Yongnuo YN-E3-RT Radio Transmitter
Admittedly, I typically don’t trust non-OEM products and accessories. So what led me to purchase the Yongnuo YN-E3-RT? I would never use aftermarket batteries, flashes, grips, etc. Perhaps I’m a fool for spending top dollar for genuine Canon equipment, but in my experiences virtually every aftermarket bit I’ve purchased to go along with my Canon gear has let me down either in performance, quality, or design. I’m even skeptical about non-Canon lenses. I know there are some fantastic lenses out there that bear names other than Canon, but the ones that are alternatives for the Canon glass I’ve used typically lack just a little something.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]By all appearances this is just a straight-up knockoff.[/pullquote]
With that said, I was intrigued by the Yongnuo YN-E3-RT Radio flash transmitter for Canon. First off, this is not a unqiue design or a play on the Canon version, by all appearances this is just a straight-up knockoff. If you were to switch the device to say Canon, a fair number of people would never know the difference by the looks.
To be fair, I’ve not used the genuine OEM Canon ST-E3-RT version .
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It seems weird to use an expensive flash as a trigger for a cheap flash[/pullquote]
However, the Canon radio transmitter is essentially the base of the Canon 600-EX-RT Flash which I use regularly. The Canon 600-EX-RT can also be used a transmitter, which is what I typically use to optically trigger my Canon 430EX-II flash. It seems weird to use an expensive flash as a trigger for a cheap flash, so I was looking to upgrade the Canon 430EX-II to the Canon 430EX III-RT. Lastly, implementing the radio trigger would allow me to get both flashes off the camera for more elaborate lighting setups.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Virtually no review said the flash failed to trigger on a reliable basis.[/pullquote]
I couldn’t quite get past the expense of the Canon radio transmitter. The pricing structure just didn’t make sense to me when compared the cost of purchasing another Canon 600EX-RT flash. On the other hand, I couldn’t fathom spending another $500 for a flash. This is where I was inspired to take a chance on the Yongnuo YN-E3-RT. The reviews on Amazon were stellar, with only two 1-star reviews – with one user admittedly dropping it and expressing anger that it broke – a review like this I typically dismiss. The other bad review complained of the wire being cheap and breaking after it was bumped. In this case I wouldn’t be using a wire to trigger, and again “being bumped” is subjective. Virtually no review said the flash failed to trigger on a reliable basis.
Setting up the Yongnuo YN-E3-RT
Setting the transmitter up was extremely simple if you’ve ever setup a master / slave configuration on a 600EX-RT. If you have never used this setup, you do have to ensure that the flash and transmitter are set to the same channel. Having both set to the same channel is the only way the transmitter will connect to the flash. Once the channels were set, the flash immediately sync’d to the transmitter, with both the flash and transmitter light illuminating green to give a visual indicator they were paired. This is helpful when a flash is up on a light stand away from the camera, a quick glance over and I could see the green light glowing from afar.
I don’t have the need at this time for complicated lighting setups. The Canon Speedlight system supports multiple groups with multiple flashes per group. Without first hand knowledge I don’t want to speculate to the configuring of these types of setups. I was looking for two off-camera flashes for two purposes at this time; 1) to have simple key and fill-light setups through umbrellas 2) to have the ability to use a second flash as a backlight / rim light while keeping my main flash off the camera. The configuration using the Yongnuo is identical to setting up the 600EX as a master to another flash. In other words, the 600EX-RT now becomes a slave to the YN-E3-RT. The 430EX-II also becomes a slave of the YN-E3-RT in group B (both use the same channel).
Internal Camera Control
With this setup I was able to control the ratios through the menus of the Canon 5D Mark III. In fact, the two jobs I’ve used this setup on I never touched the flashes or transmitters after the pairing process was complete. Having complete control of everything from the camera is a beautiful thing, and I applaud Canon for such a great setup. I’m sure there may be instances where this isn’t convenient, but these jobs were both highly-controlled low-pressure environments.
I’ll save the ratios for another day, but in short I found a 4:1 ratio to create a nice dimensional lighting with two umbrellas equal distance from the subject. 8:1 creates a great look, but is a bit more dramatic for the purpose of my shoots. 16:1 creates a very nice dramatic look with just enough fill. I was surprised 2:1 is barely discernable!
Quality and Feel
There is a notable quality difference in the ‘feel’ of the YN-E3-RT vs. the nearly identical steup on the rear of the 600EX-RT flash. The way the buttons press, and the way they respond, the tension and feel of the dial are all superior on the Canon flash, and I’d have to imagine are equivalent on the OEM Canon transmitter.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It worked well, it worked reliably, and it worked as I needed it to work[/pullquote]
In short, radio triggering is wonderful! It’s a game changer if you’ve been bound by line-of-sight in optical trigger setups. If I was doing weekly or daily gigs requiring these types of setups for big money, I woulnd’t blink at spending nearly $300 on the Canon transmitter, but for those of us that just need the occasional dual-flash setup, you simply cannot go wrong with the Yongnuo YN-E3-RT transmitter. It worked well, it worked reliably, and it worked as I needed it to work – what more can you ask for from a piece of equipment?
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