Review of the Yongnuo YN560-TX Remote Flash Control & Trigger

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Every once in a while you stumble upon a truly useful item that you can’t believe works as well as it does, and wonder how the heck you lived without it. Typically it’s something small and inexpensive and you kick yourself for not recognizing it’s genius sooner. For example, the cardboard snoots that I heard David Hobby talk about on a podcast were amazingly useful for creating a constrained light source that simply slide over the head of your speedlights. Made from cardboard and tape, they literally cost nothing but have become an often used and invaluable item that is never far away from my kit. Velcro, which adorns half the surfaces on the majority of my kit is another example that has proved to be infinitely useful, as were the inexpensive set of Yongnuo Flash Triggers I bought on a whim (see the review for those HERE).  The next item to have made this illustrious list of objects useful beyond it’s cost is the Yongnuo YN560-TX Remote Flash Controller and Flash Trigger. I have no idea how long these little gems have been around but not long ago someone mentioned them in a post in the Fred Miranda forums and I thought I’d check it out on Amazon. Sure enough, this wonderbeast did exist, worked with my existing pile of YN-560-III speedlights, and was under $45 USD! I ordered it without hesitation, and had it in hand two days later.

Before you can begin using the YN560-TX, you have to “pair” the flashes with it. You’re basically building an association between your flashes and your transmitter. This is different than assigning flashes into different groups. This is a small but important nuance that isn’t really explained clearly in the instructions, but is a very nice feature since you may be shooting in an area with other photographers with similar gear. Even if you happen to be on the same channel you still can’t control other people’s flashes since there isn’t an association built with their flashes.

To pair your flashes with the YN-560-TX, press and hold down the ZOOM/CH and the Hz/FN buttons simultaneously and you should see the display show “ACT” on the TX, and the YN560-III flash’s display will toggle on everything to signal to you that it “may” be associated with the YN560-TX. Simply press the “OK” button on the flash to confirm the association, and the pairing should now be complete. There are two things you’ll want to take note of during this process. The first is that you have to be quick. The transmitter and flashes don’t wait long for you to hit the “OK” button and they shut down the pairing mode rather quickly. The second thing to note is that once you have successfully paired a flash with the transmitter, you will now have a Group Setting on your flash that reflects its group membership and is validation that you successfully associated the units together.

The YN560-TX supports six groups which are labeled A, B, C, D, E, and F and are broken down into two “groupings” of A, B, C, and D, E, F, only one of which can be displayed on the screen at a time. When you press the Group button on the YN560-TX it will cycle through the 3 groups on that screen. I know that sounds confusing, but simply put, pressing the Group button will toggle through only the 3 groups currently displayed. For example, if groups A, B, and C are displayed, pressing the Group button will toggle between ONLY A, B, and C. To access the D, E, and F groups on the next screen, you will need to press and HOLD the Group button until it displays the second screen of groups. I know that sounds a little strange when reading it, but in practice, it’s really quite simple and quick. If anyone from Yongnuo is listening, it would be great to be able to customize this behavior and select between a three way toggle or a six way toggle.

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Since the YN560-TX is pretty much like having the bottom half of a YN560-III speedlight, the controls are almost identical. You can change the flash output in full stops or in 1/3 stops, change the flash head zoom, set the mode, etc, so it’s not worth going over here other than to mention that the MODE button changes between M, Multi, and [–] which disables the flashes in that groups, which is actually very handy so you can get each group firing by itself in isolation to get the lighting desired, then enable all of the other groups when you’re ready.

I was wondering how much lag there would be when remote controlling the flashes, but I was pleased to see that any changes I made on the 560-TX were pretty much instantaneously made on the flashes. Never did I outrun the flash with the controller or have a change not register.

In case you’re wondering, you can have multiple flashes in a group or just a single flash. It’s tempting to put each flash in it’s own group, but that may only slow you down if they can all use the same settings, like when using two flashes to completely blow out a white background for example. Why take the time to set each one individually when you can toss them both into the same group, make one setting change, and Bob’s your uncle.

One suggestion I’d make when you are setting up your set with the YN560-TX/YN-560-III’s, or any similar setup, is to have a group placement strategy that’s easy to remember or figure out without too much thought. The last thing you want to do when you’re working with your subject is pull attention away from your rapport to figure out why your lighting just went all wonky, which is exactly what happens when you lose track of which light is in which group and you start changing the wrong ones. For me, I make the main light Group A, and then moving clockwise (if looking down from above the set) I set each light to the next group. For example, when I recently shot portraits of Jason Snoddy, I assigned the Beauty Dish, my main light, to Group A. Then the next light going clockwise was a flagged speedlight to the camera’s left that was assigned to Group B. Next was a gridded speedlight used to put a gradient on the background what went into Group C. And finally, the last speedlight, another flagged speedlight sitting camera right that was the mirror of the first flagged speedlight, was set to Group D. If  you’re wondering why I didn’t assign both flagged speedlights to Group B, well, it probably should have been. I thought I might try some different power settings with them be it never happened. Again, once a flash is paired with the remote, it’s trivial to move their group membership, but it does have to happen at the flash, so plan accordingly.

I’m also including a little Behind The Scenes action here for the YN560-TX pictures that I took for this post. I started with using a cyan colored gel stuck under a YN560-III flash diffuser at 1/2 power just a couple of inches from a white background to give me an almost white hotspot that turned into the cyan color of the gel as the distance moved away from the flash. I tried a red gel too and didn’t like it as much as the cyan as you can see below.

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Once I was happy with the background gradient I used my beauty dish as the main light and adjusted it down as close as I could without getting reflections from the LCD panel of the YN560-TX’s screen. It didn’t take much to light up the front of the screen, and I left it at 1/32nd power.

Next I wanted to add some depth and separation to the YN560-TX so I added snooted YN560-III flashes on the left and right at 1/4 power which produced the nice specular highlight on the sides of the unit and around the sides of the base.

Finally, I wanted to show the green backlight of the LCD screen so I set my shutter speed at 1.5 seconds so the backlight could burn in the proper exposure. Pretty simple setup, but I really like the look it produces. See the image below for the Behind The Scenes photograph.

Behind The Scenes Setup
Behind The Scenes Setup

 

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