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Thread: Help with flash selection for Canon camera

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    aleta17's Avatar
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    Help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Hi everyone,

    I've started some research on a flash kit for my Canon XSi and would like to purchase one that will last, and grow, with my system. I have four lenses: EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS; EF-S 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS; EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro USM; and a Tamron SP AF 17-35mm f/2.8-4 LD Aspherical.

    I've checked Amazon.com, B&H Photo and Adorama Camera and located some kits. Can someone check out these sites and provide an opinion on the kits and whether it is worth purchasing a kit or building my own. http://www.adorama.com/CA580EX2U.html#kits also http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...non+flash&ci=0

    I also saw a set up this weekend at a sporting event that was made/distributed by Honl through www.honlphoto.com. It is a velcro strap system to which you can attach a bounce card. Anyone heard of it?

    I'm trying to gather as much information as possible before making a purchase as it appears flash systems cost a bit of money.

    Any advice for a beginner will be greatly appreciated.

    Laura
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 4th May 2009 at 12:02 AM. Reason: Thread Split

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    I would start with a 430EX

    The 430EX will give you just about everything that you get from the 580 series flashes except that the 430EX cannot be used as a Master in a master/slave setup. However, in order to use the 580 as a master, you would need to purchase another 580, a 430EX or a used 550EX or 420EX. Since you would need to purchase another flash anyway, why not wait until you identify the need for a master/slave setup. That need may never come along.

    Oh yes, the 580EX is a bit more powerful than the 430EX but, the 430EX would probably give you all the power you need.

    I would recommend a reflector diffuser for your 430EX. Try a Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro (DFD Pro). This unit is priced reasonably and does a lot to modify your hotshoe mounted flash. I love my DFD Pro and use it either while my flash ismounted on the hotshoe or when I am shooting with an off camera flash bracket. I ALWAYS BOUNCE MY FLASH whenever possible. There is a lot of flash information on this site.

    http://www.dembflashproducts.com/diffuser/models/

    This reflector/diffuser unit may be all that you need to achieve the lighting quality which pleases you. I would advise trying it first and then deciding if you want to go further. Further purchases would include a Canon (or Third party eBay brand) off-camera flash sync cord and a flash bracket which will hold the flash unit directly above your lens in both the horizontal (landscape and vertical (portrait) camera positions. I have no problems buying Chinese knock-off merchandise when the cost differential is great but, I use a Canon OEM off camera cord.

    If you decide you want to use an off-camera flash setup; I would chose a "camera-flip" bracket over a "flash-flip" model because when you are bouncing your flash and switch from horizontal to vertical position with a flash-flip unit, the flash is pointed in the wrong direction and you need to re-orient it. This is not difficult but, takes extra time and is just one more thing to forget in the heat of shooting. I have attached images of a flash-flip and a camera-flip bracket in the vertical position to show you what I mean. By the way, in the interest of simplicity; I have not included the required off-camera sync cord in my illustrations.

    I use a Chinese knock-off of a camera-flip Stroboflash flash bracket and it has functioned fine at a fraction of the Stroboflash price.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 12th August 2009 at 04:46 PM.

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    Macro Flash

    If you ever desire to get into macro photography, the 430EX will work just fine. You don't need a ringflash or a special macro flash bracket. I use a Siegelite flash bracket (which is only available used - most often on eBay for less that $20 USD) and the required off-camera sync cord. This bracket can also be used in lieu of a Stroboflash type bracket for nonmacro photography and works just fine.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Siegelite-Strobe...3A1%7C294%3A50

    I modify the flash with a small softbox made by Lumiquest. Knock-offs of this soft are also available new on eBay for a very low price.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Portable-Soft-Bo...3A1%7C294%3A50

    Here is what my Siegelite setup looks like and an example of macro lighting from this setup.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 12th August 2009 at 04:46 PM.

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    Re: Need help with flash selection for Canon camera

    My advice would be - first and foremost - to stick with genuine Canon products. After that, realistically, it probably comes down to a 430EX II or a 580EX II. They're both great flashes; the 580EX II is better but more expensive whilst the 430EX II isn't as good, but is cheaper.

    Personally, I prefer the 580EX II, but there's no right or wrong answer here - just what's right for you. For what it's worth, I know of a lot more people who have upgraded to a 580EX series flash from a 430EX series, but far fewer the other way around (well actually I don't know of any who have downgraded!).

    In terms of diffusers, I use a lightsphere - it gives the most consistent results in the widest variety of conditions; but again, they're not the cheapest.

    Does this help?

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    Re: Need help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Hi Laura, if you need a real flash, then get you a Metz, the 58AF1 is really powerful:

    Canon Version
    E-TTL- / E-TTL-II flash mode
    E-TTL remote mode (master and slave operation)

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    Re: Need help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Salazar View Post
    Hi Laura, if you need a real flash, then get you a Metz, the 58AF1 is really powerful:

    Canon Version
    E-TTL- / E-TTL-II flash mode
    E-TTL remote mode (master and slave operation)
    The Metz 58AF1 is basically their version of the Canon 580EX - but since then Canon came up with the 580EX II.

