You want to get into off camera flash, but you're not quite sure where to start. You don't want to spend too much money, but then again you want something that works. You want to buy a Yongnuo YN460-II.
For around £30 on eBay you can have exactly what the strobist reckons you need to try off-camera lighting - a flash that can be triggered remotely and one where you can adjust the output power. Perfect.
Look, I'm not saying that that the 460-II is the best speedlite you can buy to try this off-camera flash stuff. Yongnuo don't have the best build-quality, there's no helpful TTL metering, and you wouldn't want to rely on this kit in a professional situation, but for £30 you can dive head-first into a whole new world of artificially lit photography. If you decide you don't like it, you've lost less that the cost of a decent UV filter, but I doubt that'll happen, what will happen is that you'll want another.
Let's look at the reasons why the YN460 mk 2 is a great little contender. It's a completely manual flash - you choose the power by using the buttons on the back, starting at full power then dropping to 1/2, 1/4, 1/8th, and down to 1/64th. You can mess around with 1/7th steps, but that's a little fiddly so you probably won't bother, or need to really.
What about that power? This flash has a guide number of 35, at ISO 100. To work out what that means, just divide the guide number by the distance to your subject (in meters) and that'll tell you the aperture you'll need for a correct exposure. So if your subject was 3 metres away, and you were at ISO 100, and the flash was at full power, you would use an aperture of about f/11. That's plenty, and means that you'll rarely be popping off shots at full power, you'll mostly be using the flash at 1/2, quarter or 1/8th power, which means very quick recycle times, so you won't be waiting more than a couple of seconds for the flash to charge up and be ready to fire again.
Don't get too caught up with guide numbers, watt seconds or other numbers that'll make you think that flash photography in the digital age is about calculations and the inverse square rule. To decide on the power / aperture / ISO / shutter-speed you're going to make a best guess, then adjust according to what you see on the back of your camera and on the histogram, it's that easy to get started, but of course a lot more difficult to master.
Next up is the Yongnuo's different operating modes. First is manual mode, where you'll be triggering your flash with it on your camera, or off with a wireless trigger. But the YN460-II offers two slave modes, which means that you don't need to invest in a wireless trigger just yet. In S1 mode the strobe will flash whenever it senses another one going off near by, so you'll use this with older cameras, film cameras, or if the triggering flash is another manual one. In S2 mode the flash will be triggered by any modern camera flash, like the one on your, dSLR, compact, bridge or mirror less. These flashes actually fire twice (but you'd be hard pressed to see it), so the Yongnuo waits for the final flash before firing. Simply set up your slave, the YN46-II, on S2, then use the pop-up or built in flash on your camera to trigger it. Simple! This is an optical system, so the range reduces outside and it's no good if other photographers are around firing flashes, but it's a great built-in feature that'll get you started.
So there it is, i've enjoyed using my two YN460-II's over the last few months, and as I learn more about the intricacies of flash photography I'm sure I'm going to get more and more out of them.
I've just checked on Amazon.co.uk and you can grab an 460-II for around £40, with free delivery, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
Come on and join the strobists!