The Brand Name Products
At the top of the line are name brand products like the Canon 680EX-RT ($499), the replacement for the 580 EX ii, and the Nikon SB-910 ($559). Those units are eye-poppingly expensive but they cost a lot for a good reason and that reason is they deliver reliable light and excellent shots. There’s no fear that when you push the button, the strobe won’t fire. The communication between the camera, lens and strobe all work together to produce amazing images.
There’s actually a level above the name brand strobes with models like the Quantum Qflash, which are basically a battery powered studio flash. They are wonderful lights, but overpriced in my opinion.
Second Tier Strobes
Both the name brands in camera equipment also offer slightly less powerful models such as the Canon 430EX II ($259) and the Nikon SB-700 ($326). You are sacrificing some power but still getting a light that communicates with the camera and lens to create near-perfect lighting.
3rd Party Strobes
Yongnuo is quickly becoming the biggest name in 3rd party on-camera strobes that have some compatibility with Canon and Nikon’s electronic metering. Yongnuo had some problems related to capacitors in 2011/2012 that they seem to have cleared up. All the same, it’s wise to order them from a retailer with a generous return policy in case you get a clinker.
The Yongnuo YN-565EX ($159) claims to support Canon and Nikon’s electronic metering but I can tell you from experience that it is not always a steady relationship. All the same, I’ve shot paying jobs with Yongnuo products and have gotten excellent results. I also have several backup flashes I can bring along in case something goes wrong.