I enjoy shooting with small flashes because it's just easier to travel with and set up. I can practically pull a three piece lighting kit out of a backpack. The problem you'll run into with small flashes is trying to diffuse it with light modifiers. Softboxes are a popular choice for portrait and beauty photographers, but normally you need to decide on the proper speedring - Broncolor, Elinchrom, Bowens, Calumet, Alien Bees? The list goes on and on. The Westcott Apollo Orb octagon softbox (above) is perfect for portable flashes (speedlites), but can also be used with larger studio strobes without speedring adapters. The umbrella-like design sets up quick and is easier for Photographers who travel and need to shoot on location. A slit in the bottom of the softbox allows the stand to be placed through the center covering the entire flash unit. Unfortunately besides being too big at 43" inches, the $130 dollar softbox is also out of stock.
Searching around for the equivalent, I happened upon one company making a smaller (similar) design at about 32" and obviously only runs for one quarter of the Apollo price. Needless to say, i'm already all over it and ordered myself a few pieces. (light stand and flash bracket not included). Remember that once you have your flashes tucked away, in order to fire them off, you'll need at least a good cheap set of wireless triggers like the Yongnuo RF-603s (found here). There are also rectangular versions of this speedlite softbox, that also opens up just as easy as an umbrella.
The Yongnuo YN-565EX ETTL Flash for Canon and Nikon is so far very nice. Yongnuo has really stepped up their game with this new YN565EX, providing a solid build that feels very similar to the Canon 580EX II which is the top notch in Canon gear. Many other features only available in Canon's top flashes are also included in the YN-565EX such as PC sync and External Power port option. For an on camera flash with Canon DSLRs, it works transparently for the average consumer. In ETTL mode, communication with the camera are recognized including Zoom Distance, Aperture, and Flash compensation. Note: This flash does not have an HSS option.
When used off camera, the flash can be set to Slave mode and triggered from a variety of Canon Master or Nikon Commander type triggers. Although you can fire the flash remotely, I need to do more testing to see if ETTL is still working wirelessly. I noticed the flash was not picking up my flash compensation, zoom, or aperture. It seems to have defaulted to a more manual mode but still fired as a slave. Maybe i'm missing something in the settings? Since this YN-565EX can be triggered through a Canon Master, this should (ideally) work to be triggered from the 'built in' wireless triggers from the Canon 7D and Canon 60D cameras (turn on Flash trigger in menu). I think the T3i may also have this option. In any case, the many features, build quality, and price makes this a perfect flash for on camera use, and for experienced flash photographers the manual modes 'off camera' work excellent too. You can find them online via eBay (click here).
Ok, I don't know how I missed this, but it's here. There was talk that about this mytholigical unit said to harness the power to control savage Speedlites. For Canon they call it the ST-E2, for Yongnuo they call it....well...the ST-E2. Yeah go figure. Do a search on ST-E2 on this blog and you'll find it's something I use all the time. The fact that this new Yongnuo ST-E2 Speedlite Trigger unit is only half the price and said to provide the same (if not better) performance is very very cool. There was a review I read online somewhere about these units and it was pretty mind blowing. If I find it again, i'll update this post.
If you're looking to firing your Canon flashes off camera, maintain communications, and support High Speed Sync this is what strobists all over Flickr are or will be talking about. If you ever plan on going Radio Popper PX wireless, this would be the base for it. One of the best features is simply just the AA batteries for power source. The Canon ST-E2 uses some specialty battery I can only find in the Adult Video and Toy store around my area. Just kidding, I just frequent there so it's a convenient stop on the way home. Just kidding again!!! (Am I?).Ok, maybe some of the readers don't really care what i'm talking about, but for geeks like me this is a huge deal for a fine piece of infrared, TTL transmitting, group power ratio managing, high speed sync gear. Whew...I need a smoke..just kidding I don't smoke. But if I did smoke, I think I would need one...
P.S. Does it work with Yongnuo Flashes? Me no think so, but i'm trying to figure that out for sure. My guess is Yongnuo has a new flash in the Pipeline that's going to be made for this, which should also mix and match and hopefully play nicely with other Canon Speedlites. That's going to be some serious..serious competition for Canon Gear. Here's the link: Yongnuo ST-E2 Infrared Trigger for Canon Speedlites
Aaron mentioned he received the Yongnuo 560 Flash for off camera use, and threw up a demo video. From the information in the video, i'm pretty impressed. This YN-560 version doesn't support TTL, but when using my Yongnuo RF-602 triggers, I'm using my flashes all manually anyways. I can see event photographers using these either on light stands or clamped around the ceiling to get some extra light into a dim lit event. Especially since they are fairly cheap, I wouldn't be as worried about damage or theft leaving them around. I'm totally paranoid just throwing my Canon 580 EX II's in places that seem 'untrustworthy'. I guess I found my backup solution. Thanks Aaron, for the demo on these inexpensive Yongnuo YN-560 flashes.
So first thing in the larger bag is my YongNuo Wireless Trigger / Remote set. I talked about them in this article: http://cheesycam.com/never-ending-upgrades-wireless-shutter-flash-remotes/. As you know i've been building up a studio and these versatile triggers can wear many different hats around the equipment i'm using. First off, I can now use my Canon 580 EX II's through the hotshoe these remotes provide, or trigger my studio strobes through a PC sync cord these offer, and if I really needed to, trigger my camera shutter. OK that's a bit overkill to remotely trigger my camera in studio, but I really was just looking to replace some old Pocket Wizards since these will allow me to expand to more triggers at very minimal cost. For times when I don't want to travel with my ST-E2 or Radio Popper PX's, these will work great. I'll do some closeup detailed photos possibly tonight or this weekend and explain why I currently use so many different trigger sets.