Radio-controlled flash is a wonderful thing, but the way it has been implemented is often infuriating. Every flash seems to need a different transmitter system, and even flashes in the same brand don’t necessarily work with all of that brand’s transmitters. It’s something companies like Godox are trying to do something about, but for now it’s a little like the Wild West. Unfortunately, that means it’s not quite as simple as picking up any flash and transmitter and launching right into some off-camera flash shooting.
One of the most popular budget brands for flashes is Yongnuo. And for good reason–they make good, capable flashes that sell for a fraction of the price of the ones from the big name manufacturers. The YN560-IV manual flash is perhaps the most popular–and I have several of them. But while they have built-in radio receivers, they don’t have TTL or high-speed sync. If you’re looking for those features, you might want to step up to the Yongnuo YN685 Speedlite.
In many ways, the YN685 does what many other flashes do. But there are some quirks to using it, especially when using it wirelessly. It also does some things different from other Yongnuo flashes, including the popular YN560-IV, so it’s not entirely intuitive even if you’re stepping up from other Yongnuo flashes.
So I’ve put together some tips for working with the Yongnuo YN685 Speedlite. Because as much as a I like Yongnuo flashes, clear instruction manuals are definitely not one of their strong suits.
But let me say up front that this is by no means intended as a comprehensive guide to using the YN685. I’m not so much interested in the straightforward aspects that work basically like any other flash. What I’m focusing on here are some of the quirks and gotchas that I’ve come across in the hope that by sharing them it might save someone else a little time solving the problem or the aggravation of trying to find features the flash doesn’t have. Because the YN685 is a good flash, but it’s just not always as intuitive to use as it could be.
Yongnuo YN685 Features
First, what it has:
Built-in 2.4 GHz Radio Receiver for Wireless
According to the manual, it can be triggered wirelessly by these model numbers: YN-622N, YN622N II, YN622N-TX, YN660, YN560-TX, RF605, RF603II, and RF603.
I’ve only used it with the YN622N-TX and YN560-TX II transmitters. With those combinations, there are some things to know and watch out for–there’s more on that below. Your mileage might vary with different transmitters.
You can use TTL on-camera and off-camera (with a compatible controller).
High-speed Sync (HSS)
With a compatible camera and transmitter, it’s capable of high-speed sync up to 1/8000 second.
You can download firmware updates from the Yongnuo website and apply them to the flash.
What the Yongnuo YN685 Doesn’t Have
- Optical slave mode. There’s no optical sensor, so you can’t trigger this flash wirelessly using the light from another flash.
- Master unit. You can’t use this as a master controller.
Quirks of the Yongnuo 685 with the YN622N-TX Wireless Setup
If you’re using the YN622N-TX, there are some things to watch for.
622 R. Slave Trigger Mode. Put the flash into 622 R. Slave mode by holding down to the Mode button until the mode is flashing and then using the wheel to scroll through the options.
That’s unnecessarily confusing, because on most other flashes, including others by Yongnuo, slave mode refers to optical slave mode where the flash is triggered when it sees the flash of light from another flash unit. But the 685 doesn’t have an optical slave mode, and in this case the 622 R. Slave setting is actually referring to putting the flash into wireless receiver mode. Even more confusing, the instruction manual refers to this as “Remote Control Mode.” It would be much clearer if they just dropped the use of “slave” here and called it 622 Receiver or 622 Remote mode.
622 R. Slave vs 622 M. Slave. The 622 R. Slave mode allows you change the intensity and zoom wirelessly from the transmitter. The 622 M. Slave mode (or multi mode) locks the intensity setting to what you’ve set on the flash unit itself and acts more like a standard dumb wireless trigger. You can, however, still set the zoom remotely in the 622 M. Slave mode.
Manual Mode. To use a wireless setup, the flash itself has to be in Manual (M) mode even if you actually want to shoot with TTL flash metering. This isn’t unique to the YN685, but it seems counterintuitive at first. And you’ll find that when you change the trigger mode to 622 R. Slave, it will automatically change the flash to M. You can then use the YN622N-TX transmitter to switch to TTL (it will still say M on the flash unit itself) as well as dial in any flash intensity compensation up to 3 stops in either direction.
Remotely Controlling Intensity and Zoom. The YN622N-YX can set the flash’s intensity and the zoom in the 622 R. Slave trigger mode (or just the zoom on the 622 M. Slave mode), but there’s a quirk in the way these are refreshed on the flash’s LCD screen. If you change the zoom on the transmitter, you can have this change reflected on the flash’s LCD screen by half-pressing the shutter (you should immediately get a blue light on the back of the flash to show an active link, but it doesn’t stay on long as a power-saving feature). You’ll then hear the flash head zoom in or out to whatever focal length you’re using and the value will be shown on the back of the flash.
But if you change the intensity setting on the transmitter, you won’t see that reflected on the flash even with a half press of the shutter. You’ll only see that change when the flash is fired, either by fully pressing the shutter or by using the transmitter’s test button. [Note that this behavior is different if you’re using the Yongnuo YN560-TX II controller; more on that below.]
Controlling Zoom Wirelessly. To control the flash’s zoom using the transmitter, you’ll need to make sure the flash zoom setting is set to auto. The way you do that is to press the zoom button on the flash (far left of the row of white buttons) and then use the wheel to scroll through the manual focal lengths until the small M changes to a small A. That A signifies the flash is in Auto Zoom mode.
Wireless TTL. If you look up the flash’s instruction manual on how to use wireless TTL, you’ll come across this:
If you need to use the off-camera TTL mode, please switch to the remote control trigger mode. [p.22]
It took me a few moments to figure out what it meant. So let me rewrite it in clearer way that actually corresponds to the flash’s settings:
To use wireless TTL, use 622 R. Slave trigger mode.
It doesn’t work in 622 M. Slave trigger mode because the flash ignores intensity instructions in that mode.
Using the YN685 with the YN560-TX II Controller
The biggest thing to know with this controller is that it won’t give you TTL–it’s a manual flash controller, after all. But there are a couple of other things worth knowing.
You can still control the flash intensity and the zoom (with some limits) and work with groups and channels.
603 Slave Trigger Mode. This is the mode that you put the flash in to make it receive the radio signal from the RN560-TX II controller.
Updating Settings on the Screen. The issue I mentioned above about how the settings are updated on the flash’s LCD screen aren’t an issue when using this controller because they’re updated in real time. So when you change the intensity on the controller it shows up immediately on the flash LCD screen. Same for zoom.
Zoom Range. The YN685 flash has a zoom range from 24mm to 200mm, but the YN560-TX II controller only has a zoom range from 24mm to 105mm. So you won’t be able to zoom right in when using this controller.