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Old Mar 22, 2011, 6:41 AM   #1
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Default Which flash for Canon 7D

Hello friends

I have been working some overtime and have an 'extra pay packet' coming my way soon. I will be putting some to very worthwhile causes (eg helping Japan's needs, my church, mission work and other charities). I also hope to buy my first external flash unit.

Since getting my first DSLR (Canon 350D) in 2005, I've not had a flash unit. I have used a few from friends, mainly Canon 430EX and 580EX. I also have a Canon 7D which I've had for some time now. I'm tempted to buy a Canon 580EXII flash unit (price is ok for me) - but if I can get more bang for my buck (eg another brand that has more power, better interface, richer feature set, etc) - I'm open to that.

Generally I seem to be very happy with my Canon lenses & accessories, and like the idea of ensuring full compatibility. (I have a Sigma 10-20mm lens which has a very minor decentring issue, but I can work around that).

The other main lenses I have and those that I think I'll use the flash most with on my Canon 7D are the Canon 15-85mm, Canon 100mm macro and Canon 70-300mm L. I guess the situations that I'll mainly use it are: wildlife, 'events' (eg camps and church functions) and occasionally portrait. I'm not a 'studio' person (generally preferring natural light & outdoors - but I know there's a place for flash and indoor & studio work too). Also I am not looking to go to any professional paid work like weddings, paid portrait.

But I do take my photography seriously (as a hobby). I also have a few other Canon lenses, eg 28-135mm, 50mm f1.8, 18-55mm. I have an inexpensive but practical enough macro flash ring for close up / macro work. It's a $30 Chinese made version which I'm happy enough with.

There are various people on these forums whom I have seen use external flash to improve nature shots (eg highlight colours of birds / wildlife, flowers, etc). I know I still have a lot to learn with flash, but I do understand the basics and principles.

So I very much look forward to hearing from you with your thoughts and advice (please list pros and cons where you can) of what flash I could get. I am glad the 7D can remotely fire flashes from it's built-in flash. I already have a good Manfrotto tripod (and cheaper one).

My budget is up to about $700 Aus (the US $ is around parity with the Aus $ at the moment). Thanks in advance for your posts and suggestions about external flash units for my 7D and various lenses (and the 'why'!)

Paul
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 6:51 AM   #2
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Paul,
I've become a bit of a convert to Canon. I used a Sigma flash for a couple years and touted how good it was. But after a couple years it was behaving very eratic and the tolerance on the tilt became less so it would easily slip. I bought a 580exII and for the last several years it has worked flawlessly. I have, and use on occasion the external battery pack - that's a great thing for events (even unpaid) where you may take a couple hundred flash shots.

I like that it maintains a water resistant seal and it's a quick lever-flip lock instead of a wheel (may seem small thing but it's a nice convenience). It also communicates WB info so I find I get fairly consistent WB performance on auto WB.

I've only used commander mode a couple times so that isn't a big deal for me. But, having a unit that has worked through tens of thousands of flash shots over several years and no issues makes me glad I bought it.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 7:30 AM   #3
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Paul,
I have the Nissin Professional Di 866, which I purchased about a year ago. It is a high quality unit that has worked perfectly for my needs. I don't put it through the rigors that John probably does, but when I do need it, it has been great. It will also take the external battery pack also by Nissin, and, when I bought it the Nissin tech support folks said that it is compatible with 3rd party battery packs as well, including Canon's. I haven't tested this, so I would double check if that's important to you. Now, here is the con: when you use a zoom lens like a 24-70, it makes a grinding noise (like gears turning) as it adjusts to the focal length changes. I thought this was a defect at first, but the Nissin tech support said that it's just how the unit works. It's a little annoying at first and, with your face right next to the camera, sounds loud, but my wife says that she didn't notice it at all when standing close to me, so it may not be a big deal. Other than that, I think it's the best bang for the buck. You can get it for around $300 (buy.com) to $329 (bhphotovideo.com, where it consistently receives 5 star reviews) and the best price I've seen for the Canon is $450. For my purposes, it made sense, partly because I had just spent quite a bit on gear and I had a limited budget for all of the other goodies that I wanted to acquire. This is because, thanks to JohnG's guidance, I switched from my old gear to a Canon 1D MK III (used w/ only 2500 clicks), purchased two new lenses (Canon 70-200mm USM f2.8 & Sigma 24-70mm hsm f2.8) & various other accessories. I am ever thankful I made the switch because I have been able to capture sports action shots that never would have been possible with my old gear. All that being said, if I used a flash as much as John does or if money were no object, I would have gone ahead and purchased the Canon, but I'm happy with my gear and haven't looked back. Thanks again to JohnG for his great advice on gear. He knows his stuff.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 8:22 AM   #4
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My view on this.

Buy a Canon 580EX unless:

1. You cannot afford it OR

2. You are an expert when it comes to flash photography and know exactly how and why you are going to use your non-Canon flashguns.

