My road to the flashes I have now has taken just one year so far, and I finally feel that I know the feature set that I want. The first flash that I bought was a Vivitar 285hv. Then I moved up in features to a used Nikon SB-28dx, and after that I got my first Lumopro LP160. Since then I have purchased another LP160, and finally got two Yongnuo UN560 II flashes when my SB-28dx died.
What I like about the Lumopro:
2 year warranty
Slave and trigger can be used at the same time
What I like about the Yongnuo
1 year warranty
easy to use controls
1/3 and ½ stop flash power increments
built in wide angle diffuser
included bare bulb modifier
About six months ago, I was deciding which manual flash to get. I looked at the Yongnuo YN-560 and the Lumopro LP160. The Yongnuo was cheaper, and had a one year warranty, but the Lumopro beat it with a better interface and a two year warranty. I ended up going with the LP160. Now, a new model of Yongnuo flash has been released, the YN-560 II. It improves upon the weaknesses of the previous model, while still costing half as much as the LP160.
I have previously owned both a Vivitar 285HV and a Nikon SB-28dx. However, this test will be a comparison between my current flashes, YN-560 II and LP160.
The best thing that can be said about the LP160's interface is its simplicity .: three buttons (zoom, power, and test) and two switch The power and zoom options only move in one direction, meaning that if you want to go one stop brighter, you have to press the button six times. In comparison, the YN-560 II's interface is much easier to use. Left and right on the control pad give you one stop increments, while up and down give you one-third or one-half stops. There are plus and minus zoom buttons, as well as a mode button (switches from hot shoe to slave modes, as well as a repeating mode). It also has a toggle button for the sound: it can beep twice when it is ready to shoot after being triggered.
The backlit display works well, most of the time. It has a good side to side viewing angle, but the vertical viewing angle is pretty terrible. It's really hard to see if you tilt the flash 30 degrees up or down. In most cases, it's not a problem, but sometimes I like to put my flashes in weird places, and the viewing angle means that I have to reposition the flash to adjust it.
Both these flashes have about the same build quality. They feel like they are made out of quality materials and both have metal flash shoes. The rotating and angling mechanisms on the YN-560 II sound like they are much higher quality, whereas the LP160 has a really plastic 'click' sound whenever you move the head to a new location. In use, a couple things make the YN-560 stand out: the battery door is captured on the YN-560 II, whereas the LP160 is not.
Also, the locking screw is much harder to tighten down on the LP160 because of the wider base. Another nice thing about the YN-560 II is that it has a 'Nikon' pin that can keep it from falling out of hotshoes and triggers. Overall, I would trust both these flashes with the same amount of abuse: I even 'drop tested' both of them (for science!) from about 4 feet onto a hard surface. Both survived.
Both the YN-560 II and the LP160 have 'dumb' slave modes as well as 'smart' slave modes. I have tested both of the 'smart' modes (ignores pre-flash) with the Nikon CLS system, and they work great! The only problem with the YN-560 II is that it ignores the hot shoe and PC jack when it is in the slave mode. This is a pretty big plus for me with the LP160: I can have both LP160s hooked up to triggers and in the slave mode, and be certain that one will fire, triggering the other.
While both the LP160 and the YN-560 II include wide angle diffusers, the Yongnuo is built into the flash head, alongside a bounce card. The LP160's diffuser is separate. The YN-560 II also includes a bare-bulb style modifier, which I'm sure I'll make use of. One other extra plus that the YN-560 II has is the carrying case. I don't know how much use I'll get out of it, but it does have a nice pouch to put the tabletop stand. Both these extras are nice when you get a budget item.
Strobist review of the original YN-560: Second opinion
Link to seller's ebay page: YN-560 II
Note: only buy from here, there are others that resell these flashes, but do not include the 1 year warranty!
Link to buy the LP-160: LP-160