High Speed Sync with YN560 flash
For me and those who love YN560s for strobist, the only thing missing in these cheap flashes is High Speed Sync (HSS) capability.
There are two basis ways to use flash: on-camera and off-camera. The simple, but unique way to do HSS on-camera is using a flash with HSS capability. In other words, there’s no way to do HSS on-camera with YN560-III. But who cares about on-camera flash for strobist?
When it comes to off-camera, there are three ways to do HSS. Two of them are related to a flash capable of HSS which will be remotely triggered by either a pair of radio trigger supporting HSS, or another flash supporting HSS in master mode. These are ways that most people know and use for off-camera HSS.
There is the way that Callum Winton has used to do HSS with studio strobe. In the experiment, he set the SB900, which is a flash supporting HSS, at the lowest power and fired it at 1/8000s. Obviously at such high speed sync and small power, the flash itself had no effect to the image, but it still can trigger the optical slave of the studio strobe. Then he turned the optical slave on and finally got a bright and clean image. That is how he made a studio strobe sync at 1/8000s.
When being attached to Nikon D700, the YN560-III syncs at a maximum speed of 1/320s. Like the studio strobe, the YN560-III doesn’t support HSS, but it has a really sensitive built-in optical slave trigger inheriting from YN560. So can we use the above method for studio strobe to make the YN560-III sync faster than 1/320s?
Yes, we can! I did make the YN560-III sync at the shutter speed 1/8000s and now I show you how to do that.
I attach the Metz 50AF-1, which is a flash capable of HSS, on the Nikon D700. The power of the Metz 50AF-1 is set to minimum power (i.e. 1/128). The YN560-III is placed in front of the camera with its optical slave sensor facing the head of the Metz 50AF-1.
At first the YN560-III is turned off to see the impact of the Metz 50AF-1 only. At 1/320s, the output at 1/128 power of the Metz 50AF-1 is quite weak but we can see clearly its effect on the image. When I increase the shutter speed, the power of the Metz 50AF-1 drops out severely. At the shutter speed of 1/8000s, there is almost no effect from the Metz 50AF-1.
Then I repeat the above shootings with the YN560-III turned on and set to FULL POWER. The YN560-III has two optical slave modes: S1 and S2. The difference between them is that in S2 mode, the TTL preflash is ignored. Since I set the Metz 50AF-1 in manual mode, there is no TTL preflash fired. So the two slave mode S1 and S2 of the YN560-III will work exactly the same. In this case, I set the YN560-III in S1 mode.
I also start at 1/320s of shutter speed. The image is completely overexposed due to the light from the YN560-III. Then I go to high speed sync. At the shutter speed of 1/1000s, the overall image is darker as expected. But the image is clean from edge to edge. I increase the shutter speed to 1/4000s and 1/8000s. Again, the image get darker, but the illumination in the image is even and there is no dark area on the frame at all. This means I did make the YN560-III completely sync at 1/8000s.
Through the histograms, we see that the flash power just drops a little bit when the shutter speed increases from 1/4000s to 1/8000s.
So, we can do off-camera HSS with the YN560-III by using any flash capable of HSS as optical trigger.
I also test with the YN560-II and just like its successor, the YN560-II can also sync at 1/8000s. The only difference is that the YN560-II seems a bit more powerful than the YN560-III. When using both flashes, the power does increase, but just by a small gap.
Note that in the test, the Metz 50AF-1, which is used as a trigger, is set to manual mode. Hence S1 and S2 mode in the YN560-III can be used interchangeable. In case you set the Metz 50AF-1 to TTL mode, only S2 mode in the YN560-III can be used to make the YN560-III sync with the camera.
Some might wonder why it makes sense to do HSS with a flash like YN560-III while we need another flash capable of HSS to trigger it after all. Well, let’s think this way. HSS eats a lot of flash power. You can partly overcome this by placing the flash at very close distance to the subject. But it’s inconvenient and in most cases you need to gang up a number of powerful flashes to compensate the power loss from HSS. A single HSS flash is expensive, not to mention a bunch of them. Furthermore, to trigger the flashes, you need either a professional flash supporting HSS in master mode or several HSS radio trigger. These all are expensive and you end up needing thousands of dollars to do HSS flash in the normal way.
The YN560-III flashes are quite powerful and featured with high sensitive optical slave sensors. Most importantly, they are cheap and that makes it possible to buy three of four of them at the same time. The flash used to trigger these YN560-IIIs doesn’t need to be a professional flash featured wireless master mode working in HSS but just any flash capable of HSS.
So my solution for HSS flash in daylight is buying a not so expensive flash supporting HSS and a bunch of YN560-III flashes. I won’t say it’s cheap, but it’s the cheapest way to go HSS flash anyway.
You might prefer to use ND filters and that’s fine. I also have a lot of ND filters and I don’t intend to throw out all of them. I don't intend to shoot at 1/8000s either since there will be a dramatic loss of flash power. But things are still OK at shutter speeds of 1/400s or 1/800s. Many times I attach a 3-stops ND filter to a fast lens to shoot outdoor portrait and find that 3 stops is not enough. In these cases, I would rather go to HSS and have more control over the shutter speed than adding another 2-stops ND filter, or stopping down two f-stops and losing the beautiful bokeh.
I'm not a professional photographer. I even can't call myself photographer. Above I just share my experience when trying to do HSS with the YN560-III. If you have any comments please add them below.
NOTE: the YN560-III must be set to FULL POWER so that they can do HSS.