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Review: Yongnuo YN622C TTL Flash Trigger

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Video Transcript

Today we're going to look at the Yongnuo YN622C Flash Trigger and see why this is an important and interesting trigger for anyone considering off camera flash photography. Now first of all, the YN622C that I have here, that C stands for Canon, and this is only compatible with Canon cameras and Canon flashes. There's a separate version for Nikon and it works differently because Canon and Nikon flash systems work differently. I've only tested the Canon version.

Now let's start by asking, "Why does this trigger matter?" Well here's why I think it's important. This trigger fills a gap in flash trigger market place because it's an inexpensive trigger but it still gives you full TTL funcationality. TTL meaning through the lens, through the lens metering of your flash exposure for your remote off camera flashes. Now in the past, of course, we had some inexpensive triggers but they were manual sync only triggers where you had to set the power on your flashes by hand. And at the other end of the spectrum, we had some really nice fancy TTL triggers made by companies like PocketWizard and Phottix but those triggers, of course, were very very expensive. So now along comes this 622 and it closes the gap. It's much less expensive than the other TTL triggers but it still gives you the full range of TTL funcationality.

So I'm sure you're wondering, "All right, what's the catch?" And there's a bit of a catch and it's the fact that these triggers can be pretty complicated to use; especially if you want to get the full range of TTL functions, and we'll talk more about that in a few minutes.

First let's take a look at the features. Now here's what I like about these. It's a transceiver design so the transmitter and receivers are identical. That means you'll always have a backup transmitter if one of them should fail. It's got a compact size and shape that won't block your view when it's mounted on your camera. It's got a TTL pass through hot shoe on the transmitter so you can mount a TTL flash right on your camera. It gives you three separately controlled groups of remote flashes. It gives you full TTL functions like high speed sync and second curtain sync. It takes regular AA batteries. It's got a 100 meter range. It has a locking ring so it won't fall off your camera with a flash attached to it like the Yongnuo RF603 will. And finally, this is a huge plus, has a red focus assist beam to help you focus in low light. We'll talk more about that in a minute.

Of course, it also has a few design drawbacks as well. First of all the locking ring is really small and very hard to turn. I've had to put the pliers on it to get it off more than once. The second problem is that the channel changing button is very easy to accidentally bump and accidentally change the channel that you're on. Especially because it's right beside the test button and it feels identical to it, making it all the easier to get the wrong button. And you got to watch out for this. The first time it happened to me I lost 20 minutes during the shoot when I couldn't figure out why all of my flashes stopped working, and it turns out that I'd just accidentally bumped that and I was on the wrong channel. And third, the battery contacts inside are kind of touchy. When I first unboxed these I thought I had a dead unit until one of my subscribers wrote in and told me to try wiggling the batteries, and sure enough I wiggled the batteries and got it working. So you got to watch out for that. And I've also read that you might want to use regular alkaline batteries in these instead of rechargeable because they're very voltage sensitive. But I've found them working fine so far with my rechargeable Eneloop batteries, but your mileage may vary.

Now, this may seem paradoxical given what I just said about these being complicated to use but you can actually use these triggers straight out of the box. For example, here is a test shot that I took of my daughter with these straight out of the box. I just put one on the camera and another on my speedlite flash, which was mounted on a light stand with an umbrella, and I fired off a shot with no setup, no configuration, just bang. And you can see it worked, and it even had proper TTL metering. And even better, it automatically did high speed sync. With that bright setting sun in the background I needed a relatively fast shutter speed to avoid blowing out the sky. So I shot this at 1/400, which is beyond the sync speed of most cameras. Well the 622 detected that I was above my camera sync speed and it kicked in the high speed sync automatically. That's cool. And also if you're looking carefully you may notice there's more than one light in this shot. My subject is lit from the front by an umbrella with one flash on a 622 triggered in TTL mode. But there's also a second light coming from the back, gelled orange to simulate the setting sun. You can see it on this side of her face. And by the way, if you're curious about learning how to do this kind of off camera flash portrait photography, that's what I have a whole course on on my website. And it's called "How to Shoot Professional Looking Headshots and Portraits On a Budget With Small Flashes". So if you're curious about this kind of shooting you can go check that out there.

All right. Now let's talk for a minute about that back flash. Unlike my front flash, which is firing in TTL mode, through the lens metering of its exposure, that back flash is just a manual set flash. I set it spower manually by hand. I set it on its lowest power and it will always fire at that power, no matter what, every time I press the shutter button. So the cool thing about the 622 is it just fired that while it's doing my front flash in TTL mode. I set the back flash in manual mode and it fires that one as well. Now this test shot with a strong backlight also gave me a chance to test what I think is one of the most important features of the 622. And that is the fact that it has a red focus assist beam that comes out of this little panel on the front right there to help you focus in low light. And I think this is terrible important because it's the one key feature missing from my favorite TTL trigger, the Phottix Odin. All cameras have a hard time focusing with strong backlight like this because the subject is lost in shadow, basically a silhouette and the autofocus can't find any contrast to focus on. Well if you put the master flash on your camera like a Canon 580ex II, for example, it will put out a red focus assist beam to help your camera lock focus in low light situations where the autofocus can't get much contrast. Well, the 622 puts out a similar beam and here's what it looks like shining on the wall. When you press the shutter button halfway that beam comes on to help your autofocus lock on in dark situations. This is incredibly helpful; every flash trigger should do this.

