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Is there a 3rd party flash which is both capable of being used off the camera using optical transmission and radio transmission?

I have been told that "Canon 430EX III-RT Speedlite" is capable of just that.

Additionally maybe there are some recommendations regarding an flash which can be issued optically (and in the same way being future proof and supporting RT)

Usage of the flash:

  • On camera: for portrait (using indirect flash)

  • Off camera: Thinking of macro shots with "simulating the sunshine" from one side + again portrait.

I am using a 700D and I do not plan to update on the near future.

  • The 700D does not have wireless (radio) trigger ability, AFAIK. Only optical. – ths Jun 1 '17 at 19:20
  • You are right about only optical trigger. But I want to have the flash longer than my camera (1 year old), so RT makes sense here? Otherwise I can take like 99% of Canon flashes for remote flashing... – Florian Reisinger Jun 1 '17 at 19:26
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    Optical, as well as radio, also falls under the umbrella of wireless transmission. – Michael C Jun 1 '17 at 19:52
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Is there a 3rd party flash which is both capable of being used off the camera using optical transmission and radio transmission?

Short answer: The Yongnuo YN600EX-RT II can be used both optically and via radio as either an on-camera master or as an off-camera slave.

Pretty much any third party flash that is capable of optical wireless communication can also be used for radio wireless communication by attaching an appropriate radio transmitter to the camera's hot shoe and a matching receiver to the flash's hot shoe. This would include flashes such as the Yongnuo YN568EX II or the Nissin Di866 II.

Here's the deal: There are plenty of third party flashes with built-in radio receivers capable of radio communication. The problem is that many of them use different radio protocols. Just because a flash has a radio receiver doesn't mean it will work with all radio transmitters. Far from it.

Before we go any further, let's establish a few definitions:

  • Wireless can refer to either optical or radio communication between the camera and flash.
  • Optical wireless communications uses pulses of light (either visible or near-infrared) for the master unit or transmitter on the camera to communicate with off-camera slaves.
  • Radio wireless communications use encoded radio signals, usually in the 2.4GHz band, for the master unit or radio trigger on the camera to communicate with off-camera flashes.
  • Protocol is the 'language' that each wireless system (both optical and radio) uses to communicate. Even when two different radio systems use the same radio frequency, they often use a different protocol to transmit the information over that radio frequency.

Though most radio systems use the 2.4GHz band, they use different protocols for the signals transmitted within that band.

Canon has the RT system. Godox has their own X1 system (as well as a different older system). Yongnuo has the manual YN560/RF605/RF603 system, the E-TTL YN622 system, as well as some products that are compatible with the Canon RT system. Most Yongnuo YN622 units made since the end of 2014 can receive (but not transmit) signals from YN560/RF605/RF603 transmitters but the reverse is not true - YN560/RF605/RF603 units can only receive signals from YN560/RF605/RF603 transmitters. There are a few others as well.

As long as you stay within the same radio system, though, there are plenty of third party flashes that will work with your EOS 700D. With the 700D, any radio system, including Canon's own RT system, will require a radio transmitter attached to the camera. As of May 2017 no Canon body has a built-in RT radio transmitter. Most recent Canon bodies with a pop-up flash do have limited ability to control remote flashes optically. This would include any Canon flash with an 'EX' in the model name as well as any third party flash with 'Canon wireless (optical) E-TTL' compatibility.

There are disadvantages with using optical wireless communications instead of radio communications, though:

  • Distance limitations. Most optical systems, especially when using a weak built-in popup flash as the controller, are much more range limited than radio systems.
  • Positioning limitations. Most of the optical controllers only cover an area about as wide as a 24mm lens on a FF camera. If the remote flash is further to the right or left it may not receive any optical signal, even if it is only a few feet from the camera! Radios transmit in all directions from the camera.
  • Line-of-sight requirements. In addition to being in the "cone" of light transmitted by the master, off camera flashes must have a clear line-of-sight to the master with the optical receiver on the flash pointed in the direction of the master. This inhibits being able to place optically controlled flashes inside modifiers, placing them behind objects in the scene, etc. Radio systems are not limited to line-of-sight and can even be used on the other side of walls and other obstructions (although the obstructions may reduce the range somewhat).
  • Difficulty with bright ambient light. Especially outside under sunlight, the power of optical wireless control is very limited. Again, especially with a relatively weak built-in popup flash, the master just doesn't have much power to cut through the bright sunlight and the receivers can't detect the weak signal from the master over the very bright sunlight. Radios work just as well in bright sunlight as they do in a dark studio.

