Off camera flash triggers – Yongnuo or Pocket Wizard?

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Off camera flash triggers from PocketWizard and Yongnuo are both very popular for distinctively different reasons. PocketWizard is the industry standard, its latest triggers Flex TT5 (Nikon | Canon) and Plus III are very reliable and packed with tons of features (HSS, TTL, groups), but they are also the most expensive. Yongnuo on the other hand produces inexpensive RF triggers. Their products are simple and have the very basic features. Their products were once described as cheap but now they have become quite a reputable company with the success of the latest products.  Now it is the best time to be on board with Yongnuo’s products. Especially with the new RF-603 II RF triggers (C1 | N1 | C3 | N3) and YN-560 III flashes, they have shown to be reliable and effective. Their prices are so attractive that they make you think twice whether to keep the PocketWizard . The cost for a set of Yongnuo 603 II and 560 III is even cheaper than just the Plus III alone. So should you be getting the Yongnuo 603 II or PocketWizard Plus III/Flex TT5?

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The new Yongnuo 603 II had a number of important improvements over the mark I. With these improved features, the 603 II is more functional which makes it very competitive to the PocketWizard .

Improved Features

  • Higher Sync Speeds, up to 1/320th
  • Locking Rings on trigger foot
  • Power Switch Finally Moved to the side
  • Compatible with non Canon/Nikon and single firing pin cameras (This is great for other mirrorless cameras)
  • Half press AF
  • 300v Safe Trigger Voltage (for hotshoe and PC sync port) instead of 12V of mark I

Pros

  • Inexpensive – A pair of Yongnuo 603 II is about $30 USD. As they are transceivers, you can use them as transmitter or receiver. Compare to Plus III which is $150 USD each and the Plus X  $99 USD each, that’s a big difference. You can even break or lose them without too much worry.
  • Small footprint – Compare to the Plus III, the 603 II is smaller. Although the Plus III has a distinct antenna, it doesn’t look like it has any advantages over the Yongnuo in terms of transmit distance.
  • Metal hot shoe – Surprisingly, this is a factor that I need to mention. The hot shoe on the PocketWizard is made out of reinforced resin material and designed to break on impact. I have heaps of broken PocketWizard hot shoes because of this. Whether that is a good design or not, it is debatable.
  • Camera trigger cable – The Yongnuo comes with its own trigger release cable, so you can use it to trigger your camera’s shutter. I have the N1 version of the 603 II for Nikon pro DSLRs. PocketWizard does not come with any camera trigger cable, you have to pay a premium for it ($50). If you have three systems like me (Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm), then that’s $150 for just three cables.

Cons

  • AAA battery – The Yongnuo 603 II takes two AAA while PocketWizard takes two AA. Having another type of battery means I need to carry two types of batteries for backups.
  • Basic features – This could be pros as it cuts down the cost of these units. It has no groups or TTL on these units. It has no LCD and channels are set via a dip switch. It is just a basic RF trigger.
  • Compatibility – The RF-603 II is backward compatible with the 603 I and 602, but it does not work with YN-622 which offers TTL or other Yongnuo triggers across the board.

The Yongnuo 603 II is a very attractive RF trigger because of its price. The previous 603 mark I has a few shortcomings which makes the PocketWizard still a more robust trigger. The mark II has improved with the added features. Overall, the 603 II isn’t as fancy as the PocketWizard , it is a basic RF trigger that works. If you do not need TTL, HSS or group functions, then the Yongnuo 603 II is great for you.

Personally, I find PocketWizard are more convenient. They take AA batteries and mixing Flex TT5 with Plus III is not a problem. Apart from the hot shoes breaking off issue, they are reasonably robust and reliable. The Flex TT5 offers TTL and HSS functions which are essential for weddings and pre-weddings. Most sophistically, I can manually adjust the sync timing on the Flex TT5 to maximise the sync speed. Through its configurable ControlTL, I am able to have a flash sync up to 1/4000s (this is different to HSS). Because of that, I would still recommend PocketWizard if you need TTL or HSS as part of your workflow. PocketWizard is a brand that you can rely on, you have to pay a premium for its products,  but you can be sure their products are top class and beautifully designed.  You will never find design flaws like in the Yongnuo 603 I at the first place (reduced flash sync and no locking ring). All PocketWizard are also backward compatible, so they will work with all products across the board.

When I was looking for a set of off camera flash trigger for my travel camera Fujifilm X-E2. I picked up a set of Yongnuo 603 II. They are simple, small and cheap. I don’t worry about them being lost or stolen. I don’t need TTL or HSS since I will be using an off brand flash. I will review how I setup the Yongnuo 603 II with the Fujifilm X-E2 and Nikon flashes on my next blog post. Follow us and watch this space.

Here is a shot of off camera flash via PocketWizard Plus III. I was probably standing 70m away over the hill.

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About Kent Yu

Kent is a professional wedding and portrait photographer based in Wellington, New Zealand. He and his team specialise in modern and contemporary weddings. Kent has his work published in international magazines and is a regular author to a number of photographic publication. He is fascinated by photographic equipment and enjoys showcasing the gear used in creating his images. You can find him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+
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