I did find one little problem with it though in my testing. If you're fairly close to your subject, because the beam comes out parallel to your lens, it'll often be too high for your center focus point. Now if you get really far back the beam spread gets wide enough to cover the center focus point. But when you're at what for me which is a normal portrait distance, sometimes the beam is too high and it forces me to use my top focus point instead of my center one and the center one is the most sensitive and usually the one you want to be using. So that's kind of a little flaw. But frankly I'll take any help I can get in this area. And you might even try this; even when you're not using a flash you can put the 622 on your camera and use that focus assist beam to help you lock focus when you're shooting in high ISO, low light conditions. Why not?

Well if these triggers are so easy to use right out of the box, like I did in that shot with my daughter, then why did I say they can be so complicated to use? Well the trouble comes in when you try to do more advanced setups. Let's say you want to have several different groups of flashes, each at different power ratios, or you want to have a couple of groups of TTL flashes with different power ratios and some manual flashes. Well then you're in a situation where you're dealing with the inherent complexity of Canon's ABC radio system, which can be pretty complicated all on its own. And then add to that now you've got a layer on top, you've got this middle man layer of the triggers themselves which are sort of adding on and extending the power of that Canon system, and the triggers themselves have their own complexity. So you've got complexity on top of complexity. So you can just imagine this gets pretty hair at times to figure out. And just in case that isn't complex enough for you, these triggers also work different depending on which kind of camera and which kind of flash you have. For example, if you have one of the newer Canon cameras, the kind that has the built in flash control menu system in the camera, and if you have one of the newer Canon flashes, then you can get the full range of TTL functionality out of these triggers using your camera's built in menu system. But if you have an older camera or an older flash then you may have to use more manual settings where you go and maybe manually sest the power or maybe manually set exposure compensation on the flashes before you start shooting. And you'll still get full TTL functionality but you won't be able to do as much of it from your camera position. So as you can imagine this can all get pretty tricky and, in fact, it can just about make your head explode. So I can't really recommend these triggers to anyone who doesn't like fiddling around with technical gear.

So how does the 622 compare to my favorite TTL flash trigger, the Phottix Odin? Well it's really just a matter of ease of use. They both give you the same function. They give you TTL; they give you high speed sync, they give you second curtain sync. But the Odin allows you to control your remote flashes from a simple LCD screen where you can set the power of each one individually; you set it to manual individually. It's much more similar to Nikon's flash system, which I frankly think is superior to Canon's. By contrast, the 622 just sort of piggybacks on top of the propietary Canon flash control system, which I've always thought is unnecessarily complicated with its weird ABC ratios and it's just harder to use. Of course if you're already familiar with the Canon flash control system and its ABC ratios then you'll probably love the 622s because it works exactly the same way. But if you're not already a high priest of the Canon flash control system then you'll find something like the Odin much simpler to use. So in the end the Phottix Odin is still my favorite TTL flash trigger because it's just so much simpler to use, but of course it costs four or five times as much as the 622s. So if you're looking for a lower price TTL flash trigger system that works well then I can highly recommend these Yongnuo 622s. Or if you're looking for one that has a focus assist beam to help you focus in low light, and if that's really important, then the 622 has it and the Odin lacks it.

And then I had a brainstorm. I thought "Why not take the Odin and put it on the TTL pass through hot shoe, on the 622, and use the Odin to control my flashes while I'm using the 622's focus beam to help me focus in the dark?" Best of both words, right? The ultimate flash trigger! Unfortunately I tried it and it doesn't work. For some reason the Odin gets confused by having the 622 in between there and it always fires all of the flashes at full power. But hey, it was worth a try. However I did discover that you can do this. Let's say you have some old manual flash triggers around, like some RF602s or Phottix Stratos like these here. Well you can take your manual triggers and put them on top of the pass through hot shoe, on the 622, and use the manual trigger to control your manual background lights while you're using 622 to control your TTL foreground lights. That way you can save a lot of money using your old triggers for those backlights instead of having to buy more 622 receivers, expensive 622 receivers, to use for those manual backlights. So I think you can start to see that with mixed systems like this the possibilities start to look pretty big.

All right. That's it for this one. I hope you found this helpful. I look forward to talking with you again soon.