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I preface every review with the same disclosure. I am not a professional. I do not shoot test charts. I do not try every lens with every camera. All opinions are my own, and are only based upon my own experiences with the gear. I haven’t had a ton of gear, or all of the expensive gear. I won’t list every specification or test for every specification. My review is not meant for professionals – if you are a professional, you shouldn’t need a review from an amateur. The information below is simply my own observations while doing normal photography, and is for other car enthusiasts and amateurs like myself.
I ordered the new Yongnuo TTL flash triggers for my D600 and SB-800s. Previously, Yongnuo only offered TTL flash triggers for Canon, and not for Nikon. Nikon shooters had to either buy the PocketWizards CTL system (Flex TT5 / Mini TT1 / AC3), Pixel Kings, or the Phottix Odin system, if they wanted TTL triggers. Of those, the most popular, but most expensive is the PocketWizard CTL system. I was leaning towards getting the Phottix Odin, but then Yongnuo finally released the YN-622’s. I immediately ordered them, the night before they hit all the website blogs. I received shortly after I ordered them, and have been doing some limited testing with them since I got them, as I found time. Below, I list the results of my testing, and I will continue to revise this review as time progresses.
These transceivers are very simple and practical. Each unit can function as either the transmitter or a receiver, and the transmitter has a hotshoe and supports Nikon commander units, as long as they are a SB-900/910, SB-700, or SU-800. I have (4) SB-800’s, (and a when I got these YN-622N’s, I also had a SB-600) so I have to use a SU-800 as the commander. The YN-622N’s do not allow the SB-800 to work as a commander, nor do they allow the camera to pass through CLS commands, but they do have a way to control the receivers in EITHER TTL or Manual (M) mode from the transmitting transceiver mounted on the camera. You cannot do Mixed-Mode without a commander though – the transceiver can’t do both TTL and M at the same time by itself.
Setting up an off-camera flash is easy with these. You start by popping in (2) AA batteries in the transmitter, and another (2) AA batteries in the receiver. Flip them both on, and on the receiver, use the GP/MODE button to set what group you wish the flash to be on, and then set the channel. Then put your flash on it and lock it down. Put the transmitter on the camera, turn it on, and set the channel on it with the Channel button. Set the group with the GP/MODE button. Ideally, you want a SU-800 or another Nikon master/commander flash to control the off-camera flashes, but you can get around that if you don’t have one. You can turn on/off groups in any combination by toggling the transmitter thorough the options (A, B, C, A+B, A+C, B+C, A+B+C).
The first time that I took them out to shoot them, I had quite a few over exposure issues, but I didn’t have time to troubleshoot on the spot, so I quickly just repositioned the units and gelled where I needed to. I was working with a couple of Nikon SB-800s which I have heard a lot of people have had issues with. I was in TTL mode on the triggers at the time, and did not go to M mode.
After reading up on others exposure issues, I decided to get an SU-800 and see how that would work, as I wasn’t about to try to control the power from the trigger itself – that just didn’t seem practical to me. I ordered one, and quickly found that it is pretty much a necessity. What this does though is make the cost of the YN-622N’s and a SU-800 be about the same as the Phottix Odin. If you already have an SU-800, then the triggers seem to be a good upgrade, but if you were starting from nothing, then the Odin seems to be just as good of a system to get. I haven’t gotten my hands on an Odin, but it seems to be well-liked.
Ok, so here is what I have when I’m testing:
(4) Yongnuo YN-622N’s
(4) Nikon SB-800’s
(1) Nikon SB-600
(1) Nikon D600 camera
The triggers receive the TTL trigger signals and fire reliably. I’ve only been able to get them to misfire once – and that was when the batteries started to get low. There is a battery low indicator in the form of a flashing LED, according to the manual, but the first time that it happened, I did not notice it until too late.
