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Old Jan 6, 2006, 3:09 PM   #1
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I am looking for a flash for my 20D to be used mostly for bird photography with a "better beamer" flash extender. The Canon 580EX at ~$400 seems too expensive (unless you can convince me otherwise), so the alternatives I'm considering are a used Canon 550EX for $150 or a new Sigma 500DG Super for ~$200.

Any opinions?
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Old Jan 6, 2006, 4:22 PM   #2
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Ihave the Sigma and its a superb flash,slap some good rechargable batteries and it recharges very very quickly.It can also work as a slave flash and it triggers from the build it flash.Oh and you can sync up to 1/500s with it.Also cheap enough to buy 2 for the price of the 580EX.


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Old Jan 6, 2006, 4:55 PM   #3
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As far as the 580ex, its made to work with the Canon digital SLRs:

To quote Canon:

The flash includes two features (over the 550ex)especially for digital photography. EOS 20D and EOS-1D Mark II** digital SLR users will especially appreciate the Speedlite 580EX flash's ability to auto-compensate for the size of the CMOS sensor, and zoom the flash head automatically to match the effective focal length conversion. This feature allows the Speedlite 580EX flash to maximize the efficiency of its light distribution and produce more flashes from a set of batteries. When used with the EOS 20D or 1D Mark II** digital SLR cameras, the flash and camera communicate to make fine adjustments to auto white balance by electronically monitoring the charge level of the batteries and the duration of each flash burst, resulting in consistently accurate color for every shot.

I'm sure that its the same for the Reb XT. Costs more but definitely compatible.
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Old Jan 10, 2006, 12:42 AM   #4
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One option you may have where you live is the ability to RENT different flashes for just a few bucks per day and try them out before you buy. The Camera Store in Calgary, Alberta will rent the 580 ex flash for $15 dollars for the day. (just an example)
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Old Jan 10, 2006, 1:01 AM   #5
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I purchased the Sigma 500 DG Super a few months ago and my experience has been very mixed.

Pros:
1. Cheap
2. Powerful
3. Lots of advanced features

Cons:
1. Execrable manual
2. Sometimes it doesn't work and it's hard for a (flash) novice to figure out why

If you know a lot about flash I think it's an excellent choice, on the other hand if you are a (flash) novice as I am, and just want to use it in automatic mode then you'd be better off with a Canon offering.

If I were to start again I would definitely by a Canon flash, even though more expensive, to learn on. Once I knew lots about flash photography and was looking for extra heads etc I would certainly consider the Sigmas.


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Old Jan 10, 2006, 7:29 AM   #6
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peripatetic wrote:
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If you know a lot about flash I think it's an excellent choice, on the other hand if you are a (flash) novice as I am, and just want to use it in automatic mode then you'd be better off with a Canon offering.

Out of curiosity, when set in ETTL mode why do you think this flash is more complicated than a Canon flash set in ETTL mode? In both cases the only thing you should need to do is adjust FEC.

Now, some of the other features may be a pain to get to, and the high speed sync is annoying because it turns off if your shutter speed drops below sync speed (and doesn't resume if shutter speed should raise above synch speed). But in simple ETTL mode, I'm not sure how a Canon flash is easier to use.
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Old Jan 10, 2006, 10:20 AM   #7
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Quote:
Out of curiosity, when set in ETTL mode why do you think this flash is more complicated than a Canon flash set in ETTL mode? In both cases the only thing you should need to do is adjust FEC. Now, some of the other features may be a pain to get to, and the high speed sync is annoying because it turns off if your shutter speed drops below sync speed (and doesn't resume if shutter speed should raise above synch speed). But in simple ETTL mode, I'm not sure how a Canon flash is easier to use.
Quite simply because it sometimes just doesn't work.

What I was looking for was something that would work just like the pop-up flash in its simplest mode. Switch on the flash and in M or P mode it should just recognize the flash is there and use it. That's how it works with the popup and I assume how it works with a Canon EX flash.

With the Sigma?

