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Old Nov 22, 2010, 3:03 AM   #1
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Default Winter, 5D2 AF inadequacies, and a resurrection.

Well, as it's now winter and a lot of people shooting is in the dark or indoors, the 5D2 AF inadequacies start to become a little more annoying.

Actually they're not all that bad, using the centre-AF point in one-shot mode, it can cope fairly well even in very low light. But...

There is a noticable improvement when using the AF-assist IR beam from a speedlight. But I hate having the flash on camera, especially when I'm not even using it as a flash. So...

I got hold of the Speedlight ST-E2 wireless trigger. It has its own AF-assist beam, and if you set the speedlight controls in the menu so that flash is disabled, it will simply function as an AF-assist mechanism. And I can confirm that it works it total darkness, and in low light - well early signs are that it makes the AF extremely accurate! I haven't shot enough to be sure, but it certainly appears that the AF is more accurate than it is even in daylight. Not too surprising I suppose, after all, it projects an IR grid onto the subject, which is something that many real-world objects annoyingly don't provide for the AF system.

Also of course it allows you to put your other flashguns on stands in different places around the room and trigger them from the camera. ETTL (II) works just fine.

I only have one Canon Speedlight, a 580 EX II, and apart from some early cursing because I couldn't figure out how to switch it into slave modeit now works brilliantly! [Consulting the manual tells you to hold down the zoom button for > 2 seconds!! Fair enough you don't want people doing it by accident, but honestly, it's a bit obscure.]

I also have a Sigma 500 DG SUPER circa 2005 which worked reasonably well on my 20D, and then on my 5D, but absolutely won't work at all on the 5D2. However, switching it to slave mode in ETTL and the right channel, sure enough it fires just fine from the ST-E2. Though I'm not at all sure the ETTL bit is working. I think I'm going to have to set the flash output on it manually if I want to use it. But it DOES fire.

So, yes it's a little expensive at 180, but it's a lot smaller than having the 580 on the top of the camera, and the improvement to AF is fantastic, and opens up the creative options of using the flashguns off camera.

All-in-all I'm pretty pleased with it so far.

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Last edited by peripatetic; Nov 22, 2010 at 3:11 AM.
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Old Nov 22, 2010, 3:34 AM   #2
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Hi Craig

Thanks for your post. I found it interesting reading. And as I have sometimes come across the same frustrations of AF with my Canon 350D.

About a year ago I bought a Canon 7D, which has vastly superior AF. Not only in the number of AF points, but with focus accuracy (e.g. with all my lenses, especially my f1.8 50mm lens), ability to focus in low light, and for moving objects (e.g. AI Servo).

However even the 7D has it's limits (i.e. it can focus well in quite dark conditions, but certainly not in total darkness). I was once thinking of a Speedlight ST-E2... haven't totally ruled it out yet - but as I don't own any external flash yet - a Canon 580 EX II is on the cards. I've used and borrowed a few flashes, though.

The question I'd like to ask you is this: Does the ST-E2's AF assist beam work as effective as the 580 EX II? (or visa versa, is the 580 EX II's AF assist beam as effective as the ST-E2's?) I'm quite curious to know this, particularly how much better either of my cameras will be able to focus with each of these.

As my Canon 7D can operate (trigger) external flashes from it's own onboard flash, that's an added bonus. As I've tried the AF of the 5D, I also found the 'clustering' of the focal points (near the centre of the screen) is rather limiting at times, and annoying at other times.

Although I still find with learning and application, I get to be a better and better photographer (when I have the patience) with any camera, even a basic P&S... I'll also admit having the right gear can often help significantly.

Well... thanks again for your post. Looking forward to a reply when possible.


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Old Nov 22, 2010, 3:39 AM   #3
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Well the IR window on the ST-E2 seems a bit wider than the 580.

I have no real idea whether one is more effective than the other though. I suspect not, or if so, then probably only at the extremes of the effective range of AF assist.

I'll check the manuals.
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