Manual Flashes: Two Debuts and an Adoption

UPDATED March 22, 2009, to add latest user feedback on LP120 and YN460. See below.

At long last, there are finally a few lower-priced alternatives to cruising eBay for a used Nikon speedlight or forking over a few hundred bucks for a new flagship off-camera flash.

Hit the jump for all the deets on the new LumoPro 120, the Yong Nuo YN460 and the Cactus KF36.

Totally In Sync: The LumoPro LP120

So, what if someone came to us and asked what we should include -- and exclude -- on a hot-shoe flash designed for photographers who light?

That's exactly what happened with the new LumoPro LP120, which was commissioned by Midwest Photo in response to the vintage speedlight availability (or lack thereof) and recent Vivitar quality issues.

The LumoPro LP120 was designed specifically for off-camera lighting in the manual mode. The idea was for it to have everything you want -- and nothing you do not want to needlessly pay for.

Major props to Moishe at MPEX for taking on this project. None of the big manufacturers were willing to step up to the plate, so he did it himself.


• Standard bounce and 180/90 swivel.

• Manual zoom head (non-motorized -- similar in function to the 285.)

• Full manual adjustment down to 1/32 power, with no "missing" levels like the 285.

• Important: There is no auto or TTL capability on this flash.

• Power is said to be equivalent to a 285 -- GN 80 in the normal zoom position. (I have not tested this first hand yet.) It's juiced in the tele position, of course, at the expense of beam width. This number can be greatly affected by the flash's zoom setting and is an easy way to fudge the number. Always go apples to apples.

• Shoe is strong plastic and it is able to be replaced if it breaks.

• Two-year warranty.

• Now, the biggie: Four-way sync. It has a hot shoe, an external PC jack, a 1/8" jack and a built-in optical slave. I did get to test the slave and it rocks. A little directional, but that is good as it gives it added sensitivity. The flash head rotates independently of the slave, so you can aim to your best advantage.

The combination of slave and 2-way external sync jack make this one darn near universal. You only have to hard-sync one flash in a multi-flash setting (within reasonable distances) and that one flash can be synched with a hot-shoe based remote, a PC cord or a 1/8" cord. The slave worked just fine around corners indoors in my testing.

This is how I work almost all of the time with my SB-800's, now that I am usually the only photographer in the area when I am shooting. (In multi-photographer settings, you would still want to hardwire or PW everything.)

Price is $129.95, thanks to leaving off the auto and the TTL stuff. The first batch is shipping now from MPEX. Note that the various MPEX kits will henceforth include LP120's instead of Vivitar 285s. (You may be able to swap into a 285 -- I dunno. Don't know why anyone would want to, tho..)

Still unknown: Flash duration at various settings. Factory specs do not list it, and MPEX is looking for someone who can test it. If you are that person, check in on the discussion thread linked below.

UPDATE: Exactly as you would expect, full power flash duration is 1/1000th of a sec and goes down to 1/20,000th of a sec at 1/32nd power.

QnA, discussion and results from early adopters are already being thrown around on this dedicated Flickr thread.

(UPDATE) LP120 Feedback Coming In

The Lumopro LP120s seem to be generaly well-received but there are some reports coming back about switches and WA panels not lining up properly.

The flashes themselves are working fine, but the fit and finish reports are enough to where MPEX is inspecting every flash before it is shipped in a bid to spot any quality issues before they go out.

It's worth noting that MPEX is eating their own cooking on this one, as the flash does come with a 2-year warranty. And any feedback from users is appreciated and will be passed along to the manufacturers for the next run. It is worth the effort to get a standard flash that is both reliable and available.

The discussion thread is here. Please post your questions and/or observations, good or bad. The information is valuable in both cases.

The Cheap Date: Yong Nuo YN460

Second, and looking for all the world like an generic SB-800, is the Yong Nuo YN460. It is just coming into the retail pipeline and I got a chance to play with one last week at PMA.

It is small, and has a very slick-looking manual adjustment on the back -- just tap the button to add or subtract a stop of power, down to 1/64th power. It also has a built-in optical slave, which seems to be housed in the flash tube area. This is pretty dumb, IMO, as you cannot orient the slave in a different direction from the head.

The LP120, above, has the slave in the front so you can swivel the flash to catch another flash better -- independent of the direction the head is pointing.

But the YN460 is popping up for under $50 in some of the direct-to-retail Hong Kong shops, too, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Other things that irk me a little:

It looks like an SB-800 or maybe an SB-600 (and appears to take identical head-mounted accessories) but it is two stops less powerful than the SB-800, at least according to some early testing. Also a bummer -- no zoom for the head and no external sync. But if you use hot-shoe-based remotes, that last one is no biggie.

And I could live with that package if I were looking for a rock bottom manual flash. But more worrisome is the reported inconsistency in the output at the low ranges. Not my findings -- that was from an early adopter on the thread linked below. But at less than $50, you'll have to make that call for yourself.

Lotsa pix here, and a discussion thread (with retail sources) here.

