Continuing on my quest to find more affordable alternatives to the Canon 580EX II speedlites, I’ll be taking a closer look at the Nissin Di866 speedlight mark II flash. At a price of between $245 and $315 the Nissin offers several advantages over the $135 Yongnuo 565ex and provides a closer facsimile to the Canon 580EX II speedlite.

First the Nissin Di866 can operate as an optical master, or slave and offers high speed sync just like the 580EX II. It also has a built in secondary sub flash on the front of the unit which is designed to reduce shadows on the face caused by flash bounce. The Di866 also offers a much easier to use LCD menu system that makes it a lot easier to find flash settings then the somewhat confusing menus on the both the Yongnuo 565ex and Canon 580EX II speedlites.

When you place the 580EX II next to the Nissin Di866, the Di866 appears to be just a little bit smaller. This is kind of surprising considering the Nissin has slightly higher guide numbers. You’ll also notice the Di866 doesn’t borrow nearly as much of its design features from Canon as the Yongnuo 565ex, instead it has more of a square shape with less rounded corners and the secondary sub flash is easy to see right above the logo.

The square control menu on the Nissin Di866 offers up 6 menu choices and when you scroll through them simple names like “wireless” and “settings” appear on screen. This makes  it far easier to navigate and simple to find the things you need to change fast. If you gave the Nissin Di866 and the 580EX II to a person just learning flash photography and asked them to set each of these to TTL optical wireless slave mode, few people would realize that it takes a long press on the zoom button of the 580EX II followed by several click wheel moves and a set button. On the Nissin you simple click over to the wireless icon, click set and you’re there.

Build quality on the Nissin Di866 is good, but the 580EX II still feels a little heavier. The Nissin also lacks the rubberized side strip that makes the Canon feel a little more secure in your hand. Nissin uses a battery cartridge instead of letting you simply drop them in. If you brake or loose the cartridge you’ll be out of luck until you order a replacement making the cartridge design a possible negative depending on your view.

I’ll be spending a week or so with all three of these flashes testing them out and I’ll report back on how well they work. Part of that will probably include the AA rechargeable battery testing you’ve been asking for. Special thanks to Alek for adding the Sanyo eneloop XX 2500mAh batteries to the testing lineup. I’ll keep you posted.

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