For only $90 USD, the Aperlite YH-700N speedlight is fully powered and fully featured. It is a very low price for this many features. It even includes HSS FP flash mode and both a Master controller and a Remote mode for Nikon Commander, which all work. I was furnished this flash to review, and it seems a good flash. It can give good and easy results.
It works well in TTL and Manual modes (iTTL mode for Nikon). It zooms 24 to 105 mm. Bounce head tilts to 90 degrees, head rotates 180 degrees right and 90 degrees left, with pullout bounce card and pull out wide angle diffuser. TTL menu offers ± 3 EV compensation for TTL in 1/3 stop steps (and the camera flash compensation works too of course). Manual mode does third stops to 1/128 power. Has a PC sync connector (not threaded) for Manual flash. It has optical slave modes S1 and S2, each with their own normal menus (handy and obvious). Plus the Master and Remote mode for the Nikon system, three groups and four channels. And HSS flash mode (HSS requires compatible camera model).
It recycles full power level in about 2.5 seconds (Eneloop NiMH, batteries Not included). FV Lock and Rear Curtain Sync work of course (those are camera functions). This flash foot has both the wheel clamp and pin shoe lock, so when you rotate the wheel all the way up, it retracts the pin, then you can remove the flash. Foot has a steel hot shoe plate. It comes with a fabric draw string case and a plastic flat slave stand (metal threads in bottom). Sync voltage is a very safe four volts. It accepts an external battery pack. There are more descriptions about flash features at Beginners Guide to Select a Hot Shoe Flash.
TTL Bounce flash, while standing under my ten foot ceiling, works at ISO 400 f/8 (but f/4 or f/5 is always routinely safer to allow some margin, for scene variables and compensation and faster recycle, etc). It seems a very decent flash, which works well.
However yes, there are a few little things.
The following is true of all of the third party flashes that I've seen (has not been many, but including this one):
But the YH-700N plus factors are:
The Aperlite YH-700, the Yongnuo YN565EX, and Neewer VK750 II flash heads are larger than some, and if you might want a clear snap-on diffuser dome for bounce flash, those for a SB-900 Nikon will fit all three of them. I am not a fan of the domes, I prefer the pull out bounce card, but I bought one to check size. The one I tried for $4.50 was Neewer Flash Bounce Light Diffuser Dome for Nikon SB900 Flash Speedlight and it fits all three flashes well.
In the Nikon iTTL system, this TTL menu defaults to actually be TTL BL mode (Balanced Fill Flash, same as the SB-700 mode). Camera Spot metering mode switches the flash metering out of TTL BL mode, to be actual TLL mode, but Spot metering itself is only about the ambient light, and the flash system does not use Spot metering. That's the camera metering system, not the flash. The camera controls TTL flash and TTL metering.
The YH-700N does do the job very well, it is a very usable flash, ample power, versatile, and seems dependable. Its features and power and performance are surprising at this price. The price is another feature, which buys a lot in this model.
Aperlite YH-700N - It is $90, currently shipped by Amazon.
Mode button selects TTL, Manual, or Multi (repeating flash)
Holding Zoom button a few seconds selects the Slave modes menu (below). There are several slave modes. Step through it with arrow keys, and select one with center OK button. After selecting it, then can select details like channel and group, or slave compensation.
It has a slide switch to turn it on. The Mode button cycles through three menus for TTL, Manual, and a repeating flash mode called Multi. Slave mode menus are entered by holding the Zoom button a few seconds. There is a Lamp button to turn on the LCD light, which times out in about ten seconds. It does not turn on otherwise. Holding the lamp button a few seconds shows a Custom Function menu for standby, sleep time, power off time.
The battery orientation markings are a little hard to see without a flashlight, but no problem, see it once, then it's the same as any similar speedlight, plus, minus, plus, minus, from the top.
Manual mode power (to 1/128 power level) is changed in 1/3 stop steps with the horizontal left-right arrow buttons. For off-camera use, it has a PC sync connector, and the slave modes.
Multi mode - is a repeating flash, a specialty feature for stroboscopic effects, like to follow the path of a bouncing ball. You specify the number of times you want it to flash, and the frequency it flashes (10 Hz is 10 times per second). The shutter has to be open long enough for the count (or the Pilot button has to held down). If you want 15 flashes at 10 Hz, your shutter speed obviously will need to be at least 1.5 seconds. It will observe a forced maximum power level for the degree of flashing, so it normally has to be close to the subject.
Slave Modes - Holding the Zoom button a few seconds enters the slave mode menu with several screens. It has Canon and Nikon remote slave modes (even though the hot shoe only fits a Nikon).
It even has a Master controller in it, serving as a Nikon Commander on hot shoe. The Master menu is quite fiddly. For each group, the Mode button selects TTL or Manual mode. The center OK button toggles to the TTL compensation or Manual power for the group, and then another OK lets the horizontal arrow advance to next group. The Zoom button accesses the channel. That is tough, but with determination and practice, you can specify different modes and powers for each group. In contrast, the Nikon commanders have fields for all values. You step through them with the horizontal arrows, and change their values with the vertical arrows. Intuitive even. This one is NOT intuitive, you have to find the right button to change each field. Master and Remote modes do work, but the settings in Master mode are too awkward. I think their type of LCD limits their choices.