(UPDATE) YN460 Feedback

The Yong Nuo YN460 seems to be experiencing rather more variability in build quality. Some people are getting good copies, and some people, like Dan Wang, are getting copies that they have dubbed, "The Demon Flash from Hell":

The YN460 thread is here. Please sound off with your experiences, good or bad. We wanna know.

Déjà vu All Over Again: The Cactus KF36

Waitaminnit. This one looks a little familar...

The Vivitar 285HV, once the go-to flash for off-camera manual enthusiasts, died a slow and painful death in the quality-control department. And in the end, Vivitar was bought by Sakar, leaving the (once) venerable flash's future in limbo. It has been revived by the same people who make the Cactus remotes, and rebranded as the Cactus KF36.

Same specs as the old Vivitar, but anybody's guess as to the build quality. Main specs: Bounce/zoom head (non-rotating) partial manual control (1/1, 1/2, 1/4 and 1/16 power -- no 1/8 for some insane reason. GN is 120, but that's in the 85mm zoom mode. (See above.)

It has an "auto" mode which can actually be very useful when hi-speed synching with a G9, etc. In the mixed-blessing dept., it has a proprietary (arrrrrrrrgh) sync jack.

For Pete's sake, people, put a PC or 1/8" mono jack in there. Seriously, the world is not going to come to you on this one. Sony Betamax -- white courtesy phone, please...

Again, quality is yet to be determined. Is it the old (really good) build quality from way back? It is the recent (bad) build quality from more recent times? Is it worse?

We will not know until real-world reports start to come in. If you decide to take one for the team, please report back in here, on the Flickr discussion thread.

The biggest thing going for the Cactus KF36 is the anywhere-friendly slippery-customs shipping policy of Gadget Infinity straight out of Hong Kong.

I'll give them this: They can get anything anywhere in the world pretty quickly, for way cheap.

My favorite "feature" listed on the KF36 product page, and I swear I am not making this up:

"Brand new, never used."


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Anonymous Nate said...

Damn. I wish I had waited a couple weeks to buy my Vivitar 285hv... I definitely would've gone with that LumoPro

March 12, 2009 12:18 AM  
Blogger Pepin said...

It seems like the LumoPro is the best choice.

My worry on the Cactus' Vivitar look-alike is that they must just copied it as is. So any other flaws from the old Vivitars must have been copied as well.

Sheesh.. Cactus could have at least improved on it, not just copy it.

March 12, 2009 12:58 AM  
Anonymous Brad said...

Rats.. I just bought another 285 as well.. oh well, I love the one I already had. Hopefully no build quality issues with this new one.

I'd be interested in testing on the MPEX flash.. don't know that I have the expertise to figure out durations, though.

March 12, 2009 1:06 AM  
Blogger Cesar S said...

I just resived my almost new Vivitar 285HV from eBay and I think I’ll wrestle a few more. I had one for a while, years ago it seems, but it pooded, I loved that old light popper. But I am also looking at a Nissin Speedlite Di622. A local camera store has them for around $140 (they always carry good stuff) but eBay has them for $106.

Cesar S

March 12, 2009 1:29 AM  
Blogger Tesseract said...

I have a Cactus V2S trigger set, and I would be highly apprehensive about their Flash because of the triggers. Many have reported the (un)reliability of the V2S, and there are many DIY hacks out there to get around the shortcomings. I for one, know my first hand experience with my V2S is that... it misfires about 1-2 out of every 10 shots.

Should we expect the same from the KF? I would think so.
As good as the 285 design is... it has plenty of shortcomings indeed. Shame on Cactus for not taking the 285 and tweaking it.

March 12, 2009 1:30 AM  
Blogger David said...


I am with you. They had every opportunity to "fix" the idiosyncrasies of the 285 and they just bought the damn molds.

My biggest gripe is the proprietary sync. In the name of all that is good -- WHY?

March 12, 2009 1:35 AM  
Blogger Ziggit said...

Seems like the flash duration should be able to be tested fairly easily, with a simple circuit to couple a photo diode to a recording oscilloscope. I have never done such thing before, but I imagine that is all it would take.

March 12, 2009 1:54 AM  
Anonymous TC said...

The LP120 look great - it's a bit hard to see, but if it's as easy to control as the YN460 it could be a winner.

I've a YN460 and I like it. It's so amazingly easy to control (compared to my Pentax AF540 and my Viv285). If you are looking for something to blow at an umbrella or mount a lumiquest III like modifier on, it does the job. Yeah, it's a bit weak.

But you can tune the YN460 and get a bit more power then it has out of the box. See this photo with a description:

March 12, 2009 2:05 AM  
OpenID blacklion said...

If cactus adds their remote receiver in body of this "vivitar" flash it will be good item (if quality isn't complete mess, of course). Now Vivitar + Cactus receiver is very fragile combination.

And now it doesn't look interesting.

March 12, 2009 2:33 AM  
Blogger Eugene Bogorad said...

