The first flash I bought was the best you could get, the Canon 580 exII, and it was anything but a budget speedlite. At the time (2009) I paid $550 for it. It’s a great flash packed full of features. However with all the 3rd party flash alternatives coming in so much cheaper, I’ll never pay that much for a flash again. Especially because the 580exII’s price has kept climbing. Even surpassing the newer 600exRT, which has radio control built in.
I discovered the very affordable Yongnuo flashes and picked up a pair of YN560IIs (It’s been replaced by the YN560III). My comparison video is currently my most watched. At $70 it’s very much like the 580exII. It’s lacking some things you may not need as a beginner. But as a starter flash on the cheap I recommend Yongnuo flashes. Later as you start getting better at photography – and your needs grow, the YN560II just lacks the three things I’ve found important lately:
First is ETTL (Evaluative Through The Lens Mode) which allows your camera to take over the lens more, both on and off camera. You need to have ETTL to control the output of your off camera flashes from camera.
Next is HSS (or High Speed Sync). This lets your flash fire at higher speed to match a higher shutter speed on your camera. This is important for shooting outside to overpower the sun.
Lastly I have found I need a power port. These let you attach a power pack or 8 AA battery pack, letting you shoot longer without having to change batteries.
So I’ve been searching for a cheaper alternative to the 580exII and 600exRT (each has ETTL, HSS, and a power port). Many flashes like the Canon 480exII, and Yongnuo 565 have 2 out of the three things I want. I finally found one in the Phottix Mitros. I don’t own one, I’m still reading up on it. My decision will be influenced by the fact that a used 580exII sells for $250-$300 on eBay. But for a new option with my 3 needs, the Phottix looks to be it. Either way, I definitely want to go all ETTL flashes so I can control output from Canon’s menu with my YN622c. Or from the trigger’s menu if I ever upgrade to the Pixel King, Phottix Odin or Pocket Wizard.