Canon DSLR Speedlite Flashes

Canon DSLR Speedlite Flashes

This is a series of a few posts to review the different aspects of a Canon DSLR camera system, mostly focused on full frame bodies. Here are the other posts in the series:

Just to note: I personally do not have any of these flashes but based on research, I have came up with this short summary of the different available SpeedLite flashes Canon offers. As with all camera gear, there are a ton of third party flashes.

As the camera does not have a flash, here are my recommendations for a flash. All of the below flash have wireless features such that you can remote trigger the camera with the flash alone. I believe all of these flashes require line of sight (IR) for them to fire. Still really cool feature. It will not be able to control other flashes, unfortunately.

  • Canon 270EX II – Great if you are traveling. Its small, very lightweight. The flash will not be able to light the entire range of the 24-105mm lens as it is not powerful enough. Enough to light a 50mm focal length. There is no active zoom on this flash.
  • Canon 320EX – Good flash with faster cycle time than the 270EX II. Slightly longer range than the 270EX II, and lighter than the 430EX II (see below). No active zoom on this flash.
  • Canon 430EX II – Great all around flash for most situations. Unless you want a a lighter flash, then go with this flash as your only flash. This has active zoom so it will change as you zoom in/out with your lens up to the limit in range of about 100mm focal length.

Here are two other flashes to consider:

  • Canon 90EX: This is a very small flash, just a stop or two above the pop-up flashes in the Rebel line of flashes. The one key feature in this flash is that it can control other flashes as a master flash. Many are buying this flash for the master feature, rather than using it as a flash. If it is grouped properly, it can help fill in shadows in a group of flashes, along with triggering the camera. If you are looking for ultraportable flash and happy with the pop-up flashes currently on some DSLR, then this would be a good choice. Just keep in mind of its limited range and only a bit more powerful than the pop-up flash.
  • Canon 580EX II – This flash has been replaced by the 600EX-RT. However, this is still a very capable flash and some are being sold on Craigslist or Amazon used for a decent price. Some people have replaced the 580EX II with the 600. If you can get it for about or below $250 it would be a great deal. Great range and power with some advanced features. There are many advanced in the 600 over the 580EX II but not worth a few hundred dollars compared to a used 580EX II.

There was a master flash remote (ST-E2 or E3) that sold for much more and I believe that this essentially makes that obsolete save for these three points (referenced from

  • The 90EX is very limited by it’s 2xAAA power source, spec’d to last only 100 flashes. However, if used only to trigger other flashes, the flash can be disabled.
  • It does not appear to support High Speed Sync, either on its own or as a controller. The ST-E2 does enable wireless HSS.
  • It also lacks the ST-E2’s patterned near-IR AF Assist light. The 90EX does the annoying flicker-flash, and even that is disabled when it’s set as the wireless controller.

Advanced features

There are a number of advanced features that flashes are capable of. Here are some of the ones I’ve seen so far:

  • Group flash. Flashes could be arranged in groups and fired differently.
  • Radio wireless: flash does not need to be arranged with line of sight. It can be hidden behind boxes, backgrounds, etc. Most likely will need wireless radio controllers or many 600EX-RTs (RT means radio transmitter)

 Flash Choice:

I haven’t made up my mind on which one to get. My brother already has a 430EX II. I bought a used one for him in Boston. I’m either going with a 270EX II or 580EX II. The 270EX II would be my travel flash and 580EX II my main flash.

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