What do you think of Sunpak PF20XD? I just bought two ($46 apiece) and think they're great value - although by no means strong, they're really small and light, have built-in slave capability and even can ignore pre-flash. Already use'em as a supplement for my two SB-600s. My only disappointment - it uses 2*AAA, not 2*AA as advertised by manufacturer.

March 12, 2009 5:21 AM  
Anonymous Ian Worthington said...

@Tesseract: From GI's News section: "03-03-2009 Good news! Cactus V4 trigger and receiver are ready to ship on March 16 (Monday). Orders will be accepted on March 13 (Friday), HKT.
Cactus V4 offers many improved features from the V2s version:

1) New antenna design that increases the reliability and effective distance to 30 meters."

March 12, 2009 6:09 AM  
Anonymous John Renna said...

I wonder how this will affect the price of the SB-26?

March 12, 2009 6:45 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

You listed the LP120 with "Standard bounce," but I think that's missing an important point. Sure, you get 270 degrees of swivel like a lot of other strobes, but the specs say it has 180 degrees of tilt. If it can really flip over backwards, that's just as good as a full 360 degrees of swivel.

March 12, 2009 7:06 AM  
Anonymous Gard said...

LP120 seems very interesting. Do anybody know if it's got the Nikon-style screwlock PC connector? It seems so, but I'm not sure.

I really hope so, otherwise that PC thing is rather useless.

March 12, 2009 7:25 AM  
Blogger Gordon Saunders said...

About the Cactus/Vivitar proprietary syncs: is it possible that someone in Hong Kong is working on an adapter for this as we speak? Bit ironic if the Cactus people got cactused.

March 12, 2009 7:40 AM  
Blogger John said...

That new LumoPro LP120 looks pretty sweet! I love the fact that it has hardline syncing AND an optical slave. I can't wait to see some serious field reviews of these. One thing I'd like to see added in the future is a 360 degrees swiveling head. ...just can't please everyone can you? =)

The other two seem to leave a little more than something to be desired.

March 12, 2009 8:23 AM  
Blogger Matthew G. Monroe said...

Regarding that proprietory sync plug on the new-Cactus/old-Vivitar strobe: Sure... Having a connector that's non-industry standard is not the most intelligent decision in the world -- and there's plenty of room on that hot shoe for both a Vivitar and a PC plug. On the other hand, I have to admit that I really prefer the security and holding power of the Vivitar-style plug, as it never come undone at the wrong moment.

Now, if the folks at Cactus would have included a few extra adjustable power settings on their strobe (e.g.: 1/8th, 1/32nd, 1/64th...) THAT would have been really, really intelligent.

March 12, 2009 9:15 AM  
Anonymous Øivind S said...

Cesar S : I have the Nissin Di622 (Canon-version) and while it is not a BAD flash unit by any means it is not quite what a strobist wants.

It has a built in optical slave, but it will only trigger properly from a TTL flash (like the pop-up). I have been unable to trigger it with my other manual flash. As with most (all?) optical triggers it does not work reliably in brightly lit environments (outdoors in bright sunlight).

The biggest problem however is the infinitely stupid 5 second standby delay in manual power mode. This means that using a pc-sync cable connected to a hot-shoe adapter or any other kind of remote non-TTL triggering (most radio triggers?) is next to impossible as you have to wake up the flash and then fire off the shot before your five seconds are up.

When attached directly on the camera or with a TTL-cord the flash wakes up (both in manual or TTL mode) when the shutter is half-depressed.

All in all it is a good flash if you can live with the (silly) limitations, but strobists should consider using something else...

March 12, 2009 9:29 AM  
Blogger don said...

With a couple of SB800s and a 600, I've found myself using CLS more and more often. The YN460's slave that can ignore the preflash might make this much more useful to me; usable in manual,RF and CLS.

One "benefit" of the slave in the head is that I can turn the body backwards and see the status lights at a distance. Still dumb overall, though.

Then too, the LP120 seems great, especially in non CLS situations.

And, I can have one of each for the price of an SB600 or get downright McNally-ish for the cost of a 900!

March 12, 2009 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Mpex website: " will be able to
bounce the light off any wall, ceiling, and most light modifiers (using your forehead is
not recommended.)

Figures..they'd leave out the one feature I wanted most.

March 12, 2009 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Thanks for the info. I can only speak for myself concerning Cactus and their quality. I've had my V2s triggers for a couple of weeks now and have had exactly one misfire out of over 200 shots. I was on the outside of my house and about 100ft from the flash (inside the house) with the remote trigger. Maybe I just got lucky with this set of V2s.

March 12, 2009 11:36 AM  
Blogger DaveBulow said...


Any particular reason that the main pic (of the three strobes) links to an old black & white pie fight video on youtube? .... or is it just me? no seriously, click on it to see, i'm not making this up.

That aside, will be very interested to see what becomes of these three new flashes. Looks like the community's had a surprise gift.... great stuff.


March 12, 2009 11:55 AM  
Blogger David said...


Three flashes, Three Stooges -- what can I say? It was a late night post...