Starting from a flash that is attached but switched off and a switched off camera.

Nowhere in the "manual" does it say which to switch on first. So fine turn on the flash, then the camera. Does the camera recognize the flash?

Sometimes yes sometimes no.

If the camera goes into sleep mode does it recognize the flash when waking up?

Sometimes yes sometimes no.

First switch on the camera then the flash. Does it recognize the flash?

Sometimes yes sometimes no.

Look in the "manual" for help? No there is no help in the manual. It should just all work automatically right?

Sometimes yes... you get the picture. I think I had one of the very earliest ETTL2 compatible flashes they shipped, so perhaps things have got better. But I must say the performance of the flash is so hit-and-miss that it feels like too much of a risk to use it for anything important.

Now is it all MY fault? Quite possibly, but the abysmally translated pamphlet that they try to pass off as a manual doesn't give any instructions at all. So how am I to learn how their equipment works? Hence my recommendation - if you already know a great deal about flash then perhaps this is a very fully-featured flash that is excellent value-for-money.

One thing that really nailed me early on was the utter dependence on a fully charged set of batteries. When they are half-flat, i.e. charged enough to cause the zoom to work, charged enough to fire the test flash and hear it recycle, it is apparently not charged enough to communicate with the camera. And yes my contacts are clean. Replacing with a fully charged set of batteries sorts things out. But nowhere is there any indication of the fact that the batteries might not be charged enough.

After a few months I have developed a sour working relationship with it, when it stops working, switch everything off and on again, change mode out of ETTL and back in again, replace with a freshly charged set of NiMH (always have 3-4 freshly charged sets in your bag) and the flash will start working again. But it's not fun, and it's certainly not something that inspires any confidence in the product.

Of course perhaps the problem is in the camera, but then how do I tell? If you have a Canon flash and a Canon camera and it's not working you know who to go to! Now sure I could try to find a friendly retailer (I bought the flash from the web) and see if my camera works with a Canon flash, but it's extra degrees of hassle that I can do without.

Sure the Sigma is cheaper, but it seems to me that in this case you get what you pay for.

Now I'm going to go on a portrait photography course later this year and hope to learn a lot more about flash and lighting equipment in general, but in the meantime I may well simply get myself one of the new ETTL2 EX 430 to use as a simple bounce flash, and keep the Sigma for use as a slave for when I know what I'm doing.


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Old Jan 10, 2006, 10:31 AM   #8
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I've had mine for 4 months now and done over 2k shots with the flash on.I have never had a problem with the flash not being recongnized by the Camera (Eos 300D).I also use rechargable batteries and tested them on new years eve,took about 800 shots on the same set of 2000 mAh Nickel Matal Gydride Batteries (NI-MH) and they still have charge in them.

I agree with you about the manual,the one online is much better.You can get it here http://www.sigmaphoto.com/flashes/manuals/F10EO.pdf

Noone mentioned that you get a tripod mount with it.

Maybe you got a bad unit,im not aware if the software can be updated on those units.
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Old Jan 10, 2006, 10:53 AM   #9
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I urge prospective owners of the Sigma to read that manual first. Now if you are a flash novice do you understand how to use the unit?

It seems to use FEC you have to set it on the unit itself not the camera? Do you set it on the camera too? Is the 20D a type A or B camera? I assume A but I can't find anywhere it tells you that.

That is a dreadful manual IMO.
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Old Jan 10, 2006, 10:59 AM   #10
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The manual is pretty bad,but me being a novice with flash when i got it i could shoot in full auto mode with no problems.On my camera i set the FEC on the camera( i have the hack).and hardly every bother with the one on the flash.I just sat down one day and went trough the manual and tested every setting it took me about an hour and it gave me the understanding i needed to use the flash properly.

The type A and B camera list is on sigmas website as well as on canons but i agree they absolutely should have put it in the manual.There is a nice table over here that shows the compatability with all cameras.

http://www.sigma-photo.co.jp/english..._500dg_sup.htm
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