It’s intended to compete with the Yongnuo YN560 and therefore looks similar from the specs, e.g. regarding the official guide number (which is 58 at the 105mm reflector setting / unspecified for 35mm) and it also features professional attributes such as a PC sync port and a power pack connector.
To get a first idea how the 2 models compare on paper, go to the YN560 vs MK-930 specs page.
With a price of about $85 as of April 2011, it’s a bit more expensive than the ‘classic’ from Yongnuo but in the range of the 285HV from Vivitar, another alternative for “strobist” photography. Roughly $80 to $100 is also the investment needed for buying a used speedlight from Nikon, e.g. the SB-24 or SB-28.
Cheaper than that is the Yongnuo YN460-II (picture left) which can be bought for roughly $50, but it doesn’t have the zoom flash head, the PC sync port and also lacks the option for external power supply.
MeiKe 930 Flash Highlights
Compatible Camera Bodies
The following table displays the compatibility of the MeiKe speedlite. It’s actually pretty simple: you can use the flash together with a Canon or Nikon body, but it only makes sense in manual camera mode “M” or in “S” for Nikon cameras, and “Tv” for Canon respectively.
|Canon cameras||Nikon cameras|
|should work in manual mode “M” with Canon camera bodies (verified for Rebel T1i), but is not recognized as a compatible flash and does not support automatic flash exposure control||should work in manual mode “M” with Nikon camera bodies (verified for Nikon D90), but is not recognized as a compatible flash and does not support automatic flash exposure control|
“M” as the Only Flash Mode
The only possible flash mode on the MK930 is manual mode where you set the flash output level for every shot you take by hand.
The flash is not compatible with Canon ETTL or Nikon iTTL, it can’t exchange any data with the camera body (despite the Canon specific pins on the flash foot). If you want to take photos with automatic flash exposure, or if you only use your camera in the green auto mode then this flash is not the right tool for you.
The “S1″ and “S2″ modes visible on the display are for optical slave triggering, but the flash output control is also fully manual in that case.
There’s also no “auto” flash mode, no multi mode, and no support for analog TTL – manual flash is all you get here.
Meike 930 As Wireless Flash
Since the flash does not “speak” ETTL or iTTL, it’s also not compatible with the respective wireless versions (“AWL” in the case of Nikon).
What you can use in a wireless setup, however, are the 2 optical slave modes: “S1″ is the simple slave mode and “S2″ the digital optical slave mode capable of ignoring the first pre-flash. I need to run some tests before I can make any statement about the performance; on paper, the usable ranges are (takes this information with a grain of salt please):
- 20-30 meters indoors
- 10-15 meters outdoors
The flash can be used together with radio flash triggers, I got it to work with the Yongnuo RF-602 but had trouble with the Cactus V4. I need to do some re-testing here, but this is a warning signal for me that some incompatibilities might exist.
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The flash comes in a cardboard box which contains:
- the flash itself, labeled as “MeiKe SPEEDLITE MK930″
- a nylon bag
- mini stand
- instruction manual
The soft bag is made of nylon with a soft inner side, but it’s just a bag with a strap to close and doesn’t compare against soft cases / semi hard cases that come with a speedlite from Canon or Nikon.
The mini stand is made from plastic and modeled after the Nikon flash stand “AS-21″. It has a pretty large footprint to support this big and bulky flash which would tilt over easily when a small stand is used.
The instruction manual has 37 pages in total and covers instructions in Chinese and English.
What you don’t get is a warranty card, you need to get in touch with the dealer for any returns. The MK930 also comes without bouncer / snap-on diffuser (but you could get one for cheap on eBay e.g.).
Here’s an unboxing video (that also shows an intermittent problem with the zoom head):
If this flash looks somehow familiar to you there’s a very simple explanation: the casing is a Nikon SB-900 clone (the difference is certainly that the SB-900 from Nikon is a fully-featured, completely integrated i-TTL flash that communicates with Nikon camera bodies in the hot shoe or using the wireless i-TTL protocol as part of the “advanced wireless lighting” system).
In the photo, you can see the 2 speedlights next to each other and if you look closely, you’ll also discover some small differences.
One of the first details visible in the photo is the different color and fresnel pattern of the front screen element – the MeiKe looks somehow more blueish. Second, there are no mounts for a bouncer or color filters on the flash head; the PC sync port is located on the left side, not on the right. The light sensor is on the front, next to the red screen which serves no function at all: contrary to the instruction manual, the flash has no AF assist light. It uses a locking wheel instead of a lever, has no LCD screen on the back and simpler controls.
At first sight the casing looks good and the flash feels quite nice. It has a good weight, the plastic feels thick and solid. The flash is rather huge – too big for my taste – but that’s a characteristic it shares with the SB-900. The YN-560 is a bit smaller, and the YN-460 Mark II seems delicate when you compare them (see photo above). I’d put it between the 460 and 560 line from Yongnuo in terms of quality of the casing; certainly, it can’t compete with the Nikon SB-900. Please note that this is only an initial impression and has nothing to do with long term reliability (there was actually one report about faulty units that I found, but this still might be an isolated case).
The flash foot is made from plastic – Yongnuo (since 2011), as well as Nikon and Canon use metal today.
As far as I can tell these pins serve no function. When the speedlite is attached to a Canon T1i, the camera simply says “incompatible flash” and there is nothing you could set through the menu system. It’s also not setting / activating the camera sync speed settings.
