C-  RISE AND FALL of the 285 ?

-  Whats all the buzz over the Yong-Nuo brand strobes?  Several reasons for the rise in popularity of this Chinese based company.  

-   First they kill everybody on price points, by dealing direct and with some distributors like Amazon and eBay, they cut prices and delivered a viable product, constantly being upgraded and suiting the needs of the low-end community.  They make a product that is an upgrade in sense of the Vivitar 285 which was really old in the tooth, for example, It had more common ports and is totally manual which met the criteria of the Strobists who frugalized flash photography. Main advantage: Affordability.

-  Almost three years ago, the newest players in the Strobist search for eternal flash bliss were the entries from Midwest Camera, trade name LUMOPRO, headed by master retailer Moishe who moved quick and jumped in on the fraternal order of “Strobism” which is a unique band of individuals called Strobists who are learning photography through good frugal means, a great social environment and complete cooperative volunteer website information.  I applaud the Strobists and MidWest for their innovation and cooperation on the surface.  Underneath like anything else , Lumopro, it’s all about the money and survival selling product by an independent in a business challenged by Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Adorama and others. 

-  The Strobists brought back and embraced the Vivitar 283-285.  The ancient Vivitars were all over the place and cheap.  I have recommended the Vivitars for maybe forty to fifty years for their portable speed lighting as an inexpensive way to go.  For the Strobists, it seems have been a right of passage through the tried and true Vivitars, the 283, 285 older and 285 HV models as they were cheap and available.  And all over the web, pawn shops, garage sales, city dumps, grandmas closets, underwear drawers, and car trunks.  It seems folks were sucking them up.  

-  The race was on. Used Vivitars were hot,  sales soared and the wheel had been invented again. They brought great prices on eBay, Amazon, B&H and ADORAMA but Moishe saw a way to bring the market to MidWest Camera by adding some features (namely a PC port, or 1/8 pin port) and coming out with a customized version for the Strobists. Not on a Vivitar but on components from Yong-Nou which is the largest aftermarket clone company in the Photo Industry.

-  Midwest Camera made the move to create a direct route and brand for themselves in conjunction with the powers that be at Strobist Headquarters. They offered their own branded item.  The rise of the LUMOPRO taking into account the massive needs of the Teddy Bear picture takers and their dollars. They all do it.   Midwest Photo is not unique in this marketing strategy as Adorama brands the Flashpoint line of tripods and studio gear, B&H markets deals with companies like Pearstone, Vello and ten others, mostly Chinese point of sale items.   You see it in Wal-Mart and Home Depot. They call them partners. 

-  Did you know that Ryobi, the  Ryobi Tools brand is owned by Techtronic Industries of Hong Kong, an original equipment manufacturer. But the same plants churn out Sears Craftsman. RYOBI higher end, and RIDGID for Home Depot . Now you know the whole story….and the truth.

Basically more ports were needed by Strobists
-  Thus born, the LUMOPRO Model 120 and superseded by the 160.  The Model 160 claimed to be more powerful, sure in the port department.  But the true world went wireless and they pushed ports.  OK, they were only sold by Midwest Photo, so they are what we call in branding, a "House Brand”.  Created solely for one purpose, filling a need and usually that needs fills a gap and that gap fills with money.  Branded products go direct manufacturer to retail, no middleman, no distributor and more profits. And almost triple what other manual strobes sell for. And it had that long sought gut-wrenching, teeth clashing, hands wringing 1/8 power setting so sorely missed on the Vivitar 285HV in manual!   FINALLY STROBIST VALHALLA!

-  "Key the music Fred"  it's SCHEN-FENG to BROADWAY direct.  And if you call Yong-Nou’s rep in the states, or go to eBay and tell him you want 100 of these with your name and a PEZ dispenser on the side, get out your credit card, minimum order 100, and sorry the name “LightBlaster 170” has been taken.

-  Need a backup or a extra light just like the Lumopro, heres the 460-II Yong-Nuo that we tinkered with at third of the price. Some still floating around under 50.00. Improved sensor, Vivitar holder and adapter, tilt and swivel, and a metal hotshoe

-  Yong-Nuo consistently upgrade  their line, thus the branded lines get upgraded too eg: 460 to 460-II and now YN560-I to 560II to 560III, to reflect the new capacitor skin molds and breadboard,  and it was MidWest's time to upgrade the cloned clone with some slightly stronger numbers thus the Model 160.  