About the only advantage optical control has over radio control for you is that you don't need an on-camera radio transmitter attached to your camera's hot shoe. (But you'll probably soon discover that you'll need a more powerful on-camera optical master attached to your camera's hot shoe to get the optical system to work the way you want, if it will even work then.)

For these reasons, it is probably better to start by just choosing a radio system and then stick with that system. Optical control of off camera flash is fast becoming old technology that is only included in current products to allow them to work with cameras and other flashes that were made before the use of radio communication became more prevalent to control off camera flashes.

Yongnuo is probably the cheapest way to go. You can choose to use the YN600EX-RT or YN600EX-RT II along with a YN-E3-RT radio transmitter and also have cross-compatibility with most Canon RT flashes. Or you can choose to use the YN622C system that includes several newer flashes with built in YN622C receivers. Note that you can still use other Canon E-TTL flashes, including RT flashes, with the YN622 system but you'll need a YN622 receiver attached to the hot shoe of the RT flash.

For the price of a single Canon 600EX-RT II you can buy two YN600EX-RT II flashes and a YN-E3-RT controller. For about the price of the Canon ST-E3-RT controller you'd need for the 600EX-RT you can buy 2-3 more Yongnuo flashes. (Or if you choose to use a YN-E3-RT controller with a Canon 600EX-RT II the money you save on the controller would almost allow you to buy a couple of YN600EX-RT II units.) The advantage of the RT system is you won't need a receiver on each remote RT flash. If you go the YN622 route, the YN622C-TX controllers and YN-622C II transceivers (they can be either a transmitter or receiver, but don't have the LCD display of the transmit only YN622C-TX) are about $40 each. The advantage of the YN622C system is than any E-TTL compatible flash (Canon or 3rd party) should be controllable via a YN622C receiver attached to its hot shoe. Of course the YN685 has a built in YN622 receiver and doesn't need a separate receiver attached to the hot shoe.

The Godox X1 system is becoming very popular as well. They have integrated a single radio protocol that allows control of their E-TTL flashes, manual only flashes, and small studio flashes. This allows someone who starts out with manual only flashes to grow into E-TTL and studio lights without having to start over with a new radio system. Most of their current models have built in X1 receivers. You'll need an external Godox X1 receiver to use the Godox system with any non-Godox flash, though.

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    It's worth noting that the Godox flashes are sold under several different brands; notably, Flashpoint and Cheetah Light in the US, as well as Neewer (although Neewer also rebrands other flashes). – mattdm Jun 2 '17 at 13:20
  • The reason I am hesitating buying a Canon flash obviously is the price point. I am afraid that I have to carry a lot of AA batteries with me. I see the positive side of radio transmission. For me (at the moment) it seems like additional stuff to carry around. Although RT is Canon only, it would save me a receiver when buying a compatible flash. I see that the same is true for any there flash system ^^. I am in Europe and with the RT system and Yongnuo radio wireless I could enter for < 200€. I guess that is the cheapest price I can get. The 430 RT alone is 200€+ and optical wireless only. – Florian Reisinger Jun 2 '17 at 18:10
  • Just because I have no idea: How long can I shoot with flash attached. Does the battery need to be taken out, because the flash or receiver turned off empty the batteries within days? – Florian Reisinger Jun 2 '17 at 18:11
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    Optical signalling uses far more battery power than radio signalling does. And it will be your camera's main battery that is depleted faster, not a set of rechargeable AAs in your flash controller. Alkaline AAs might also be easier to find when travelling than a place to recharge your camera's battery. YMMV. – Michael C Jun 2 '17 at 19:22
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    How long batteries last in a flash will vary greatly depending on how much power you use for each flash and how many different sessions you use it. Each time you power it up the capacitor will get a full charge that may be dissipated over time if you turn it back off and power it up again a while later. – Michael C Jun 2 '17 at 19:27
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I have been told that "Canon 430EX III-RT Speedlite" is capable of just that.