Manual Mode (from the YN-622N trigger)
If you put the transmitter in M mode (orange LED), and put the flash on another YN-622N (the receiver), and put the flash in M mode – then the trigger acts as a dumb transmitter, like the RF-603. You can control all of the manual functions on the flash of course, like zoom and power.
If you have a SU-800 mounted on the YN-622N (as transmitter on the camera), and you have the YN-622N in manual mode (orange LED), then the SU-800 will show it is not connected to the hotshoe by flashing “err” on it’s screen. To correct that, just hold the “GP/MODE” button on the YN-622N (transmitter) for about a second, until the orange LED changes to green, which is TTL mode.
There really are multiple ways to operate the flashes manually.
1) Like I mentioned before, you can put the flash itself in manual, and use the transmitter in manual, and the triggers will be dumb triggers.
2) You can leave the flash in TTL, leave the transmitter in TTL, and use a commander like the SU-800 or a SB-910. I have the SU-800, so I’ll explain with it. The SU-800 will allow you to do mixed mode, or just TTL, or just M. I’m going to mention M control here. Use the “SEL” button to get the group that you want to control to flash on the SU-800 screen, then hit “MODE” to get it to go to “AA” mode, then again to go to “M” mode. Once in M mode, you can use the left and right arrow buttons to control the power of the group. Also remember that you can use your cameras Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC) to adjust all of the groups at the same time, and your normal Exposure Compensation to adjust the overall exposure of the entire photo.
I’ve noticed that manual control always works flawlessly with the SB-800’s and the SB-600, with no over-exposure or under-exposure. You can have them in the same group or different groups, and they work just as expected. With the SB-600, I can go down to 1/64th power, and with the SB-800, I can go down to 1/128th power. Adjustments are in full stops.
TTL Mode (from the YN-622N trigger)
Works great in TTL mode. You can control the flash power in third-stops, zoom follows the lens zoom, from 24-85mm. Exposure has been consistent every time. This is with testing with one SB-600 on one receiver, with an SU-800 sitting on top of another receiver. I only have one SB-600, so that is as far as I can test with it.
The SB-600 does not have a master commander functionality, so it can only be on a receiver.
The SB-800 is not able to act as a master commander when mounted on the YN-622N. It can only be used as a remote flash, but should be kept in TTL mode when mounted on a YN-622N receiver, if you wish to remotely control it.
I’ve seen people report that the SB-800 tends to not function correctly when the camera has a zoom lens on it, and works correctly when there is a prime lens on it. I have tried all of my testing with both a 50mm f/1.8G and a 24-120mm f/4 VR, and have not seen a difference between how it works with a zoom or prime lens.
When testing a single SB-800 with the YN-622N and a SU-800, zoom stays with what the lens is set at, down to 24mm, and up to 105mm. The TTL power levels work as expected, in third-stop increments, and for me, a single one works correctly, and I have not had over-exposure or under-exposure issues, as some people have reported.
When I first started using the SB-800’s in TTL mode, I experienced some over-exposure issues, but once I got the SU-800 on them, I found that with it I could control the power that each flash put out with ease, and quickly. I have done a lot of testing with them since then, mostly either one flash at a time, or with a pair, and have had repeatable and reliable results. For me, they work pretty well, and while I would love to “upgrade” my (4) SB-800’s to (4) SB-910’s, I just haven’t been able to find a reason that would justify that move – yet. I’m sure that I would keep at least one SB-800 to be able to use it on my N70 film camera at least though.
Update (1/23/2014): The new YN-622N-TX Flash Controller for Nikon is now available online, and for less than $67 shipped. I used the discount code from Flashhavoc.com and got it for $63 shipped. I have ordered one already, and I’ll be comparing it to the SU-800 controller.
Update (2/8/2014): I have received my YN-622N-TX Flash Controller and have posted a Gear Review of the YN-622N-TX.
Also, just to note, I have not had overexposure or underexposure with the SB-800s in many months. I’m pretty certain that the issues were all user-generated.