    They're still very similar units, but personally I would give a clear edge to the Canon 580EX II on the grounds of having the far more robust metal mounting shoe and full weather sealing - and is fully compatable with the like of the new Pocket Wizards. Very similar in price also.

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    Re: Need help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Thanks everyone for your assistance with my flash question. I have been away on a business trip and have just now had a chance to check the site. I will do a little research based on the responses and make a decision when I return home next week. Again, I appreciate all the assistance - everyone is so helpful. What a wonderful site! Laura

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    Re: Need help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Quote Originally Posted by aleta17 View Post
    Thanks everyone for your assistance with my flash question. I have been away on a business trip and have just now had a chance to check the site. I will do a little research based on the responses and make a decision when I return home next week. Again, I appreciate all the assistance - everyone is so helpful. What a wonderful site! Laura
    Doing more research and found this "kit" on Adorama.
    http://www.adorama.com/CA580EX2KB.ht...+flash+bracket

    Any comments reference the bracket? I've been looking at purchasing the accessories separately to get a better bracket but not sure it is worth it. The "kit" looks good but I've been reading mixed reviews on the bracket. B&H photo has similar products but does not have the "kit" at the listed price.

    Here's the bracket I was viewing:
    http://www.adorama.com/FABSSTTLEOS.h...+flash+bracket

    Any comments?

    Thanks, Laura

  9. #9
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    Re: I would start with a 430EX

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    The 430EX will give you just about everything that you get from the 580 series flashes except that the 430EX cannot be used as a Master in a master/slave setup. However, in order to use the 580 as a master, you would need to purchase another 580, a 430EX or a used 550EX or 420EX. Since you would need to purchase another flash anyway, why not wait until you identify the need for a master/slave setup. That need may never come along.

    Oh yes, the 580EX is a bit more powerful than the 430EX but, the 430EX would probably give you all the power you need.

    I would recommend a reflector diffuser for your 430EX. Try a Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro (DFD Pro). This unit is priced reasonably and does a lot to modify your hotshoe mounted flash. I love my DFD Pro and use it either while my flash ismounted on the hotshoe or when I am shooting with an off camera flash bracket. I ALWAYS BOUNCE MY FLASH whenever possible. There is a lot of flash information on this site.

    http://www.dembflashproducts.com/diffuser/models/

    This reflector/diffuser unit may be all that you need to achieve the lighting quality which pleases you. I would advise trying it first and then deciding if you want to go further. Further purchases would include a Canon (or Third party eBay brand) off-camera flash sync cord and a flash bracket which will hold the flash unit directly above your lens in both the horizontal (landscape and vertical (portrait) camera positions. I have no problems buying Chinese knock-off merchandise when the cost differential is great but, I use a Canon OEM off camera cord.

    If you decide you want to use an off-camera flash setup; I would chose a "camera-flip" bracket over a "flash-flip" model because when you are bouncing your flash and switch from horizontal to vertical position with a flash-flip unit, the flash is pointed in the wrong direction and you need to re-orient it. This is not difficult but, takes extra time and is just one more thing to forget in the heat of shooting. I have attached images of a flash-flip and a camera-flip bracket in the vertical position to show you what I mean. By the way, in the interest of simplicity; I have not included the required off-camera sync cord in my illustrations.

    I use a Chinese knock-off of a camera-flip Stroboflash flash bracket and it has functioned fine at a fraction of the Stroboflash price.

    Thanks for all the information. I really liked the Joe Demb diffuser accessory - will check it out. Still researching brackets. Laura

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    Re: Need help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Hi Laura,

    Quote Originally Posted by aleta17 View Post
    Doing more research and found this "kit" on Adorama.
    http://www.adorama.com/CA580EX2KB.ht...+flash+bracket

    Any comments reference the bracket? I've been looking at purchasing the accessories separately to get a better bracket but not sure it is worth it. The "kit" looks good but I've been reading mixed reviews on the bracket. B&H photo has similar products but does not have the "kit" at the listed price.

    Here's the bracket I was viewing:
    http://www.adorama.com/FABSSTTLEOS.h...+flash+bracket

    Any comments?
    Do you really want / need a bracket? I don't use one and I have read from a lot of photographers who have stopped using one, too. It just adds weight and makes the camera "more clumsy" to hold... When shooting indoors, you would generally point the flash at the ceiling (assuming white, or metallic ceiling colour) so the bracket would be completely useless. Further even pointing straight on, without a bracket you still do not get red eyes when shooting from a relatively close distance. If you shoot 5-10 metres away then you do get red eyes but a bracket would not make a huge difference I don't think...