Yes, the Canon 430EX III-RT can be triggered as a slave using either optical or radio transmission. As well, the Canon 600EX-RT and 600-EX II-RT can work as master or slave using either optical or radio transmission.

However, you asked for a 3rd party flash, which means you're looking for products from companies other than Canon. Yongnuo has models that are comparable to Canon's, and which are apparently compatible with Canon's optical and radio transmission systems. However, according to How do I set a Yongnuo YN600EX-RT into optical master mode to trigger a Canon 430EXII?, Yongnuo's YN600EX-RT does not work as a master unit using optical transmission. If you're planning to use your camera's built-in flash as the master, that shouldn't be a problem.

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    Unlike the YN600EX-RT, the YN600EX-RT II does have optical master capability. – Michael C Jun 2 '17 at 19:33
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Is there a 3rd party flash which is both capable of being used off the camera using optical transmission and radio transmission?

This depends on your definitions of "being used" and "optical transmission" and "radio transmission".

If "being used" just means firing the flash in sync and nothing else, "optical" just means a light-based system, and radio just means an RF-based system, the there are quite a few manual-only 3rd-party options available to you, so long as you're willing to add a radio transmitter to the camera's hotshoe.

If, however, "being used" means full wireless TTL/HSS/remote power control control over the remote flash as well as syncing, "optical" means Canon's built-in wireless eTTL system (which would allow you to use the pop-up flash on your 700D as your master unit), and Canon's -RT RF system (which would still require that you add an -RT master unit to your camera's hotshoe), then your choices are quite a bit more limited.

Aside from Canon's RT units, your only choices are the Yongnuo YN-600EX-RT (or Mk II; both can be used optical/RF slaves in Canon's wireless systems, but only the Mk II can be an optical master) and the Jinbei CALER 600EX-RT (aka Adorama's ORLIT RT-600C).

Additionally maybe there are some recommendations regarding an flash which can be issued optically (and in the same way being future proof and supporting RT)

This is just me, but you may be making a mistake in equating "RT" with "future proof". The Canon RT system is a closed one. The only flashes in it are speedlights. Canon themselves provide no radio receivers for adding larger non-speeedlight strobes, such as monolights or pack'n'head systems to their speedlights. And the 3rd party triggers that do cannot offer remote power control/HSS--the two features most-desired in radio triggering.

If off-camera lighting becomes a main area of interest for you, then it may be possible you'll want to get into higher-powered, larger lights than little speedlights. The power output of a flash is much like the maximum aperture of a lens: the more you have, the more you can do, but the bigger, heavier, and more expensive the gear gets.

At this time (and this could change rapidly, given the turnover in off-camera flash gear a this time), Godox's X system seems to have the edge over nearly every other off-camera flash system, because it can scale very easily from a single off-camera speedlight up to full-size studio strobes, and offers HSS and remote power control over all the lights in the system--even the non-TTL ones.

There's also the fact that the Canon -RT system only works with Canon cameras. If you ever choose to add or switch to a mirrorless system, then all your -RT gear won't work on the new cameras to do anything other than sync and (possibly) give remote power control. Godox supports autoswitching the receivers in their lights between Canon, Nikon, and Sony TTL/HSS and is planning on adding Fuji X and micro four-thirds support.

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  • It's worth noting that the Godox flashes are sold under several different brands; notably, Flashpoint and Cheetah Light in the US, as well as Neewer (although Neewer also rebrands other flashes). – mattdm Jun 2 '17 at 13:20
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    @mattdm might be worth creating a separate wiki question for; maybe a many-brands-of-Samyang one, too... :) IIRC, B&H does the AD360 under Interfit Strobies and Bolt while Calumet in the UK calls the AD360 the Genesis. – inkista Jun 2 '17 at 22:31
  • It's also worth noting that although Canon does not make any RT receivers to attach to non-RT flashes, Yongnuo does. Since they have a PC output as well as a hot shoe, they can be used to trigger studio strobes with a near universal PC input. Of course you'd only have "fire" control, but that is all many studio strobes, particularly older models, offer in terms of external control. The YNE3-RX will receive RT signals from Canon or other third party RT transmitters as well as from Yongnuo RT transmitters. – Michael C Dec 15 '18 at 22:19

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