Funny back story...this review is a complete fluke caused by my clumsiness.
My wedding season is winding down, I'm shooting the last of them this month before enjoying a nice long rest. At one of the events I dropped my XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR lens and a break-dancing guest knocked over a light-stand with two flashes mounted. That was also my fault..I placed them too close to the dance floor. In one day I lost $2000 worth of vital equipment. So...here is what I did:
1) Ordered a set of Neewer NW561 Speedlights and 2) Dusted off my trusty XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS lens
Not gonna lie...these flashes worked as advertised and held up to constant use over the course of two days. They are as basic as manual flashes come with a no frills menu system and the build is comparable to the Yongnuo flashes that were destroyed. They feel solid with no rattling parts and the buttons have a nice soft but positive action to them. On the side is a sync port for off-camera use and the head rotates for a variety of bounce orientations.
Neewer was a product I didn't hear of until recently. Apparently it has been getting rave reviews on Amazon and the price was scary cheap...those two things rarely go together to produce a good result. They arrived in time for the next wedding on the list but I had zero opportunity to test them prior. I just made sure they worked and compatible with my Fuji cameras. I paid the grand total of $100 Canadian including 2-day shipping.
I popped a set of double-A's in each and took off for the wedding.
The ceremony itself was held outside and it was nice and sunny so the flash stayed in my bag. Once inside though the low light levels required wide apertures and ISO settings between 400 and 6400. Prior to the start of a wedding I like to walk around the venue and take sample shots to set a baseline for lighting, composition etc. Usually I chuck those out during the workflow but I kept some of them to demonstrate the Neewer Speedlights.
ISO 800, F2.8, 1/60 seconds shutter and flash set to 1/32 power
Above is a BEFORE/AFTER of the room where the Tea Ceremony was held. I'm facing south which means the sun was was coming in toward the backs of the couple and their guests. I used a Neewer flash on-camera in the bounce position to brighten up the shadow side of the room.
ISO 400, F8, 1/125 seconds shutter and flash set to 1/4 power
ISO 4000, F10, 1/640 seconds shutter and flash set to 1/128th power (with diffusion cap)
I shot north of 1000 frames and went through 8 Double-A batteries per flash from 11AM to 10:30PM that evening. The units held up to being left on constantly and getting banged around as I negotiated tight spots to get my shots. Incidentally, the shot above is an accident. I forgot to change the ISO back down to 400, yet it's almost free of noise and the flash brightened up the bridal party's faces just right...gotta love that Fuji X-Trans sensor.
Unbelievably...I'm giving this flash a 4.5 out of 5 stars. If you are in the market for a MANUAL, no frills flash and your budget conscious like me get this product: AMAZON
By the way, they worked perfectly with my remote triggers (Yongnuo and Pocket Wizards) and never missed a pop.
As for the lens...I did miss my F2.8 goto but the XF18-55mm reminded me that it's not all about the gear. Even though it's a variable aperture model I was still able to do what I needed to (with the help of flash and slightly higher ISO). It's sharp, fast focusing and extremely versatile.