The scratches that you can see in the foot come from the Cactus V4 flash trigger. The flash foot is pretty big and thick or “fat” which makes the flash a bit tough to install and remove from some mounts: mounting on a “Rebel” is easy, but it requires some force in the case of a Nikon D90 hot shoe.
The PC sync socket is located on the right side, next to the battery compartment (that’s why other flashes have it on the other side, where an attached trigger cable doesn’t interfere with a battery change).
It’s a normal non-threaded port, and triggering works fine with the RF-602 with optional PC cord but it did not work with the Cactus V4 (at this point, I still assume it might be a problem with my cable).
On the front of the flash, in the same location as on the Nikon SB-900, is the external power socket which accepts a Nikon type SD-8a battery pack (the Yongnuo YN-560 as a Canon 580EX II clone has a Canon-type power socket).
The back panel of the flash doesn’t look like a Nikon but follows the ‘Yongnuo philosophy’ with a number of buttons and LEDs, including the “idiot lights” for output level display.
The flash features a total of 7 well sized buttons on the back, made of hard plastic, not rubber. These buttons feel a bit “mushy” and I had some spontaneous concern about long terms durability, but there was no immediate issue so far. It seems to be just a simple and inexpensive design.
On the top right is the On/Off button that needs to be pressed for 2 seconds to power the unit on or off. Next to it is the Zoom button: press it once, which activates an additional green LED and allows zooming up or down with the bottom arrow keys. The unit I bought from eBay for this review has some intermittent problem with the zoom head by the way … I’ll need to get an exchange unit soon.
The Mode button toggles between “M” and the 2 optical slave modes “S1″ and “S2″. The Pilot button on the left fires a test flash. In the bottom row there’s a central Set button which is only used for fine tuning the output step as far as I can tell; the labeling is a bit misleading here.
On the bottom left is the “flash ready” light with logical – but reversed – indicators: “green” shows ready to fire while read means “recycling”. The other buttons don’t have any illumination.
No LCD Display, No Custom Settings
The battery of red LEDs serves three functions: first, and by default, they indicate the current flash output level in a range between “1/1″ and “1/128″ – none of the scales printed next to the lights indicates that.
In the photo on the right the flash is set to the 1/16 power level.
Second, the LEDs are used to indicate the current zoom reflector position – the scale at the bottom shows the current setting in that case.
And third, the lights are used to show the amount of output level fine-tuning which somehow corresponds with the scale at the top of the lights, but I don’t quite understand what the “+2″ is supposed to mean in that context.
The flash takes 4 AA batteries, either alkaline or NiMH type cells. The battery compartment is much simpler than the one of the SB-900 speedlight, it resembles more the construction of the older SB-800 actually. It’s a very simple, almost a bit primitive design.
Slide it down and then swing open upwards where it’s attached with a simple hinge. The polarity symbols are stamped into the metal contacts and therefore a bit hard to read, but that’s not a huge deal.
A bigger concern is that the battery compartment lid starts to bend when you close the compartment so that it sometimes doesn’t properly lock. However, once you figured it out it works OK.
The other option for power supply, as described further above, is using an external power pack for the flash.
The flash features the huge, over-sized flash head of the SB-900 with a couple of simplifications: first, there’s no safety lock on the flash head, so you can swivel and tilt without pressing a release knob. Then, the flash head swivels only 270 degrees, not the full 360 degrees as on the SB-900. What’s more, there’s also no close-up / -7 degree tilt position, the tilt range is from zero to plus 90 degrees. And as you’d expect by now, the Meike flash is also missing the micro switches used to detect a bouncer and color filters.
But the flash reviewed in this post has 2 useful features that are more important than some of the gimmicks mentioned before. First, there is a flip-down wide flash panel to allow coverage for shorter lenses than 24mm (full frame); according to the Meike specification, coverage begins at 18mm for their speedlite. And second, there’s a little white plastic card to use for bounced flash – the so called ‘catchlight panel’.
The flash has no mode where it would automatically zoom with the lens when mounted on a camera body. All zooming must be initiated by the user. The range here is 24mm to 105mm, with the following steps:
(18mm) – 24 – 28 – 35 – 50 – 70 – 85 – 105 mm
Speedlights.net Power Index
The light blue bar in the Speedlights.net Power Index shows the official 35mm-GN, and the dark blue bar indicates the test results. Go to the test details page for more information on the Speedlights.net Power Index.
So far, the flash output was tested for the 35mm zoom reflector position only. The result was lower than expected: the tested guide number reaches only 29.9, where I would have expected something like 35 given the official 58 number for the tele position.
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With the rather low guide number and the higher purchase price, the Meike MK 930 doesn’t look too good anymore versus the Yongnuo 560, in my opinion.
Review parts coming soon
Testing is still in progress, that’s why the following sections will be added over time:
- Wide Angle Coverage Test
- Flash meter results, guide number table, effective output range
- Recycle times and flash duration metering
- Wireless Flash tests: radio trigger compatibility, max sync speed, optical slave mode tests etc
The following table summarizes key specs of the flash reviewed here plus adds the results from our independent test series.
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Where to buy the MeiKe MK-930
eBay is the place to check when you’re interested in the MeiKe 930 flash. Click here to see all MK 930 offers. You help to expand this website when you purchase a Meike flash or another brand product through the link. Thank you very much.