Actually, I do those kinds of link Easter Eggs all of the time. Very few notice, but I does it anyway!

March 12, 2009 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Scott Fischbein - Wedding Photographer said...

MPEX Rocks! Just ordered the LP120 (and they shipped my new PWs yesterday... a good week!)

March 12, 2009 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My question now is, since I am no Joe McNally and I don't know the first thing about CLS, seeing the LP120, who would ever buy another Nikon/Canon flash ever again.

I have a valid and truthful question. Are there that many CLS shooters out there?

Kurt form Kansas

March 12, 2009 1:47 PM  
Anonymous treadwm said...


Now I have to go look and see what other goodies you've hidden for us. lol I needed to review the older material anyway!


March 12, 2009 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Alex Russel said...

I've been using a Cactus V2S / 285HV setup for a few years now. It's balky, but it does work. (The 433mhz antenna mod improves the V2S by 500%, BTW.)

For those complaining that Cactus didn't "fix" the 285, let me remind you of a joke the engineers at NASA came up with back in the '80s. Management had decided on a new slogan: Cheaper, Better, Faster.

The engineers improved on it: Cheaper, Better, Faster, pick any two.

If Cactus fixed all the problems (and there are many), suddenly the price of the flash is in the $200 range.

Cactus picked Cheaper and Faster, and they do both really well.

March 12, 2009 2:08 PM  
Blogger midwestphotoexchange said...

@Gard: The PC port is not a screw lock. I agree with you that there are numberous problems with the PC standard in general is unreliable which is why we added the 1/8" miniphone.


March 12, 2009 2:09 PM  
Blogger Butterpants said...

If these are on par with SB-26's (and they appear to be)....I'll never buy another. The whole ebay game is tiresome and prices have been inflating as of late. I've had to wait months just to score a few under 140$....which isn't a horrible deal...just hard to swallow since I've also bought them there for 100.
Thanks for the great review David.

March 12, 2009 3:03 PM  
Blogger David said...


They are not as rugged as the '26's, which are built like tanks. And the '26's do have auto and TTL, if that is your thing.

But the slave in the LP120 is better than the one in the SB-26. And the 1/8" sync jack is way more versatile than the standard PC.

But you are right -- the availability and price point is a big deal.

March 12, 2009 3:14 PM  
Anonymous Bill Giles said...

Since I shoot Olympus, I have to make a decision to buy some FL-50R's or use something else. At $400+ for an FL-50R and wanting at least 3, it's quite a decision. Since I used to shoot Canon, I have several 540EZ flashes that I can use. Since they don't work with the current digital cameras, they sell at a discount, but nut much less than the lumopro. The 540EZ is not that easy to use in manual and doesn't have a PC connector. If the Lumopro is easy to adjust and has a PC connector, it will probably be worth a try.

March 12, 2009 3:20 PM  
Blogger David said...


Don't forget -- you can get those 540's modded very easily to have a 1/8" jack. Michael Bass has a very good reputation for the speed and quality of his work.

March 12, 2009 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Eric Baines said...

LOVED the Stooges Easter Egg. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!

March 12, 2009 4:52 PM  
Blogger Devin Hillam said...

David, any idea on how the Lumopro acts with a PW? I'm very disappointed in the range of a 580exII and a PW. The Lumopro would be a nice addition if it would work better off camera.

March 12, 2009 4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$50 is great for a manual flash but I found it more fun to get some old thing off ebay or a thrift store for a few bucks and whack a $2 log pot in in place of the light sensor!

March 12, 2009 6:17 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Take a look at this flash, Sunpak PZ42X, I'm loving it. I got one, then liked it so much I got 2 more. Look here:

March 12, 2009 8:23 PM  
Blogger Heipel said...

Very few notice the weird links!!??

I think not. Well, I've noticed, at least. Love 'em.

Keep does-ing them, please.

March 12, 2009 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we see a better/closer picture of the back of the LumoPro flashes?

I am curious what the graph says, and what the switches are for, thanks!

March 12, 2009 8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL I like the url link of the main pics of the three flashes, straight to the three stooges on youtube :) Well done..


March 12, 2009 10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

with the lumopro, is there really no 1/4 power as stated in the specs?

March 13, 2009 6:47 AM  
Blogger Viktor Krot said...

I can assure that gadget infinity are very respectable company because I've purchased a lot of stuffs and I gjt all of that in 15 days. By the way I'm from Russia. And today I purchased a Cactus triggers - the new one.
Thanks for the post !

March 13, 2009 7:25 AM  
Blogger nick.flick said...

Hi David,

any word on shipments and pricing for the uk market?

March 13, 2009 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Guy said...

After tiring of looking for cheap Nikon SBs I figured the Yong Nuo you mentioned here would fit the bill nicely. Importing the Lumopro to Europe is too expensive, imho. So I've ordered one from Gadget Infinity (for 48 euro) and am hoping for the best!

March 13, 2009 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we really talking about a cactus flash? YAWN.

