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Canon's wireless strobe system: thumbs up or down?

Mark Aiken , Sep 01, 2006; 07:42 p.m.

So Iメm trying to learn about lighting, in particular using strobes off-camera. I currently own a Canon 420EX to go with my 20D. Itメs been great so far in camera-mounted TTL mode, but it has no manual controls, no synch cord plug, and can only function as a slave using Canonメs IR scheme.

If I really get into off-camera lighting, I will eventually want to be able to trip strobes wirelessly. It seems to me that I have two top-level choices here:

  • If I buy Canon strobes, I am stuck with Canonメs IR signaling scheme, since Canon strobes (as I understand it?) donメt have synch cord inputs or general-purpose slaves. On the plus side, I can get full TTL metering and on-camera control of lighting ratios for the whole multi-flash setup. On the downside, Canon strobes are expensive, and Iメve heard complaints about the IR signaling reliability outdoors.
  • If I switch to third-party strobes (Nikon ヨ gasp ヨ seems to have a nice range) that feature synch cord inputs and manual controls, I can independently select a slaving system. I could go cheap with optical slaves (some strobes have these built in) or more expensive with something like Pocket Wizards, but the point is that the slave system is independent from the strobes. Downside: no TTL metering; strobes get set manually.

The whole point is to learn about lighting, so Iメm not sure that having to set strobes manually is actually a problem. I think it boils down to whether I want to be married to Canonメs IR slaving scheme or not. I don't want to set off down the wrong path and have to replace gear later.

Anyone have any words of advice for me here? People shooting Canon bodies with strobe lighting: have you stuck with Canonメs system or gone third-party?

Thanks,

Mark

Responses

Mario Monti , Sep 01, 2006; 09:44 p.m.

I never liked using flash.

Never until I took two courses with a great teacher.

I own a 20D and two 580EX flashes and have borrowed a third.

It is truly amazing what you can do with Canon's TTL system.

He has been photographing for over 30 years and has been using the Canon TTL system since introduced in the 80's.

He no longer uses his studio strobes and hasn't for about 1.5 years.

From what I've seen, he easily has 5-6 550/580 flashes.

Although most of us can't afford or justify that many, he in a pro.

He likes the fact that he went from a van load of equipment to carry around to something he can carry all in one trip.

I vote for the 550/580/430 flashes if you can afford to. I'm glad I did...

Just my 2 cents...

-Mario

Lucas Bennett , Sep 02, 2006; 03:46 a.m.

canon's wireless ettl system is useful if limited. Range and triggering reliability are not great, and imo the interface for adjusting ratios etc is fiddly. I almost never use it.

you can use canon units and trigger them with pocket wizards if you like. I often do this. It does require a miniplug to female hotshoe cord for each unit. they can be purchased from paramountcords.com

if learning to use multiple off camera strobes is your goal it'll be much easier to work with real strobes.

A dynalite pack/head system is a great place to start, or you can look to some of the more affordable monos (alien bees etc).

camera flashes are great. they're small, most run on AAs and of course can be used on your camera if you need but......

they're not all that powerful, they recycle slowly compared to real strobes and your range of off the shelf modifiers is limited.

if you really need to run on batts, you can pickup used norman 200b or lumedyne units for considerably less per unit than a new 580ex.

cheers

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