Three Flashes For the Strobist on a Budget

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Essentials for th Strobist Street Photographer (2 of 9)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 3.5

Strobists typically love to work with their lights manually vs using TTL; and one of the excellent things about that is that it enables manufacturers to make the flashes at a more affordable price. Those savings could mean that you can purchase more than one flash if you want: heck, you could even go for modifiers and all after that! In our endless search for the light, we’ve rounded up and curated three key flashes that make our eyes sparkle.

And here’s our recommended list.


Yongnuo 560 III

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Yongnuo 560 III product photos (7 of 9)ISO 2001-30 sec at f - 7.1

We’ve rated the Yongnuo 560 III very highly in our recent review of the product–and we saw that a lot of you seem to be smitten with it as well. With full manual controls built in, the 560 III has something particularly awesome: built in radio triggering. By using one of Yongnuo’s RF-602 or RF-603 transmitters, you can set this flash off with ease. As with all the others on this list, there is no TTL capabilities built in despite the fact that Yongnuo tries to make RF transmitters for each TTL system.

The flash has a pretty damned good build quality to it for a cheap, Chinese flash. It also has all the normal ports that one has come to expect with flashes.

Pro Tip: Don't have a light modifier? Zoom the flash head manually to a wider focal length. It can sometimes trick the camera into thinking that you're using a larger light source.

Pro Tip: Don’t have a light modifier? Zoom the flash head manually to a wider focal length. It can sometimes trick the camera into thinking that you’re using a larger light source.

The only thing is that we wish that the head snapped into place better, but for the price we’re not complaining.

Buy Now: Amazon

Vivitar 285 HV

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Vivitar 285HV flash product photos (5 of 5)

Though now replaced by the newer 286; that flash incorporates TTL transmission when connected to the appropriate hot shoe. However, the Vivitar 285HV is a beast of a flash with lots of output and some pretty awesome controls. To control it, the flash uses color codes for different power output levels. Those colors are correlated to a set ISO and an according aperture setting.

This flash is ancient, and while it was originally designed to be used in the hot shoe of medium format event shooters, that doesn’t mean that it still isn’t used often.

To get the most of this flash though, we recommend using it with PocketWizard Plus III or Plus X triggers and connecting them via the PC port. For a very long time, this flash was used to capture many of the product photos on this website.

Buy Now: Amazon

LumoPro LP-180


Though we haven’t held one of these units at the time of publishing this piece, we’ve known about its existence for a while. Once again, it also doesn’t have TTL integration but it has a couple of other cool tricks behind it instead. First off, there is also a 1/4 20 tripod slot to mount it easily to almost anything: especially GorillaPods. This flash also has a 3.5mm sound jack built in for easier triggering via lots of radio transmitters. The unit also comes with pre-cut Rosco gels, all the other normal sync options, and what reviewers are already saying is some stellar build quality.

Buy Now: Amazon

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