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The best cheap camera flashes for 2020

The best cheap camera flashes will give you the biggest flash for your cash

Tom Pumford / Unsplash

An external camera flash (often called a speedlite, speedlight, or flashgun) offers both more power and more control than a camera’s built-in flash. With a rotating and tilting flash head, you can aim the light in different directions to bounce it off of ceilings or walls for a softer look, avoiding the harsh shadows and “deer in headlights” effect of direct flash photography. Most modern external flashes can also be remotely triggered to achieve more creative, off-camera lighting.

While the best camera flashes can be prohibitively expensive for those just looking to get started, a number of budget manufacturers have stepped up to the plate to deliver lower-cost alternatives that, in some cases, match the first-party models for both features and power. Here are four cheap camera flashes worth considering.

At a glance:

Best cheap camera flash: Godox VING V860II/Flashpoint Zoom R2

Want a premium flash without the premium price? The Godox VING V860II TTL offers advanced features found on flagship models from camera manufacturers, like automatic through-the-lens (TTL) metering and high-speed sync, but at a fraction of the cost. Also known as the Flashpoint Zoom R2 TTL from Adorama, this affordable flash would still be a good buy if it cost twice as much,. It offers an inexpensive way to get into advanced off-camera lightning techniques thanks to its built-in radio transceiver, which can both control and be controlled by other V860II flashes (Godox also sells a standalone transmitter which can be bundled with the flash).

In addition to its wireless controls, the VING V860II features a unique rechargeable battery so you can finally say goodbye to AAs. It boasts a fast, 1.5-second recycle time with a battery rating of 650 flashes at full power. The fully-articulating flash head is useful for bouncing light, and with a guide number of 197 feet (at ISO 100 and 200mm zoom), it has plenty of reach to illuminate subjects at long range.

It is available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, and Panasonic cameras.

Best cheap professional flash: Godox V1/Flashpoint X R2

The cost of the Godox V1 may not immediately look “cheap,” but when you consider it competes with the Profoto A1X — a professional on-camera flash that costs about four times more — it looks like a bargain.

Compared to the VING 860II, the V1 will give you about one stop more power — that is, it’s twice as bright at maximum output — but it’s battery will only last for 460 flashes at that setting (which is still pretty good). Compared to other flashes on this list, the X R2’s round flash head provides a very even light falloff pattern. That flash head is also compatible with a system of magnetic accessories, so you can easily throw on a diffusion dome, bounce card, grid, or gel as quickly as possible. This makes the light great for wedding and event shooters who may need to swap modifiers at a moment’s notice.

Flash power is adjustable in 1/10-stop increments from full power down to 1/256 power. Both TTL and high-speed sync are supported across the same broad range of camera brands as the VING 860II (just make sure you buy the right version for your camera). The V1 is also compatible with the same 2.4GHz radio transmitter system as Godox’s other flashes, so you can mix-and-match models in a studio setup for a combination of on- and off-camera lighting.

Best cheap manual flash: Yongnuo YN560 IV

Yongnuo YN560 IV

If you need something even less expensive than the Godox VING, this Yongnuo flash might be what you’re looking for. It may not look fancy, but the the YN 560 IV is a solid iteration of what was already an impressive flash for the value, being the fourth generation of the model.

Inside the YN560 IV is a wireless triggering system that works alone or hand-in-hand with Yongnuo’s collection of radio transmitters, thus helping to create a wireless lighting setup that doesn’t rely on fickle, line-of-sight-based optical triggers. It’s an impressive feature in such an affordable flash.

However, the Yongnuo lacks TTL metering, so you’ll need to rely on manually adjusting the power, which may not be the easiest thing if you’re just starting out with flash photography. Fortunately, in the days of guess-and-check digital photography, this isn’t too bad.

Best cheap two-flash kit: Hahnel Modus 600RT

On its own, a single Hahnel Modus 600RT is a strong flash — but not exactly a great deal compared the others on this list (it costs about as much as the Godox V1). However, available in a two-flash kit with a standalone wireless transmitter included, the 600RT starts to make sense. If you’re looking to get started a with a portable off-camera lighting setup, you could certainly do worse.

And the Hahnel flashes will be easy to setup and use thanks to full support for TTL metering and high-speed sync on Nikon, Canon, or Sony cameras (Fujifilm and Panasonic/Olympus versions of the flash are also available, but not in a two-flash kit). Like Godox, Hahnel uses a 2.4GHz radio signal for reliable triggering over long distances (up to 328 feet) without line-of-sight requirements.

The 600RT flash has very respectable specifications, including a 20-200mm zoom head and a guide number of 197 feet at 200mm and ISO 100. This puts it in line with the Godox VING 860II, as one would hope given the higher price. Also like the Godox, the Hahnel 600RT uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that’s good for 500 pops at full power.

This flash also includes a few interesting features not normally seen, such as a USB port for upgrading the firmware and a 2.5mm jack that allows for wired off-camera triggering and communication with other types of lighting equipment.

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