Speedlights are great for being able to light your subject on location. You get a portable, battery operated solution that with the right modifiers can be a great asset. The only problem is that the name brand speedlights by Nikon and Canon cost hundreds of dollars. This makes it hard to justify buying two or three of them. My main speedlight is a Nikon SB910 and it’s currently going for $546.95 at B&H. That price point puts them in the range of studio strobes.
At the end of the day you need a good light that works with the functions of your camera such as TTL, and doesn’t eat through batteries faster than normal or fail during your shoot. I had a chance to try out the Aperlite YH-500N during a portrait/fashion shoot that I did recently.
I used it with my Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa modifier as well as my Pocket Wizard triggers. I hadn’t had any time with it before the shoot. I took it out of the box and put my rechargeable AA batteries in it. Mounted it and started shooting. I was impressed with the output and recycle rate was also decent (3 seconds), but not super. The controls are very easy to use and the illuminated LCD is very easy to read. Actually had I spent a few minutes with it before the shoot I would have found out that it has partial support for Nikon’s Wireless remote mode. This takes it up a notch because I have the ability to trigger the Aperlite from the pop-up flash on my Nikon D810.
See it in action here
The bottom line
Chances are your Nikon or Canon branded speedlight is built better and may last longer, but here’s the kicker… the Aperlite is only $59.99! At that price you can buy 4 of them for less than the cost of the name brand basic speedlights.
Even if the Aperlite failed after a year’s use I could replace it every year for 9 years before hitting the cost of one SB-910.
It also makes my Westcott Rapid Box Duo 32″ Duo (which holds 2 speedlights) much more viable. I haven’t had any issues with it thus far and I’d definitely be much more willing to risk it in less than ideal conditions than I would my SB-910. If I had to do a shoot in the water or rain you better believe I’d reach for my Aperlite first. If you’re looking for a low cost speedlight, this is it.
You can get the Aperlite YH-500N for Nikon here.
You can get the Aperlite YH-500C for Canon here.
You can get the Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa here.
You can get the Westcott Rapid Box Duo 32″ here.
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Whenever I review a product it’s usually one that I use. I usually try to buy the best gear that I can. As we all know photography gear can range in price and it can be expensive getting the “best” gear. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get good results with gear that costs less. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to review a “lower cost” speedlight softbox. Impact makes some decent gear, typically at lower cost than the competition. Now keep in mind that you get what you pay for in most cases, but if you’re on a budget and not making a living from your photography then low-cost options may work out best.
The Impact Quikbox is a 24″x24″ softbox for speedlights. B&H sells it in a kit complete with an Impact 8-foot stand and tilting bracket. The Quikbox is easy to set up. Just pop it open and put the inner baffle in and then the diffusion cloth on the end of it. Lastly mount the supplied speedlight bracket to it and you’re all set. The only thing I don’t like about their bracket is that it doesn’t tilt. This is why B&H includes an additional bracket that allows you to tilt the light. The 8-foot stand is very light — almost too light for the softbox setup. You may have to put a sandbag on it to keep it from falling over.
Putting it to the test
I had a regular commercial shoot this past weekend and decided to give the Impact kit a real world test. I mounted my Nikon SB 910 speedlight on it with a PocketWizard Plus X trigger.
I had the model hold a reflector to bounce a bit of light underneath her chin and I was pleased with the results and quality of light. With the size of this box, inner baffle and diffusion panel, the light was soft enough for my taste.
The Bottom Line
This Impact setup works as good as more expensive setups that I’ve used in the past. The quality of the materials used in the box is good. The only thing I don’t really like about it is that it doesn’t fold down nearly as small as my other boxes. So for travel this would not be my first choice. However, if you’re on a budget you can get this kit with stand and tilting bracket for less than others sell their boxes alone for.
You can get the Impact Quikbox Kit here from B&H Photo.
While you’re in the mood to save some $$$, you can save up to $400 on Nikon lenses now through 3/1/2014 here.
As a Nikon shooter, when people ask me why I use Nikon over the other brands I tell them that I really am not into the religious war between the various camera brands out there. I bought a Nikon D70 (upgrading from an Olympus EN-20) back in the day because at the time the specs met my needs and of course once you start investing in lenses you're pretty much locked in. So honestly I don't really care what you use. I don't! If you're a Canon shooter and you're happy with your gear, more power to you. That's great! Go out and take great pictures because that's what it's all about anyway. Once I get past the story about how I started, I then tell them that now that I am a Nikon shooter there are a couple of things that definitely keep me with Nikon over the other brands (besides the lens investment). One is the integrated GPS support in the Nikon DSLRs.
Although I wish the GPS chips themselves were built-in to ALL CAMERAS, I do appreciate the fact that I can buy the GPS module of my choice and just plug it in. The Nikon DSLRs will automatically record the Geo location information into the metadata of the images (both RAW and JPG) and there's even a menu for it right on the camera.
The other thing that I LOVE is the built-in support for wirelessly controlling the Nikon Speedlights.
If you have a Nikon DSLR that has the Commander mode/feature built-in, then the pop-up flash can be configured to send out a pulse (instead of/or in conjunction with a flash) to not only fire the Nikon Speedlight remotely, but also control the power output directly from the back of the camera. You can even control different groups of Nikon speedlights turning the power up and down as needed. This way you can put the lights on stands or anywhere you want around your subject. If your Nikon DSLR doesn't have the built-in Commander, you can buy an external one and put it in your hotshoe. I use both these features all the time and would miss them dearly if I were to switch brands. I started with an SB-600 Speedlight. Then I bought an SB-800 and then an SB-900. I have and use all three when needed. The other night I was having dinner with some fellow Nikon shooters and we got on the subject of the SB-900. We all agreed that in many ways the SB-900 was actually a step backwards from the SB-800. So the question becomes…
How would you change the Nikon SB-900?
Yes, I know you would drop the price to $99 🙂 So let's move on to the features. We all agreed that the one new feature that is VERY NICE is the simple selector switch to switch the light from being a Flash to a Remote Flash. So simple and so long overdue. On the previous models you'd have to dig through the menus to make these simple choices. Beyond that it was hard to come up with things we liked better. The SB 900 is bigger than the 800, but yet doesn't put out any more power. It just makes it harder to fit it into your existing cases. Also Nikon still only puts the sensor eye on ONE SIDE of the speedlight. While you can swivel it around, it would GREAT to have this sensor on BOTH sides or make it RF based instead of requiring line of sight. We can assume that Nikon is probably working on the their next Speedlight and here's what I'd want:
- Either give me a sensor on both sides or make it RF based
- Make it smaller or give it more power. Pick one!
- Give me the option of buying an accessory that allows me to plug it into the wall! If I'm using it inside and power is available why should I have to use AA batteries.?
- Lower the price a bit. It's hard to justify buying more than one of these when you can get strobes for the same price!
How would you change the SB 900?
You can get the SB-900 here from B&H for $459.95 (List price $570)