March 13, 2009 9:50 AM  
Blogger mphgt said...

The Lumpro looks good any chance it will be available in the UK?

March 13, 2009 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the stooges!!! I forgot about that clip.

March 13, 2009 6:21 PM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Does anyone know how these compare to the nikon sb-80dx or the sb-800. Im trying to decide on my first flash.


March 13, 2009 6:45 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

probably the most ironic thing about the proprietary plugs on the Cactus/Vivtar flash is that Cactus has standard PC ports on the wireless slaves. the parts are already in your factory, how hard could it be to replace it?

March 13, 2009 7:10 PM  
Blogger Nikographer said...

Looks like all 3 offer some good lower price alternatives to the std Nikon flashes. I'd probably pick that first one for my 3rd flash (I had 2 SB-800's already).

I posted a neat DIY diffuser thing on flickr.


March 13, 2009 8:46 PM  
Blogger Zach Gillit said...

Amazing! There would have been little or no market for such a thing a few years ago, but with the strobist explosion, manufacturers are producing "old technology" camera gear! Isn't this kinda like GM and Ford trying to go back to the vintage looks with the Mustang and the camaro? I'll take an old used Nikon flash, they're solid enough that I think it could double as a blunt weapon if I'm ever attacked while shooting.

March 14, 2009 1:44 AM  
Blogger Joey B said...

The LumoPro is exactly what I've been looking for. I shoot mostly with studio-type lighting equipment, but have been recently exploring on and off camera flash. And since off-camera lighting is my love, and didn't want to dish out $350-400 a pop for the new Canon EX II's, grabbing a couple of those LumoPro's made me giddy.

Thanks for the post David!

March 14, 2009 8:34 AM  
Blogger LG said...

Interesting news David, this may be exactly what my student budget has been waiting for.

The LP120 sounds exactly what I'm after, I already own a SB800 (which broke the piggy bank) and a second hand SB28 (couldn't find a second hand SB26 for love nor money!).

Studying photography can be expensive when you consider the amount of kit you acquire, having a less expensive strobe alternative is a great bonus when starting out.

Good catch my friend, and warm regards from Scotland,


March 14, 2009 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Kryztov said...

Awright Lesley, I'm fae Scotland annaw ;)

If you're a student and on a budget (and I am too thanks redundancy grr!) you could do worse than picking up some ancient flashes and modding them for manual control.

I know this may sound daunting but it's a matter of opening up the flash, discharging the capacitor (very important i.e life threatening: an analogue voltmeter across the connections will do the trick) disconnecting the two wires from the light sensor and soldering them onto a logarithmic potentiometer which will cost you about £1.30 from Maplin.

The pot will have 3 pins. Solder one to the middle pin and one to either of the other two pins. It doesn't matter!

Hey presto you have manual control of that crappy old flash you bought of the smelly guy at The Barras for 50p :)

You'll want a knob for it as well which is about 50p, also from Maplin. A housing can be made from a bottle top if there's no room in the flash to house the potentiometer or you can pay a few pounds for a Maplin one.

Search on flickr and you'll find discussions and guides on this.

Check out this for starters

Since the flashes are triggered wirelessly in my setup (ebay triggers) there's no need to worry about trigger voltage frying your camera, you can buy just about any old flash and make it manual!

I say just about because the only difficulty I've had with this method is with a Cobra MD 250 flash I found recently that doesn't want to fire from the wireless trigger. I don't fully understand what causes this but I'd welcome an explanation/mod from anyone here who can offer advice.

Best of luck in your studies and give me a shout if you have any questions about the above.

March 15, 2009 1:12 AM  
Anonymous kryztov said...

Another thing I should add is that I recently picked up a a Vivitar 285 complete with pro-grip, 2 battery packs, PC cord and various other accessories for £17 when the flash alone was selling for ~£100 elsewhere (no doubt thanks to yer man David here.)

The reason? A spellingh mistake- it was listed as a Vivtiar, hence noone else could find it but me.

This sort of thing happens all the time. There are even a few sites which will search ebay for misspelled items such as:

Happy hunting :)

March 15, 2009 1:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Did anybody notice that the banner link to "Stooges Pie Fight"
which very please me.

March 16, 2009 1:23 AM  
Anonymous CJW said...

The main thing I worry about with off-brand flashes is the color temp. The new Vivitar flashes that Sakar has commissioned are simply awful. They feel like toys. I didn't test the important things like output and reliability, but they just feel awful.

March 16, 2009 4:07 PM  
Blogger Bob Carney said...

Thanks for breaking it down. Loved the 3 stooges easter egg.

March 16, 2009 9:32 PM  
Anonymous Guy said...

Well, my first YN460 was basically DOA. Received it, put batteries in it, then while charging the little lights on the back started dying and I smelled something burning...

It's going back to HK and I'm going to keep on looking for a SB26/28 it seems :(

March 18, 2009 8:45 AM  
Anonymous tony said...

Really happy to see that more and more options for portable flashes as well as accessories are availiable!
The LumoPro looks especially interesting - the flash and the price.

