In the end, I couldn’t resist ordering the YN460-II even though my arsenal of flashes is (mostly) built around the Nikon SB series. In a previous post, I wrote about replacing the foot of a damaged SB-24. I actually did not expect to win that damaged SB-24 and had, in fact, ordered the YN460-II just two days prior. Fifteen days later, the YN460-II arrived in a plain brown wrapper, shipped via airmail from Hong Kong.
The YN460-II is a simple and inexpensive flash unit that is an upgrade of the (what else) YN460. The upgrade consists of more power (claims Guide Number of 53 instead of 33), faster recycling and fine tuning for the flash power. The flash head has both tilt and swivel. The YN460-II has two operating modes: manual flash and optical slave flash. In either operating mode, the YN460-II flash power must be set manually.
Here are my first thoughts and impressions.
My first concern was the packaging. Although the shipping envelope was lightly padded, the YN460-II box was simply placed inside it without additional padding. There was no padding inside the box although the flash was inside a plastic bag which was inside a nice black cloth bag. In spite of my concerns, all parts arrived in good condition.
The YN460-II is a nice looking flash with a better quality appearance that I expected. The tilt/swivel head position is held by friction; that is, just grab it and turn/tilt – no release buttons to push. This is fine for now but I wonder if it will become sloppy loose with much use.
I dropped a set of PowerEx NiMh rechargeables into the YN460-II and pressed the ON button. Nothing. Press again – nothing again. Did I get a bad flash? A quick glance at the instructions confirmed that I was indeed pushing the ON/OFF button but should have been holding it down for 2 seconds. Duh. Firing a few quick pops manually, the YN460-II took about 8 seconds to recycle to full power; the SB-28 from which I robbed the batteries took about 9 seconds. (Time to recharge?) Recycling was near instantaneous at minimum power setting. (A fresh set of PowerEx reduced the recycle time to less than 5 seconds.)
Changing the flash power is easy and very visual: Press the Power +/- button and watch the lights change. However, the button must be pressed for each step change. Same for changing modes: Press the Mode button and watch the lights change. When the YN460-II is turned on, the mode is set to manual and the flash power is set to the minimum; it does not remember the previous settings.
In contrast to the simplicity of setting flash power, “fine-tuning” was not so simple. Well, I could follow the instructions but the flash power output level lights do not remain as set so I had no confidence in what I’d done. The procedure is to press and hold the MODE and PILOT buttons until the middle light blinks then use the +/- button to fine tune. This seems OK except that the output level lights soon revert to the non-fine tuned display. Pressing MODE and PILOT again shows the fine-tuned setting. I quickly resolved not to use the fine tuning feature (for now anyway). Illustrated is 1 stop down from maximum (i.e., would be half power) but then 2 clicks farther down using "fine tuning".
Somewhat skeptically checking the YN460-II in optical slave mode, I found that it works very well with my Canon G9. In fact, the YN460-II was triggered by the G9 flash in both the S1 and S2 settings when the G9 was in P mode. With the G9 in manual mode (no pre-flash emitted), the YN460-II was triggered only in its S1 mode. Even more surprising, these quick tests were shot at 1/500 second! I was impressed. With my 7D, the YN460-II also worked in both S1 and S2 modes when the 7D was set for ETTL; however, at 1/200 second and faster, S2 is necessary. In a dimly lit room, triggering is easily possible at a distance of some 20 feet. The obvious conclusion is to use S1 for pure manual flash and S2 for triggering with ETTL -- as advertised.
Next up was to test the YN460-II with my Cactus wireless triggers. The only way to connect to the YN460-II is through the hot shoe. This is OK with me because my Cactus units are more reliable when connected via the hot shoe. The YN460-II worked fine with my Cactus wireless triggers and could be triggered at 1/640 second using the Canon G9.
Finally, I compared the flash power of the YN460-II to some other flashes. I did this by shooting the flashes directly mounted on my Canon G9 camera in full manual mode. Just firing shots across a dimly lit room, it seems to me that the YN460-II is not as powerful as the Canon 580EX but is similar to the Nikon SB-28 and more powerful than the SB-24. In fact, the relative power of all those flashes seems to be about as listed in my post on guide numbers. I also noticed that the YN460-II seems a bit “cool” in color cast, especially in comparison to the Canon 580EX (which seems a bit warm).
All in all, my YN460-II works and seems to work as advertised. I’m pretty happy with this one – in fact, am thinking about getting another one.