Earlier in august this year Hong-Kong based company YongNuo announced that they are releasing the YN600EX-RT – A Canon compatible strobe.
Some Canonistas, especially off camera flashers (AKA strobists) were pretty excited about this announcement. Mostly because the strobe was said to be compatible with Canon’s new 2.4GHz RT radio system that their 600EX-RT strobe features. The RT is a pretty awesome TTL triggering and strobe control system working on radio rather then on IR. But, Canon’s strobe sells for about $499 while the new Yongnuo which appeared on eBay today only sells for about $185. Roughly a 1:3 ratio.
DIYP are the last to be blamed with lack of frugality, but looking at the images that popped up on YongNuo’s sites got me thinking. Look at the two photos on the top. See any resemblance (aside the obviousness of the names). The strobe on the left is Canon’s 600EX-RT flagship, and the right one is the new YN600EX-RT.
The first thing that immediately pops out is the how similar those two strobes look. From the external shape of the strobe, though the location of the buttons, the little link LED down to the hot shoe lock. Sure they are not 100% identical, Canon has some of the writing on the buttons, while Yongnuo has them on the chassis; Canon’s LCD frame is more squarish than their Chinese buddy and there are other minor differences. See if you can spot them all.
Going up the food chain, the menus and LCD seems to be pretty much identical. I have not played with either, but the photos showing the options is too close to be a coincidence. I would dare to make a guess that once you dive into the menus looks stays similar throughout the system. And again, it is not a pixel-to-pixel copy. The YNs have a slightly more spaced layout and seem to have a slightly brighter LCD. Yet, the core is very similar.
Those two similarities seem to be dwarfing the next one. The YN is actually said to be compatible with Canon’s new RT 2.4GHz radio triggering system. I have not tested it, so I have no idea if it works as smoothly as the Canon one does, but this is what it claims. (They ditched the control protocol that was used on the older yn622) Other features match too: Guide Number=60M, Zoom head goes 20-200mm, HSS support. In fact the only features I am not seeing are Focus Assist and gels.
That makes the YN600EX-RT a Canon duplicate for 1/3 the price.
Here is what I find striking. YongNuo obviously has some good engineering. They came up with some of the most popular strobes on the market, and making a Class A strobe (even if an alleged copy) is not a trivial task. So why are they making a Canon Strobe rather than their own?