Further development of Canon's flagship Speedlite has led to the production of the 580 EX II This is the premier Speedlite for all photographers, including professionals Newly designed to match with the EOS-1D Mark III in terms of improved dust- and water-resistance, body strength, and the ability to control flash functions and settings from the camera menu (EOS-1D Mark III only) Other features include improved communication reliability through its direct contacts, and recycling time is both 20% shorter than the 580EX and is completely inaudible
Canon Speedlite 580EX II - hot-shoe clip-on flash
Hot-shoe clip-on flash
7.6 cm x 11.4 cm x 13.4 cm
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As an amatuer with only a 350D I was in two minds whether or not to go for the 580ExII when i could easily have gone for the cheaper 420Ex/430Ex / 550Ex / 580Ex. In the end I decided to future proof and just go with the 580 ExII, I may upgrade my camera body in a number of years, at least I will still be able to use this and all the lenses I have collected so far.
The Canon Speedlite 580EX Flash contains a superset of the features found in the Canon Speedlite 550EX E-TTL Flash in a smaller, lighter and more modern designed housing, although it is still way bigger than the 430Ex. So big it is the biggest peice of equipment in my camera bag! (apart from the tripod of course). Mount this with a 70-300mm tele photo lens and you've got a real workout ahead of you!
It takes 4 normal AA batteries and the flash is on nearly instantly. Recycle time is extremly fast - it was amongst one of the main swinging points for choosing this over the earlier models. I was a bit disspointed with 1700mAh rechargeable batterries although normal alkaline batteries gave me much more flash usage. I might have to try higher value rechargeable batteries like the 2500/2700mAh.
Immediately above the diffuser panel is a white, semi-rigid piece of white plastic (a catchlight reflector) that pulls straight out to create a catchlight in your subject's eyes when using the flash in a vertical bounce position. I never really thought bounce shots would make that much of a difference but boy was I wrong. You get a much better natural light in the shot.
A single button releases both the tilt and rotate locks while a single grip/button press allows the flash head to be rotated and tilted at the same time. Rotation is up to 180 degrees in both directions. I found the tilt very easy to use, even one handed.
One of the other things I liked about this flash is the AF Assist Beam to enhance autofocus in low light conditions, which aligns its beam to the Canons camera focal point and projects itself as a red ir patch on the subject. The white balance is also comunicated directly to the camera too.
Another good point is this flash can be a wireless E-TTL master or a slave when paired up with other speedlites. At the moment I only have one flash, but it means I can opt for the cheaper wireless 430Ex or similar at a much later date when I want to upgrade my setup to include more than one flash, and use the 580 Ex to fire off the slaves automatically.
The hi speed synch, allows the camera to go all the way to 1/4000 second (took me a while to realise I had to set the hi speed synch on the flash, otherwise the fastest shutter speed you'll get is only 1/200 second), although this is at the cost of range / power.
Flash power is great, and I got some really cool pictures using the second curtain sync, although it was more by fluke than anything else! Build quality is super, and both battery door and hot shoe lock can be easily operated with only one hand.
Bottom Line: An excellent flash, may be a bit confusing at first if your a novice/amatuer as I am, but also a bit on the expensive side compared to the 3rd party flashes available for canon. I also found the amazon prices to be very steep - I found this flash a lot cheaper searching around, maybe I bought a grey import, but I've read the imports work just as well as the official ones (as long as you go through reputable sellers) , and so far everyhting works well. On hindsight this flash is probably overkill for the casual photographer - but then this will make sure you experiment more to get the best out of this professional flash.
