I'm a n00b (in fact I have literally never used a flash before other than my phone's LED thing) but I have to shoot an indoor thing next week, where I'll need a remote flash (I mean, on a stand, detached from the camera).

Lacking time to properly research, I just googled "best flash for Canon" and ordered the Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT. Cool, but I need to trigger it when not on the camera.

The flash was like $600, so I was sort of appalled to find Canon's remote trigger gizmo (the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT) is almost $300... wow, half the price of the flash, with no flash!

So naturally, I googled "wtf ripoff canon flash trigger" and found the Yongnuo YN-E3-RT knockoff, which here in Japan I can buy for about $90. Not only is it way cheaper, but it apparently has an infrared autofocus-helping light for use in dark environments (might be useful in my upcoming dark indoor event).

I had almost pressed the order button when I saw the Yongnuo Speedlite YN600EX-RT II, which instead of a knockoff of the Canon flash trigger, is a knockoff of the Canon flash itself! And it is around $120.

So unless I have misunderstood something, for $90 I could have my Canon flash and a trigger with infrared autofocus help light, or for $120, I could have two flashes, and the Canon flash also has the autofocus assist light, so I could keep that on the camera (either using it as a flash+trigger, or just as a trigger), and use the Yongnuo as the remote flash set up near the subject of the photos.

If that is true, it is a no-brainer (for my use case and $30), but like I said, I have never used a flash before nor even ever googled it — so I lack confidence in my conclusion. But I have to order something soon.

Oh, my camera is a Canon 6D Mark II. And I am in Japan, so prices tend to be maybe slightly higher than some places.

Thanks for any pointers/advice!

  • 1
    Did you also buy a set of CTO filters? For me they made a huge difference in low light situations, they can be used to adjust the white-balance of your flash to match the surrounding light. Nobody likes that cold flash color. – Orbit Feb 13 '18 at 16:40
  • Oh, thanks! I hadn't (ordered, or even heard of, CTO filters, ha ha) until I read your comment. But after a quick search, I realized I should get some because the venue is underground with tungsten (or similar orange-ish) lighting. So I ordered a cheap $10 set. – Mason Feb 14 '18 at 1:09

If you are only planning to use the on-camera flash to trigger the off-camera flash, the biggest difference between using an on-camera flash and an on-camera flash controller is size and weight. For many of us, the smaller size and lighter weight of the controller is worth spending the money on a controller that is not also a flash. Not only is using a controller on top of a camera lighter and less fatiguing for longer events, but the smaller size is a distinct advantage when working in a crowded room. Large flashes, such as the 600RT, often stick out further than many lenses and at all the wrong angles when holding the camera down while moving around in a crowd.

The Canon RT series and its clones use radio to communicate wirelessly. But with flashes that use wireless optical communication (some of Canon's RT series can also use optical to communicate with older Canon TTL compatible flashes) often the output of the bulb in the on-camera flash will have not entirely decayed when the camera's shutter opens and the light from the controller will influence the resulting photo.

  • Aha, so the flash indeed can do the job of the trigger, plus act as a flash, but the extra bulk and weight is undesirable if you don't actually need two flashes. Now it makes sense; thanks! – Mason Feb 14 '18 at 1:13

I have a Canon 6D (MK1), 3 YN 600RT speelights, and the YN RT Controller. I do portraits and some event photography (birthdays, baby showers, etc.). If you are asking about how the YN equipment has performed, then I can say that it has worked wonderfully for me and my needs. The cost savings are substantial. Prior to "upgrading"/purchasing the YN RT speedlights, I had a couple of non-RT Canon 430 EX speedlights, so I am somewhat familiar with the Canon speedlight family.

If you are asking about the focus assist light, you'll have to determine how important/valuable that feature is to. I have not used it because it's too distracting. The low light autofocusing on the 6D has worked fine for me thus far. FYI - the YN RT controller is compatible with Canon RT speedlights also.