And it has the S1 and S2 optical slaves (manual flash). S1 is a normal optical slave (triggered in sync by any other manual flash). S2 is manual flash too, but can be triggered by TTL (S2 ignores TTL preflash), for example, from compact cameras without manual flash. But S2 CANNOT ignore all the flashing from a Nikon Commander, that will trigger out of sync. No standby timeout, as is normal for slaves (no way to wake them up remotely). S1 and S2 are simple optical slaves (manual flash mode), just set it out there and it will flash in sync with the other manual flashes (S1) or TTL flashes (S2). It is very sensitive. It is triggered with normal working power flashes, anywhere in a reasonable room, even if hidden behind subject (is sensitive to wall reflections). The internal slaves are powered by the batteries, and is much better range than most external optical slaves (which must be powered by sync voltage).
Zoom - the flash zooms automatically to match the lens zoom, 24 to 105 mm. You can press the Zoom button, and the zoom value starts blinking, then you can zoom it manually with the arrow keys (a M appears on the zoom LCD to indicate Manual zoom). But then it will not zoom automatically with the lens, which is expected. To reset it to zoom automatically, manually zoom it to the step below 24 mm, and then it will match the current lens zoom, and will follow it again.
Custom Functions - Holding the Lamp button down enters the Custom Functions, which provides Sleep function, Auto Sleep time, and Auto Power off. There is an undocumented function 07 with value 2.4. Perhaps that's the firmware revision? The Exif reports it as being "5.01 (SB-900)", which is the Nikon compatibility number, and which is later than most.
The AF Assist light pattern (at right) has an exceptionally bright laser-like center dot (I worry about shining it into human eyes), but overall, the pattern is brighter to the camera than to the eye. And it works well. I tried focusing at 50 feet down a very dark long hall, and focus worked fine, camera focused easily with it. If not working, see Troubleshooting section of Nikon camera manual (AF assist requires AF-S mode, and selecting focus sensors near center). There is parallax up close, and it is slightly off center in the viewfinder, but doesn't seem to matter, there are dots everywhere. There is a little slack in the hot shoe, and the flash can be nudged back towards center, but it's really not necessary. Like some others, this assist light does flash once a second continuously in any slave mode (a bit of tape can cover it, but might interfere with other frontal sensors).
Guide Number Check - The YH-700N manual contains this guide number chart for ISO 100. The following GN check of it uses a D300 camera at ISO 200. All are shown here with normal Flash white balance 5500K, but the correction of all ought to be about 5900K -12 tint. Flashes are rarely precise color, it varies with power level, and we always need to give white balance attention. This one is no different than any flash.
Any GN chart is not precise (situations and judgments differ), but is normally a reasonable first approximation. Since metering it with a meter can get different results, I prefer to show the actual picture result, using the chart.
Exposure results using guide number chart (converted to ISO 200). Manual flash at Full power, to check the guide numbers. The distance below is measured to be 10 feet to the wall, so the aperture used here is chart ISO 100 GN * 1.414 / 10 feet. The guide numbers seem rather correct, and it is a powerful flash.
This picture used a slight boost from the YN-700 today ... owl in a tree in my yard in the city at 2 PM. A long way from the forest. Yes, that is the face and beak facing me, and yes, it is watching me, it opened its eyes a bit wider once. Owls cannot move their eyes, but they can rotate their head ± 270 degrees.
It is the camera system that does the TTL flash metering, and sets a power level in the flash, which only has to obey and flash. My notion has always been that TTL flashes don't vary much, the camera meter does it all. But this one took me by surprise, the Aperlite sometimes does do a husky TTL. Or actually, we probably should wonder why the others don't?
Next: DX D300 camera on tripod at 5 feet, 24 mm, ISO 200, f/8, 1/160 second, hot shoe TTL, no compensation. No change at all except for swapping out different TTL flash units in TTL BL mode. This is a vertical crop of about the central 44% of the horizontal frame width. WCV = White Card Value, tonal value for comparison. White balance was corrected as shown.
Seems hard to think the camera metering was varying in these cases. I wondered (speculation, pure imagination, absolutely no facts) if maybe the low power preflash level is varying? Maybe due to slight timing variations quenching it off? That could explain TTL variations. But it may be an improvement sometimes.
The YH-700 TTL does seem a bit bright sometimes (and often that is a good thing, but which I cannot explain yet), but it is not always brighter. Another try, not as dramatic, at 4 feet (a different TTL power level): Note that without routine expected compensation (none done here), any reflective metering will normally underexpose all this white, a bit gray. (see More ).
ISO 200, f/8, 1/160 second (except HSS in the last one is f/5.6 1/1000 second). Cropped to vertical.
Still with all the non-flash factors affecting flash, the right way is to constantly watch results, and simply do what you see you need to do (flash compensation). It's pretty easy to make it be perfect (gets easier every subsequent time - soon you just already know what will be needed.)
The subject is the dark shadows, fill flash in bright sunshine. HSS allows f/2.8 in bright sun, being able to do that because HSS is continuous light, so Equivalent Exposures with HSS flash work just like in sunshine. YH-700N is shown compared with Nikon SB-800 flash. HSS with default TTL BL modes. The D300 can do 1/250 sync speed, and HSS faster. This is Matrix metering, ISO 400 at 7 feet to bricks.
But this does.
Bare wall at 4 feet. Small WhiBal card taped to wall for focus point. D800 and D300, FX 14-24 mm lens, manual flash.
The flash is zoomed to 24 mm in all cases, and white balance is corrected.
The user manual says the diffuser screen is 16 mm (maybe it is for DX), and the flash diffuser screen meters about 1 2/3 stop less than without it (when zoomed to 24 mm).
See a report on the ability of third party flashes (non-Nikon brand flashes) to ignore bad effects of D-lens distance on flash on hot shoe cords, and/or from the many zoom lenses reporting inaccurate D-lens distance.