A third or half a stop, not double the power and I doubt the guide number.  To test for Guide number: A Sekonic 358 flash meter placed ten feet from the strobe head,  on an equal plane, in an average lit room, set for ISO 200 should read F11-14.  

For a decent totally manual strobe for lightstands, hair lights backgrounds etc. go directly with the YONG-NUO.  It’s like two for one. The perfection unit shown below with the accessories were made for a trade show I displayed at and is no longer for sale.   First come got it and the rig lasted a day.  That tells me you read what I write. This is all steel and aluminum, no plastic. The bracket is sixty dollars as seen, with the clamps or cold shoes, no strobes.


YONG-NUO 460 II Manual Flash  $ 47.00 - 53.95
-  The YONG-NUO 460 II may be purchased for 47.00 on Amazon or eBay.  The YN460-II is a simple and inexpensive flash unit with the same credentials as the LumoPro’s. They claim a GN of 53m instead of 33m, faster recycling and fine tuning for the flash power.

-  The flash head has both tilt and swivel and so simple the village idiot can use them. 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. And it has a 2nd flash focus switch for those with pre-flash cameras.  


It was a quiet moonlit night when Sylvia Vivitarino (Cougar-us Femailius) accepted a date with Mr. Very Yong-Nuo and it was love (making) at first sight, first light, and daylight, moonlight, by flashlight, Led’s and Halogen light and several months later the offspring arrived. A tiny blip on the horizon.  The baby unit was born with the Vivitar 285 Head Accessory holder which fits perfectly on the fascia of the Yong-Nuo body.

So we started looking at what Yong-Nuo has to offer for the price, potential and voila! Look what we found.  The features of the Lumopro with the exception of the PC socket at half the price.  And you don’t need it since it’s an optical flash. And totally tinker-able !!!!

The low cost of the unit allowed me to grab the battle-axe and chain-saw, go through my junkyard of camera parts and spend my days tinkering and screwing around without fear of financial withdrawal. 

Like a junkyard dog, I have a sense of what's laying in those bins of parts and the occasional brain-fart occurs.  Sometimes the parts even go together.

So I said to myself, “Self, what can we make of this”.   This Yong - Nuo was part of a lot I accrued but it had a busted sensor cover in front, the battery cover needed some work since it was broke off and a little clean up.  I added a direct port, hot-wired the module, permantized and hot-glue waterproofed the battery door with rivets, made it bulletproof.   I made the front end whole again with a red plastic cap, some black plastic cut and sized and held with a high tac commercial hot glue for plastic.  It won’t fall off.  

The fathead came off a burnt up Vivitar.  You take off all the screws, a little prying, some pressure and a thin screwdriver blade releases the top from the assembly. Cut and trim the two legs, apply thin velcro to the body and inside of the legs and Voila! I riveted it since it’s never coming off.  Things that come off bug me, how many lens caps have you lost?  This ones not coming off.


-  The head I wanted was for small specific tight targets so I removed the foggy front element the Vivitar had.  I had a specific use in mind.

Basically this created a very focused beam with little spill. A shade or snoot for the flash basically, no edge bleed off.   It too is riveted in place. Now the cut holders and diffusers drop right into the slot of the 285 head and allow me to use any kind of diffusion I want.  Plastic milk bottle material cut to size works great with various cutout options and masks.

I needed another bracket, I had a loose Vello Cold-shoe and an old Metz flash bracket in need of a good sandpaper cleanup to remove the failing black finish.  The Metz bracket underwent sanding and wire brushing and took on a nice look for the photos, which I do a lot of to show various cameras and flash rigs. See photo on right.


-  The features of a comparable Flash from YONG-NUO for $89.95, some at 75.00 with a Zoom Head, all digital, more power, and compatibility with  the 460 II basic features. It's called the Model 560 III and there are variants.  A better buy today than the Vivitar 285 if you understand this is a pure manual strobe. No TTL-X, no power steering, windows or brakes.   The 285’s are OK now as long as you steal them on eBay.  This could be a killer strobe for Wedding and event shooters using manual.