I use this coupled to a Canon 1Ds Mk3 and all I can say is, if you own a Canon DSLR of any description...you will benefit by owning this flashgun to a greater or lesser degree, obviously depending on the capabilities of your particular model camera. It feels very solidly built. When attached to your cameras hot-shoe there is absolutely no free play. It is located by a pin which locks into the hot shoe when you turn the locking lever, meaning whichever position you use your camera in there is no possibility of the flashgun becoming loose, or the contacts becoming misaligned. The locking lever is much more secure, and easier to use than the usual knurled ring. This especially helps when hands are cold. It recycles very quickly indeed, without making the annoying whine of some units. I know some people are reassured by this whine, but I am not. Fill in flash needs no effort on your behalf. Simply put the flash on the camera then turn it on. The output can be varied to suit the amount of flash needed for creative work. It has a stroboscopic mode for those who wish to record a series of images of moving subjects on one frame. Bags of power for bounce which is a big problem on less powerful units. The head swivels easily to whatever direction you desire, and is detained securely in the set position. This flash can be used as either a master to trigger other canon units, or as a slave. It can be used outdoors in the foulest conditions thanks to the new sealing arrangement around the hotshoe fitting (make sure your camera is also environmentally sealed of course). I use uniross hybrio batteries, and I have never had any problems, but if you are using the flash heavily I would recommend having a few spare sets to hand. I always carry a 15 minute charger in my bag, which is only the size of my (empty) wallet then when a set becomes exhausted, I put them straight on charge (provided I am in a place that has an electricity supply of course). I could write a book about the abilities of this flash, but there is a host of reading material on the internet. If you are in the market for a flashgun for your Canon DSLR, bite the bullet and buy this one. You will not regret it.
I have to admit that when I bought this flash gun, I had no idea about half the stuff it does. But I'm glad to say that now I've learned all about it, the 580EX II totally justifies its large price tag. For me the three main features that put this unit ahead of all of Canon's other flashes are (1) weather sealing to match the 1-series cameras, (2) the stonking great guide number of 58m/190' at maximum zoom of 105mm, and (3) on-board master remote transmitter for slave flashes.
I love the fact that the flash can actually zoom to automatically match the focal length you are shooting at (from 24mm to 105mm). The inclusion of a fold-away diffusion panel and plastic catch-light was also quite cunning. Other features which are sure to please are the stupidly fast recycle times and the fact that the unit is flash-ready virtually as soon as you turn it on from a cold start. Also the range of motion that the flash head has been given - its 180 degree swivel is especially important since when using the flash off-camera you will likely want the flashing end pointing one way and the infra-red receiver facing another (i.e. towards the Speedlite transmitter). I find that when I bounce the flash off a white ceiling indoors the light it gives looks incredibly natural and very even.
The range of actual flash functions the unit supports is also first class: full E-TTL, TTL, full manual, strobe flash, first and second curtain syncing, high speed syncing... the manual is almost as big as the manual for a mid-range EOS camera and I highly recommend reading it! The creative potential you have with even just one of these units goes waaaaaay beyond the pop-up flash of prosumer cameras.
Essential accessories are the Stofen OM-EY (for those situations where there are no suitable walls and or ceilings for bouncing flash), bungee ball cords (for lashing your flash unit to bits of furniture on those occasions when you want to use off-camera flash and don't have any stands with you), and a bunch of flash gels (for balancing the flash light's colour temperature with any ambient light that could otherwise ruin the shot).
7D/60D/600D OWNERS PLEASE NOTE! If you are planning to use high speed sync wirelessly, then you will still need a 580EX II or a Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2. The integrated Speedlite transmitter in the newer Canon bodies doesn't support those functions wirelessly. So it won't be enough to have the 7D and a bunch of 430EX flashes; your best bet for HSS (FP-flash), second curtain flash, and flash exposure bracketing via Canon wireless is to use a 580EX II as the master unit.
To give you an idea of this unit's power output, I set up a test shot lit by bounce flash. For a target 2m away in a room with a 9' white ceiling, low natural light and no tungsten light, and medium subject-background contrast, I used the following settings: - Flash set to E-TTL with high speed sync turned on; - Flash pointed straight up with no modifiers attached; - 7D in full manual mode, white balance on 'flash'; - 70mm end of a 24-70mm lens; - Shutter speed of 1/1000s.
The resulting image was slightly dark wide open at f/2.8 and using ISO 100, and the flash exposure confirmation lamp did not light (this should turn on to show that the 580EX thinks it gave a good exposure). I dialled up to ISO 200 and this gave an image which was absolutely perfect.
This test gave similarly perfect images at f/4 and ISO 400 (common aperture for indoor snapshot of a person), and at f/8 (common aperture for indoor snapshot of a small group) I had to go to ISO 1600 to get the same exposure and vindication from the 580's exposure confirmation lamp.
At f/8 I found that ISO 800 gave an image which the flash considered to be under-exposed, but which would in reality have needed only the slightest exposure tweak in post-processing.
It's very good to know that the 580EX II can perfectly expose indoor shots like this at shutter speeds as fast as a thousandth of a second, without breaking a sweat.