March 21, 2009 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Pat said...

I wish Strobist would become subscription only. That way we could get more lighting content and less advertising. Frankly it is barely readable these days.

March 22, 2009 1:34 PM  
Blogger David said...


That may be a perception/reality thing. The amount of advertising space on Strobist has not changed substantially in the past year.

I had someone suggest to me very early in the course of the site to convert to a pay model, the reason being that it would make more money. But I rejected that model for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that a gated community runs counter to the basic idea of what I am doing.

I frankly would rather filter the readership by enthusiasm rather than wallet size. When I was trying to learn lighting for the first time, I had very little money and I would rather spend that on photo gear. Or food.

If you are interested spending money to viewing content with no ads, there are plenty of sources for paid content on the web, Lord knows. But most of them are supported by advertising as well.

FWIW, I do have a series of lighting DVDs that do not have advertising of any kind, and not free. They have thus far been adopted by about one fifth of one percent of the site's overall readership.

So you can see that the idea of a paid model would be very restrictive for many.


March 22, 2009 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We appreciate what you've been doing David, please do keep Strobist free for all viewers to see.
I'm new to this concept and have been looking for a system to fit for my budget. The Lumopro seems like a good way to start, based on some comments from your readers/off cam flash users. I have emailed MPEX and I am waiting for their response to my inquiries.
Mabuhay from the Philippines.


March 23, 2009 12:53 AM  
Blogger DerDrache said...

I live in Columbus and stopped into MPEX last week to get my hands on an LP120 and to my surprise they seemed really well built. The controls for flash power are well... silly. Easy enough to use but I don't know a single person that would have that have thought that was the best way to set them up. I'm certain it was a cost-saving measure and that's fine because the net result is what seems to be a cheap, well built full manual flash with optical slave capability built-in. I didn't pick one up last week but I'm sure that one of these will probably be added to my arsenal very soon. I have a 285 that doesn't seem to suffer from the QC issues I've heard people mention so much lately.

March 23, 2009 10:09 AM  
Blogger midwestphotoexchange said...

@DerDrache: Make sure to give me a holler in the office when you stop by! Always happy to meet a Strobist reader. I would definitely be interested in hearing your thoughts about how to better layout the power switches.

Midwest Photo Exchange

March 23, 2009 12:09 PM  
Blogger RoamingChile said...

The LP120s intrigue me... certainly if they offer the benefits of the Vivitar 285 plus slave plus 1/32. May have to get a couple.

The YN460 reminds me of the Sigma 500s I bought a couple years back... Sigma makes great lenses, lousy flashes... they just don't strobe by themselves like the YN460.

I'm impressed at MPEX customized a flash for the Strobist community. That alone warrants a purchase. In time.

March 24, 2009 1:27 AM  
Blogger netrex said...

So, the LumaPro it is for me then. I liked the packages MPEX has are very nice it seems. Hopefully I could get the one with the Pocket Wizards :)

Thanks for the review, I found it very informative and helpful :)

April 04, 2009 9:50 PM  
Blogger xelex said...

So anyone still think that buying Vivitar 285 is still a good idea? Amazon still list them. Also I think refurbished Canon 430 for $200 is a good deal. I am new to all light setup, even Strobist to me is a little bit complicated.

April 04, 2009 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a V2 and it was abysmal, didn't work well outside at all, fell apart at every chance it got, didn't work if the camera was rotated a certain way(???) Glad I got rid of it and have the Paul C Bluff radio trigger. Fantastic.

April 05, 2009 12:31 PM  
Blogger Allen said...

The video is APPALLING!
I couldn't keep my eyes open I was laughing so much (but then again, I have 16:9 wide-screen asian vision)

I just loved his expressions!
I'll definitely not buy this piece of.... lightning flash.


April 05, 2009 5:07 PM  
OpenID robinacollins said...

I use a Vivitar 285, best thing ever..its powerful and gets the jobs done.

April 07, 2009 12:27 AM  
Blogger mat4226 said...

Just received my LP120's a few days ago. They are every bit of dependable manual flash they advertise. I've already put 150 shots through each with no misfires, etc. As already noted in reviews, the battery compartments are awkward, but the rest of the design is very nice. I anticipate a long life from these units.

April 08, 2009 2:53 AM  
Blogger eGandalf said...

Hey strobist guys. I was hoping you could do a review of the DF283/383 units fresh from Vivitar. They seem to be generating a good bit of interest due to the price point (see here:

I've already got one and like it, but it'd be great to get the 'professional' opinion as well.

Best, eG

April 08, 2009 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a mod to the Nissin Di622 that allows use of rf triggers with a PC sync.

Youtube videos showing the mod are here.

The switch is used to bypass the photo diode to prevent it from firing optically when used in the presence of other flash photographers.It's not needed otherwise.

April 12, 2009 6:27 PM  
Anonymous kylefornia said...

