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580 EX II not recycling fast enough

Rahul Agarwal , Feb 14, 2010; 11:18 p.m.

We just got back from a wedding had a problem we've never had before. Many times I would shoot a series of shots and the flash went off only about half the time. We are using the Canon 580 EX II one is about a year old and the other was literally brand new. The batteries we used were energizer rechargeables.
We thought that it was the recycle rate however we switched to advanced lithium (non-rechargeable) and it did the same thing. I am not sure what happened because I've shot fast before without this problem. However, I've never shot in cold (Florida?) weather before. Is it the recycle rate that is causing this issue?
It started doing it during family shots inside the church. Then it got even worse when we took the bridal party outside (i couldn't feel my hands, it was so cold). and then in the reception hall.
I switched out batteries and it would happen again so I'm not sure if it was the batteries or something else. Any ideas?


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Bill Clark - Minnetonka Minnesota , Feb 14, 2010; 11:35 p.m.

I found the 580 is a nice flash but my Quantums hold up much better at a gig like a wedding. I found I could can add external batteries to a Canon but then I still had to contend with heat buildup. As I recall the instructions mention this, resting the flash after so many cycles repeated together in quick time.

Jeff Spirer , Feb 14, 2010; 11:53 p.m.

I use an external battery pack (Chinese, much less expensive than Canon's) that I bought on eBay with mine, it recycles much faster.

Summer Leif , Feb 15, 2010; 12:05 a.m.

I suspect that if you want faster flash recharge for something like a wedding, one of those large battery units people wear on their belts, which plugs into the AC adapter socket, might be the answer.

Bob Bernardo - LA area disabled , Feb 15, 2010; 01:18 a.m.

The Canon flash units do slow down depending on the distance you are from the subject. If you are just a few feet the flash unit should recycle without delay; unless your F-stop is set to F16 or something. If you are shooting at F5.6 you shouldn't have any problems between 3 feet and 6 or 7 feet. However, if you are 10 to 15 feet away and your F-stop is around F8 or so, you may experience a recycle time of 1 second to 5 seconds on fully charged batteries.

As others have already said you can pick up a battery pack, such as a Quantum, or the Jack rabbit. Your recycle time should be less than a second. You of course have to worry about overheating the flash unit.

I'm actually siding with Bill on this one. If you are doing weddings professionally, consider one of the Quantum flash units, such as the T5D, or the Trio. They are well made and can stand up to heavy shooting. I'm using both units. I have 2, T5DR's and 1 Trio. I bring along the 580, but to be honest with you I've never used it. It's there for security. If you aren't a fan of Quantums, perhaps take a look the pro line of Metz units. These too are well built, able to stand up to the demands of weddings.

Steven F , Feb 15, 2010; 02:47 a.m.

These flashes have an internal lens that should set itself to match the lens on the camera. Verify it is set to automatic and not manual. If it is set to manual and a wide focal length while the lens is a telephoto the flash will have to put out more light to properly expose the image. That would cause the recycle time to increase.

Also check the EXIF data from pictures taken before and and after you noticed the problem. Are there any differences? Using a narrow aperture will cause the flash to use more power and lengthen the recycle time. Same for ISO. A slower SIO will cause a longer recycle time. Are you taking more pictures in a shorter period of timee?

Very cold weather can negatively affect the batteries and and cause a longer recycle time however you state you started inside, went outside, then back inside. It is doubtfull that you were outside long enough to cause a problem. Furthermore if it wasn't significantly below freezing I wouldn't expect an issue. Flourida just doesn't get that cold very often. You might also want to try a new set of rechargables just in case they are near the end of there life.

Elliot Bernstein , Feb 15, 2010; 05:49 a.m.

Perhaps you can post some basic shooting data where th flash failed to fire such as ISO, shooting distance and aperture. Also, were you bouncing the flash?

Assuming your flash is not malfunctioning and you were using a fast aperture lens, increasing the ISO and shooting wide open will usually give you the best performance possible without using an ad-on battery source (which, if you get one, will help a lot).

Did you have a backup flash and if so, did you try it?

Peter Meade , Feb 15, 2010; 06:16 a.m.

I've encountered this on a couple of occasions after continuous use for as little as 15-30 minutes. The 580 EX II draws a lot of power from the batteries, they heat up (a lot) and don't give enough power to recycle fast enough. Once they've cooled down, they seem to have plenty of power left, but that's not a short term thing.
I've made a mental note to take 2-3 sets of spare batteries from now on. I don't have any experience of the external power packs, I would be interested to get some advice about those.

Bill Morrow , Feb 15, 2010; 09:52 a.m.

Quantum Turbo Z works well for me. As above, it is a belt unit with coiled cord to the
power input of the flash. I've compared new NiMi and Nicad batteries, and the cycle time
is less in both cases. Nicad I like better for stand alone because they don't discharge
while the unit sits quite like NiMi do. For events though, a battery pack will reward you well.

Jeff Spirer , Feb 15, 2010; 10:20 a.m.

I don't have any experience of the external power packs, I would be interested to get some advice about those.

Quantum makes power packs, the Turbo line connects to the power input on the 580EX2 but starts at around $400. The less expensive Quantums require a module that plugs in where the batteries are and may require some modification to the door for the battery compartment. Quantum packs recharge.

Canon makes a small power pack that takes eight AA batteries and plugs into the power input. It costs around $150, which is a lot for what it is. There are knockoffs on eBay, some take eight batteries and some take six. They aren't that well-made, but they are sometimes as low as $30. They usually have a soft case with a belt loop, and they have a screw for attaching where a tripod would.

If you use a battery pack that plugs into the power input, you still need batteries in the flash. The external power source only powers the flash charging circuit, not the electronics.

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