The Canon will work as it is supposed to with your current camera, and also with future models without firmware updates. The manuals are accurate. It may not actually be the best flash. It is almost certainly not the best value-for-money. But it will be the least hassle if you don't really know what you are doing and are unlikely to become a very heavy flash user.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 10:21 AM   #5
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I got to put in my 2cent last -

By all mean if you have your mind set on a 580EX go ahead get one (I have one too BTW). You can't go wrong by getting a Canon

BUT here's my experience on this as I've own and used Metz, Nissin and Sigma as well:

1. If you are getting just one flash that's OK, but IMO they have too high of a mark-up for it. Once you're into multiple devices to exploit their wireless control you can almost get two (2) Nissin Di-866 (with slightly more power even) for the same price. Also see how easy this unit is easy to use when compared to the cryptic B/W LCD panel of the 580EX: http://photos4clix.com/?p=767
... and it's almost twice the flash as it comes with two heads:
"The Nissin Di866 has a built in second flash. When in TTL Mode and you bounce the strobe off the ceiling, you want to fill facial shadow with a fill light. The Sub-light on the unit may be the answer. The power of the sub-light is adjustable...
...My initial reaction to the Sub-Flash was that it had possibilities. After testing the bounce light with and without the Sub-Flash, all I can say is wow! It’s like using a fill-light or reflector to fill shadows"

2. Sometime a new feature is really not an improvement at all, for example if you have an older body or have used a camera flash mount a lot like for studio equipments, the wheel on the older 580EX unit works better as it provided a tight clamp to the hot shoe of the camera. The newer 580EX-II's lever on the other hand will lock but its mounting is wobbly as it does not bind down to the camera's hot-shoe like a nut as the camera/flash bracket has loosen through time.

3. As to the gear noise on the flash unit when it zooms, all units do this whether it's a Canon, Metz, Nissin or Sigma. They just all have a different pitch that's all as their motors have to spin the internal gear back and forth for the flash zooming mechanism

4. This is how far a Canon 580EX (or an SB-900) pricing has gone out of line: http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/mul...=7-10053-10715
IMO for the cost of a 430EX, get the DI866 which can do anything a 580ex can do but more, and save your $$ instead and imagine what you can do with this Einstein when you spend $500!
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Last edited by NHL; Mar 22, 2011 at 11:18 AM.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 10:48 AM   #6
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as John and Peripatetic mentioned, the safer bet is the 580exii, and you get the weather sealing and the command dial. but you do pay a premium.

besides the di866 that NHL mentioned, which btw has rather nice reviews and is easily the best bang for the buck.

another one to look at is the Metz 58 AF-2. like the Nissin it also has the secondary fill flash and offers power similar to the 580exii. Metz flashes have circumvented compatibility issues that have plagued Sigma for example, by offering USB firmware upgrades. in the USA, they are about 100$ cheaper than the Canon flash, and about 70-80$ more than the Nissin.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 10:58 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hards80 View Post
... Metz flashes have circumvented compatibility issues that have plagued Sigma for example, by offering USB firmware upgrades. in the USA, they are about 100$ cheaper than the Canon flash, and about 70-80$ more than the Nissin.
The Nissin Di-866 is also upgradable through USB!

I've also forget to mention the Nissin external HV power pack can support two external strobes at much more affordable cost than Canon (and will also support Nikon's flashes as well if you're into multiple bodies)
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Last edited by NHL; Mar 22, 2011 at 11:05 AM.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 11:55 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NHL View Post
Also see how easy this unit is easy to use when compared to the cryptic B/W LCD panel of the 580EX: http://photos4clix.com/?p=767
... and it's almost twice the flash as it comes with two heads:
"The Nissin Di866 has a built in second flash. When in TTL Mode and you bounce the strobe off the ceiling, you want to fill facial shadow with a fill light. The Sub-light on the unit may be the answer. The power of the sub-light is adjustable...
...My initial reaction to the Sub-Flash was that it had possibilities. After testing the bounce light with and without the Sub-Flash, all I can say is wow! Itís like using a fill-light or reflector to fill shadows"
Great point about the very nice color lcd screen and easy menu system on the Di866. This was another big selling point for me as well. Also, thanks for pointing out that the firmware is also upgradeable. I also agree that they flexibility of having the sub light is a very useful feature. This really comes into play for me because I use the 1d MKIII, which doesn't have a built in flash that could be used for fill light, etc.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 12:26 PM   #9
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You did good...

Have you ever try to operate the 580EX in the dark?
The B/W panel does lit up, but you can't tell which keys are which - duh
-> and someone mentioned a good manual, you'll need it... as who know what each c.Fn mean without looking it up?

In contrast to the self-leveling, self-explanatory color GUI of the Nissin which can easily be navigated through in pitch darkness!
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Last edited by NHL; Mar 22, 2011 at 2:12 PM.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 3:36 PM   #10
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Hello friends, I've just got up - (it's 6:45am here in South Australia) - and I'm just about to dash off to work. I had posted the questions just before I went to bed late last night.

Wow, thanks guys - your information so helpful already! I have skim read it - and will read again, and this time word by word, in depth, when I get home from work this evening.

One thing I FORGOT to ask is - do they all have the same infrared / focus assist capabilities (eg power, ability, functionality)? That would be also a HUGE selling point for me - for example when I'm taking shots in very low light and I want to use the focus beam function to achieve AF (but NOT fire the actual flash).

Thanks again in anticipation of a wave of great advice.......

Cheers

Paul
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