I feel like the LumoPro is the best option here but financially, I would still go with an older Nikon SB model. You can still find them for about $40-50 cheaper than the LumoPro and they are built like a frickin tank, not to mention motorized zoom and manual stopping down to 1/64 on most SB models. I may be wrong but I think the output is higher too. Regardless, if you're not worried whether the flash is new or used, then I'd say go for the old tried and true models. But if you're dead set on getting something nobody else has used yet, then spend the extra $40 and get a LumoPro.

April 17, 2009 6:32 AM  
Blogger Kiron Kid said...

I E-mailed the Cactus outfit about their Vivitar 285 clone. And yes, it too is made in China. No thanks. I'll pass.


April 17, 2009 10:04 AM  
Blogger Kiron Kid said...

I E-mailed Cactus about their Vivitar 285 clone. And yes, it too is made in China(horrendous quality control). No thanks. I'll pass on this one.

Kiron kid

April 17, 2009 10:08 AM  
Blogger Kiron Kid said...

The Lumo Pro 120, is also made in China, which scares me...

Kiron Kid

April 17, 2009 10:10 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

I'm interested in build quality of the LumoPro flashes. Are they closer to the Canon/Nikon level or the recent Vivitars? Country of origin really isn't a good indicator as my very nice iPod has "Assembled in China" stamped right on the back.

Thanks for all you do, David. And thanks Midwest Photo Exchange. It's great to have more choices.

April 17, 2009 3:22 PM  
Blogger DerDrache said...

@Matt: I was impressed with the build quality at the price point. It certainly didn't feel flimsy to me. The salesrep at MPEX I spoke with said that they performed some drop tests on one when they first came in and couldn't get them to misfire even after drops from 6 feet onto hardwood floors.

April 18, 2009 2:46 PM  
Blogger midwestphotoexchange said...

Sold out! Thanks for all the support! We expect more around May 15th.

Midwest Photo Exchange

April 23, 2009 2:32 PM  
Blogger Norseman said...

To all strobist out there. I am just looking into manual flashes after nearly gone for Nikon's CLS system.

I presently got a Fuji FPF 54 which is really a Metz flash in disguise. It goes all the way to 1/256 power.

Unfortunately it costs approx $450. Which is the lowest power ratio I ought to have in order to get the most flexible flash??

I am willing to spend $200 per flash unit

Tore Kvalheim, Norway

April 28, 2009 4:32 PM  
Blogger R.Mutt said...

I purchased a new 285HV Jan 21 at MPEX. I was just getting involved in the strobist thing. I already have an 285 from the old days. Build quality of the new 285HV is not impressive, way cheaper, lighter. I saw the article on the LP 120 and dropped in to MPEX to ask if I could exchange the 285. I was ready to pay a restock charge. I did the exchange for the LP 120 on 4/7, was credited the full purchase price of the 285HV. Outstanding customer support MPEX!

May 08, 2009 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Shawn Sharp Photography said...

I can't wait to get my hands on a couple of these babies. I've tried looking for a .pdf manual for them but I guess I'll have to just trust the reviews and go ahead and order the MPex Strobist Pro PT3 Kit. I can hardly stand the anticipation.


May 12, 2009 1:52 AM  
Anonymous Amanda Crowe said...

So is this a good place to start for flashes or would you suggest something else? all i really need are 2 flashes, receivers, and a trigger, maybe flash stands too actually.

May 12, 2009 8:18 AM  
OpenID stronge said...

I have a Nissin Di-466 flash and while it is good on the camera there's almost nothing for a strobist in it. It has a built-in optical sensor with 2 working modes (triggered by the first or the second flash) but it is situated in the flash tube (although there are no issues with triggering it indoors). The second disadvantage is the strange power setting behaviour. The power of this flash can be set from 1/32 to 1/1 with no missing steps but when in 1st flash-triggered optical slave mode the 1/32 power setting is actually equal to 1/16 (and is really 1/32 in all other modes). I don't know if it is an issue of this model or of my particular copy. Also it has no manual zoom, while off-camera or with its head looking up the zoom is automatically set to 35mm. The biggest strobist disadvantage is it's full inability to be fired using the central hot-shoe contact so radio-triggers are completely useless with it. But apart from these sad facts it still is a cheap (~120-140$) and reliable E-TTL flash with at least one way of using off-camera via optical slave.

And yes — TTL/E-TTL does cost a lot of money.

June 25, 2009 8:51 AM  
Blogger Sean said...

I would like a bit of advice, has anybody used the Sigma EF-530 DG Super Flash,is it any good? or will the LP120 be a better buy.

August 24, 2009 2:08 PM  
Blogger Sean said...

I would like a bit of advice, has anybody used the Sigma EF-530 DG Super Flash,is it any good? or will the LP120 be a better buy.This will be my first purchase of a off camera flash.

August 24, 2009 2:15 PM  
Blogger Injun Jim said...

I've seen the video of the guy showing his busted yongnuo 460. It turns out, he modified the flash, and so his issue is questionable and misleading about the quality of this flash. The flash he is using in the video is not a new flash out of the box.