    Also, the diffuser in the kit is useless. I have a StoFen omnibounce and it looks exactly the same as the one in the kit you linked to and I never use it. There is no point to it really. Just point the bare flash at the ceiling and if you get the 580EX II pull out the white card to get catch lights or if you get the 430EX II attach a white piece of card with velcro or a rubber band to get the same effect.

    As to which flash - I got the 580EX II figuring I would only regret having less power/features one day. And sure enough if you shoot in a hall with relatively high ceilings the extra power of the 580EX II comes in handy. Even then I sometimes have to increase the ISO a bit to get enough flash power. But for normal indoors stuff the flash has plenty of power so a 430EX II would be fine there, too... I have to say I also prefer not to be able to loose / forget the white card - can't happen as it is inside the flash head on the 580EX II.

    But in general I would advise anyone to get one of the Canon ETTL flashes for starting out. Manual flash/multiple flash is a whole different ball game and requires a lot of extra equipment like light stands, softboxes/umbrellas, ideally a light meter, etc... With a Canon ETTL flash you just need to buy the flash and nothing else. That is until you advance enough to want to get into off camera flash but I wouldn't recommend starting there. Much better to understand flash and flash exposure with just one on-camera flash before adding extra difficulties.

    Just my thoughts...

    Best regards,

    Anton

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    Re: Need help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Anton,

    You win the weekly award for one of the best ever 1st posts! Well done - I couldn't agree more with what you wrote.

    As a small side-note, just yesterday I way doing some multiple-flash portraiture for a client; as you mention, it took 2x 580MkII flashes (at full power) - 3 pocket wizards - 2 tall lighting tripods - 2 umbrellas - 2 brackets - and a light meter (all shot manual). As you say, a completely different ball game to ETTL II on camera.

    Hope to read more contributions like this from you ...

    ... oh, and welcome to Cic

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    Re: Need help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Hi Colin,

    Thanks!

    Best regards,

    Anton

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    Re: Need help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Anton,

    Thanks for the information. I believe I will start with just the flash and utilize the white card. I can always build on it later. Will save some $$$ while I experiment with the flash.

    Laura

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    Re: Help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Anton,

    I am also a newbie and have been looking into purchasing a flash. Thanks for all of the helpful info. (And as always, thanks to you too Colin)

    ~Heather

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    Re: Help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Have been looking around the web and found a site offering the Canon 580EX II for $269. That's almost half of what other stores are asking for. Too good to be true? Why such a price difference?
    http://www.allstarcameras.com/Produc...FZpM5QodM0k8oQ

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    Re: Help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Quote Originally Posted by heather4279 View Post
    Have been looking around the web and found a site offering the Canon 580EX II for $269. That's almost half of what other stores are asking for. Too good to be true? Why such a price difference?
    http://www.allstarcameras.com/Produc...FZpM5QodM0k8oQ

    Wow Heather, good shopping! Don't know what, if any, difference there is between the product you located and one that costs a little more. You may want to check if it comes with rechargeable batteries and a charging unit. Mine did. I believe I got a good price at Adorama Camera for my 580EX II. I also purchased the Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro / Bounce Card. Love the set up and am very happy with the results.

    Welcome to CiC - I hope you find it as helpful as I have. The contributors really know what they are talking about and everyone offers great advice. I love this site and have already recommended it to several friends who are also interested in photography.

    Laura

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    Re: Help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Quote Originally Posted by heather4279 View Post
    Have been looking around the web and found a site offering the Canon 580EX II for $269. That's almost half of what other stores are asking for. Too good to be true? Why such a price difference?
    http://www.allstarcameras.com/Produc...FZpM5QodM0k8oQ

    Waaaaay too good to be true. Check them out at Reseller Ratings.

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    Re: Help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Quote Originally Posted by aleta17 View Post
    Wow Heather, good shopping!
    Unfortunately not Laura - actually very, very bad shopping I'm afraid

    http://www.resellerratings.com/store/All_Star_Camera

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    Re: Help with flash selection for Canon camera

    Interesting reading there Colin (well horrifying really).

    Reading between the lines, you might almost imagine these people wait until they get an order, buy the closest match s/h on say, a well known auction site from some unsuspecting person, obviously for less than they advertise it, then ship it out to their customer. So that's actually two people getting ripped off, although one will be unaware of it. The end customer unwittingly gets all the risk of auction buying without the backup of what looks to be a proper dealer. Chances of success - minimal.

    I'm glad we have reasonably strong consumer laws in UK, I'm not saying this doesn't happen here, but I doubt it would go on for so long.

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    Re: Help with flash selection for Canon camera

    I would agree with Anton, learn your kit well before purchasing more. The occasional students I get are always busting to get their credit card out before they've even finished reading the details on the box let alone the manual ... if ever

    The challenge I set is this: with one single flashgun (any make,model etc) on manual shoot a high key portrait using only bedsheets, reflectors and mirrors. The maximum area needed is only the size of a single bed with a white ceiling of 8 feet high max.

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