山寨货,克隆   (Knock-off, Clone, Simplified Chinese)
Yong-Nuo, who are they?  They are known in the industry as Chinas best Japanese knockoff house. They copy anyone and anything and make custom House Brands.  And they too indulge in creative writing, from their site. First thing they need is someone who can write and translate to “ ngleeesh".  It’s really quite common with Chinese products as their written language is pictures and sometimes things do not readily translate into other languages. 

"Shenzhen Yong Nuo Photographic Equipment Co., Ltd is Mainly engaged the product development, manufacturing and retailing of professional photographic equipment to our customers".  "We have abundant in product development. And our engineer who has a very experienced knowledge on photographic equipment manufacture".   "That's the main reason to lead Yong Nuo Photographic Equipment Co., Ltd to be more profession, modernization and internationalization". 

NOTE:  In Mandarin Chinese, the characters  for Knockoffs, are  把…敲掉;击倒;停工 

I am working on a Wedding Rig using the YN560-III working in conjunction with a Black Box and when properly set up will give you up to 2000 shots easily for wedding work.   My customers do not do Teddy Bears.  Teddy Bears don’t have credit cards.   My customers spend a lot of their weekends making money.  No clubs, secret handshakes or coded passwords. Their mantra is making money.  This is a great backup rig.

It will be an entire rig based on performance and economy.  A survey of many of my wedding pros and event shooters indicated they shot in manual, same as I do using manual, the old F8-F11 at ten feet at 1/125 ASA 200, and got great results on the aisle to the red carpet. Hmmm, why pay 400.00 to 600.00 dollars to shoot in manual ?  That got me thinking.  Really thinking…Im working on it.  A complete wedding pro rig for under $350.00.  Flash,  cable, Black Box and simple to use.

The YN-560 III is the latest version of YongNuo’s flagship manual speeedlite, and its the first all manual speedlite with a radio trigger receiver built in for firing the flash reliably off camera. Compatible with both the existing and very popular RF-602 and RF-603 radio triggers.

YongNuo have now confirmed a remote manual power control function is already built into the current YN-560 III manual flash units ! This function will be enabled via a new transmitter unit with built in LCD interface.   

The YN-560 III is just a simple manual flash with a basic receiver built in, and selling around just $70 each. I have used the 460-II same quality smaller and cheaper but they are getting harder to find.  

The built in receiver of the YN-560 III has big practical advantages, because you simply don’t have a lot of extra gear and extra batteries to constantly transport, organise, set up and manage and that probably solves the Strobists problems of not enough ports.  LUMOPRO….SEEEEYA!

So all you need is the one small transmitter unit to fire as many flashes as you like. Of course it saves money too without all those extra receivers and batteries.

Another big advantage is that you don’t have anything mounted to the foot of the flash making it higher in umbrellas and generally less stable. Or alternatively extra cords (to go wrong) and receivers dangling around.

I say this flash is changing the game, not only due to the practical conveniences mentioned above, but also because its already having an impact on the way people consider their gear and radio trigger selection as well.

And furthermore, built in triggering is one thing, but many people are also waiting for remote manual power control in a simple manual flash like this. 

UPDATE – YongNuo have now confirmed a remote manual power control function is already built into the current YN-560 III manual flash units ! This function will be enabled via a new transmitter unit with built in LCD interface, to be available.  

We have the cables, slightly modified for the Yong-Nuo 560-III (MB-2) and they run 70.00 converted and ready to go on the Black Box, Tuxedo, Husky etc.   Totally compatible. See Photo for correct positioning of the cable with the Black Box.


Upon opening the two flashes I just got from Yong-Nuo, I found these yellow service tags enclosed in the battery compartment.  Hmmm, maybe the rash of Lithium based problems might be indication of the nature of the beast.

I have this fear of high powered packs (320V) on these strobes, and even more on the strobes that run into the 500 -600 dollar category….

I also have a fear of Lithium having witnessed severe incidents….  As a pilot, battery business owner and investigative reporter, I have my own version of what happened to flight MALAYSIA MH-370.  After receiving the planes manifest logs, clues have popped up as to what was in the belly of the aircraft directly under the pilots.

More being put together on my sister website, www.aljacobsladder.com.