN560-II (left) at 1/16 power versus LumoPro LP180 (right) at 1/8 power
Meant to be used as an off-camera flash, the YN560-II has several triggering options, including
the single-pin hot foot (works on any standard hot shoe), the optical slave, and a female PC sync
jack. (That’s one less than the LP160/LP180, which
also have 3.5mm miniphone sockets.)
3-Minute Auto Shutoff
If left idle for three minutes, the YN560-II will enter “dormancy mode” (hibernation).
That requires a physical button press to get it going again. You can turn off the power-saving
mode (press and hold the musical note button), in which case the flash will stay alert for 30
minutes. There is no option to leave the flash on permanently.
If you ask me, three minutes is too short, but it’s better than the 90 seconds offered by my
Canon flash. (The LP160 stays on for 30 minutes by default.)
It requires two hands to tilt/swivel the head of this flash, because of the stiffness of the
joints. They might get looser with more use. At least they don’t have a locking mechanism
like the Canon.
The YN560-II is the first flash I owned with a built-in bounce card and diffusion panel (see image
at right). They both pull out of the slot together, but either can be pushed back in separately.
I initially did’t experiment with either, but midway through 2014 I used the YN560-II at my
son’s baptism and reception, with the bounce card pulled out, with great results. The bounce
card is (according to the manual) good for creating catch lights in subjects’ eyes. I found
it threw forward enough fill light to be noticeable. The diffusion panel widens and softens the
My initial conclusion was that this is a flash I “can live with”, but once I learned
that the quick battery drain and heat problem only affected my first unit, I quickly became a fan
of the YN560-II. I do love my old LP160 and I like the LP180, but they don't stand up to the
More than once now, it’s been the only flash I brought with me on outings and trips.
After a year with this flash — especially the second copy — and even after getting the
LumoPro LP180, the YN560-II is not only my “best flash for
the money”, it’s my best flash period. Only the lack of a 1/8” miniphone jack has
been irritating. (To be honest, I haven’t been affected by the lack of a working low-battery
icon; I just fire until the flash runs out of power.)
For a while, the only thing that prevented me from adding a third YN560-II was the first copy and
the problems it had. Now I’ve learned those issues were limited to earlier batches of
Yongnuos. B&H has added Yongnuos to its renowned catalog. And I ordered a third.