But separate from the equipment questions, I do have a concern with your overall situation. Are you being paid for this "indoor thing"? With you having never worked with flash before (on-camera or off-camera), not having time to do research, not being familiar with the equipment, preparing to spend $1000+ for Canon flash equipment, etc., all seems like a disaster in the making. If you are expecting to be paid for this event, I suggest you pass this one off to someone who knows what they are doing, and you spend some time learning about how to use the flash and practicing with family and friends before charging for your photographs. Learn about bounce flash, flash power, ambient light vs. flash light, flash synch speed, flash distance, etc. I'm not suggesting that you need to have a "PhD" in flash photography - these concepts are definitely digestible and learnable with practice, and you should be able to produce pretty good pictures fairl quickly. However, jumping into this with family or clients depending on you in your very first outing with flash is very risky. At the very least, maybe you can arrange to have a primary, experienced shooter do the event, and you can be an unpaid 2d shooter getting some practice in? Good luck to you!

EDIT: Add'l answer: Whether you need two flashes (1 on camera, 1 off camera) or 1 (on camera) really depends on what type of shooting you expect to do at this event. Pro wedding photogs sometimes use both. With the OCF option, you'll have the extra burden/work of having to move the flash/stand around all night, depending on where your subject is. This might be easier if you have an asst to move the light/stand for you. I think you could work quicker and have more flexibility if you just stayed simple and went with on-camera flash (w/some type of bounce or diffusion). In any event, the YN RT controller on your camera can control the off-camera Canon flash if you wanted to go that route.

  • Thanks for your comments! No, don't worry, the event I am shooting is not the kind of thing that anybody would be paid to shoot, and nobody will be depending on my results. It's basically a cross between 5 dozen Bitcoin nerds in a basement club * Eyes Wide Shut * a dentistry convention. Still, last time I shot this, various people were glad to have my photos (shot with no flash). I thought they mostly sucked, though, and predictably so since it was as dark as a dungeon. So this is basically just a learning experience for me. My question is: will the 2 flashes together > Canon flash + YN-E3-RT? – Mason Feb 13 '18 at 16:00

Whether you want another speedlight, or a dedicated transmitter mostly depends on whether you feel you need an on-camera light as well as an off-camera one. Wedding shooters often like having both. Studio shooters may never need an on-camera flash. Transmitters are also smaller and lighter than speedlights, so can be far more convenient on smaller bodies, like those on mirrorless cameras.

I would also say that Google has definitely led you to a good option with Yongnuo's RT gear, but that there are other options out there that cost less than Canon's RT gear.

Jinbei also makes a 600EX-RT clone (the Caler 600EX-RT) which is more expensive, but is far closer to being a 600EX-RT clone (down to the external sensor) and is also part of Jinbei's RT-compatible TTL/HSS studio strobes (both AC corded and DC battery-powered), and a small pack'n'head. And the TR-Q6 triggers Jinbei's created can not only be used with Canon cameras, but also Nikon and Sony cameras, with Fuji announced. And the Jinbei gear does not work with the Yongnuo RT gear, only Canon's.

Yongnuo only really supports Canon with RT gear, and doesn't make strobes in the RT system larger than speedlights.

And you don't necessarily have to go with RT-compatible gear to get reliable radio triggering off-camera. If you're willing to dump TTL, the Godox TT600 + Godox X1TC combo here in the US at this time costs $110. The TT600 with an XProC transmitter (nicer UI) is $135. You get remote firing control, power setting, and HSS, but not TTL. And, like Jinbei, Godox has a larger system with larger lights in a single integrated triggering system (Yongnuo's three 560/603, 622, and RT triggering systems are more or less incompatible) and offers cross-brand compatibility.

Canon's RT system is amazing and has more features with Canon cameras and much better backwards/forwards compatibility than the 3rd parties can offer, as well as actual customer service vs. the cheap Chinese stuff. But if you don't know how much you're going to use this gear and want to go cheap, then the Chinese brands may make more sense, particularly if this may be the start of your lighting system, and if you may leave Canon or add mirrorless gear in the future.

  • Thank you for the additional information. In the end, after looking at all these third-party brands, I decided to stay with Canon. I still couldn't stomach paying $240 for a remote that does nothing else, though, so I ended up going with the Canon 430EX III-RT, which is a smaller flash that can function as a (radio) remote, also has an IR autofocus-helper light, and of course can serve as a flash. I appreciate the info, as it really helped make a decision! – Mason Feb 15 '18 at 1:36
  • @Mason, glad you found the answer that works for you. – inkista Feb 15 '18 at 5:48

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