And as for Gadget Infinity, the prices are quite cheap- but the cost of shipping is exorbitant. I was charged $64 for shipping, and when I received the package, it showed that they paid less than half of that for shipping (245 HKD). There was no packing, aside from the box itself, and 2 pieces of foam paper. It's something to consider when ordering. In fact, pieces were rolling around in the box unhindered. It seems they pocketed about $35 from shipping charges. On a lighter side, I ordered the YongNuo 460, and it's been reliable so far. I use it especially for the lower power flashes (1/64, 1/32) And to use it to trigger the slaves on my 285's. For $40 dollars, it's a real steal.

Also, although not available through Gad Infinity, YongNuo Flash Triggers have amazing range, and amazing reliability. Far better than Cactus Triggers. I got them on Ebay- 4 Rx's & 1 Tx's for $99. I forget the sellers username. And shipping (also from HK) was FREE. Compared to the $64 Gad Inf charged, it's amazing. (Esp considering both are located in the exact same section of HK (Kowloon)

September 29, 2009 7:35 AM  
Blogger Injun Jim said...

I've seen the video of the guy showing his busted yongnuo 460. It turns out, he modified the flash, and so his issue is questionable and misleading about the quality of this flash. The flash he is using in the video is not a new flash out of the box.

And as for Gadget Infinity, the prices are quite cheap- but the cost of shipping is exorbitant. I was charged $64 for shipping, and when I received the package, it showed that they paid less than half of that for shipping (245 HKD). There was no packing, aside from the box itself, and 2 pieces of foam paper. It's something to consider when ordering. In fact, pieces were rolling around in the box unhindered. It seems they pocketed about $35 from shipping charges. On a lighter side, I ordered the YongNuo 460, and it's been reliable so far. I use it especially for the lower power flashes (1/64, 1/32) And to use it to trigger the slaves on my 285's. For $40 dollars, it's a real steal.

Also, although not available through Gad Infinity, YongNuo Flash Triggers have amazing range, and amazing reliability. Far better than Cactus Triggers. I got them on Ebay- 4 Rx's & 1 Tx's for $99. I forget the sellers username. And shipping (also from HK) was FREE. Compared to the $64 Gad Inf charged, it's amazing. (Esp considering both are located in the exact same section of HK (Kowloon)

September 29, 2009 7:37 AM  
Blogger David Pearson said...

I just received my Yongnuo YN460 speedlight. Paid £37.99 on eBay with free delivery. I have no intention of ever mounting this on my camera as I will be using it remotely. First impressions are good and it works well. The build quality to me seems very good for the price, the head tilt and turn is a little stiff but that is quite reassuring from a strength point of view.

November 26, 2009 10:15 AM  
Blogger Selbosh said...

Looks like the YN-460 Mark II has fixed all of the things that irked you in the original version, except for zoom and sync ports.

December 23, 2009 11:23 AM  
Blogger Lupe Robles said...

I must post that I had a LumoPro LP120 and the flash tube went out after about 60 days. I am a wedding photographer so I depend on my equipment. I sent the flash back and Sam in sales gave me the address and said he would take a look at my flash. He emailed me 2 hours after the package arrived (UPS Tracking info) and informed me that they could not fix the flash so they are sending me a new right away! I was so pleased with Sam, MPEX, and the performance of the LP120 that I ordered another today!
Great Customer service at MPEX!!

February 25, 2010 7:12 PM  
OpenID hturkhan said...

Bought Cactus AF45 for nikon and v4wriless triggering set and posting some information on my blog... maybe you can give a link.

March 09, 2010 1:02 AM  
Blogger jphphotography said...

I'm not sure if you've mentioned this in a more recent post but the YN460 MK II is out now and from what I've experienced its quite a bit better (and more reliable) than it's predecessor. It seems to have more power and the optical slave sensor has been moved to a more sensible location.

If you haven't checked them out yet I'd recommend it. For $43US you get a slave-able manual flash with half decent power and a not-too-bad recycle time.

Maybe it's time for a follow up post on cheaper gear?

June 21, 2010 8:00 PM  
Blogger Haarvey Aardvark said...

You keep saying "proprietary" when describing the PC connector, but I don't think it means what you think it means.

I like that I can use the same sync cables on everything from a Canon 5D Mk II to a very early Graflex press camera from the 1920's. My camera collection spans the generations, and the conservatism of the industry with regards to connectors has made it simpler for me to cable a flash to a camera (or radio trigger, for that matter). The common availability of PC cables has made it easy for me to practice strobist methods with my Mamiya C330.

If the industry went to 1/8 miniphone connectors, getting cables for the 100 years of photography equipment that came before will become needlessly difficult and without a great gain won by changing connectors.

July 03, 2011 11:56 PM  
Blogger Alexander said...

I bought a couple of Vivitar 285 HVs recently, and the build quality seemed fine. However, I found that they are not at all intuitive to use. I recorded this brief video tutorial on how to set one up as an off-camera speedlight.

July 19, 2011 12:55 PM  

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