When the Speedlite 580EX II was introduced, many Canon freaks were concerned that the original 580EX didn’t actually need to be replaced. Canon has, however, and discontinued the 580EX, and for some very good reasons.
Read real customer reviews of the Speedlite 580EX II here.
2. Improved Image Quality.
A third-party test of the 580 EX and 580EX II with various combinations of cameras and lenses and shooting in M mode resulted in a slightly darker exposure with the 580EX II, which helped to retain more white highlights in certain test images.
Canon promotes the 580EX II as having 20% faster recycling time than the 580 EX. The specifications show a range of 0.1 to 6 seconds with four AA-size batteries, either alkaline, lithium or rechargeable Ni-MH. This is a huge scale, especially compared to the Nikon Speedlight SB-900, with recycling times of 2.3 to 4.5 seconds, depending on the type of batteries used.
4. More Durable Body.
Although the 580EX II only weighs a mere 1.2 ounces more than the 580EX, the upgraded model looks and feels more durable. Its metal foot is just one improvement that represents how Canon made the 580EX II stronger and capable of withstanding plenty of rough handling.
5. Canon’s First Weather-Resistant Flash.
Canon cleverly introduced the EOS 1D Mark III DSLR camera at the same time as the Speedlite 580EX II, so they could be marketed as the perfect match for sports photographers and photojournalists who require dust and water resistance equipment.
6. New Auto and Manual External Metering.
Another reason Canon promotes the Speedlite 580EX II and EOS 1D Mark III DSLR as a pair is that the Mark III is the first compatible camera with the Speedlite’s Auto External (“E”) mode.
In Auto External (“E”) mode, the 580EX II determines the proper flash output once you feed it your camera’s ISO and aperture settings. The unit has a built-in meter that reads the reflected light and then regulates the amount of light from the flash.
If you are not a Canon freak and shoot with a different camera body, then you must use the External Manual ("EM") mode. ISO and aperture settings must be manually fed to the flash unit instead of being automatically communicated via a compatible camera.
7. e-TTL Versatility.
Canon included, of course, its e-TTL II, or Electronic-Through-the-Lens metering modes, which makes the 580EX II essentially an automatic unit for photographers with little experience with a professional-grade flash (and less time-consuming for those that are).
E-TTL operates with all Canon EOS DSLRs and PowerShot G2, G3, G5, G6, G7 and Pro1. The e-TTL II upgrade calculates flash exposure with distance data from newer Canon lenses, and also shares color information with the camera.
8. Consistent Shot-to-Shot Exposure in Manual Mode.
With the use of the control dial, you can quickly set manual flash output in 1/3-stop increments: 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8th, 1/16th, 1/32nd, 1/64th and 1/128th. This helps to maintain exposure when the distance from the camera to the subject will not change during a shoot, such as studio portraits.
9. Control Custom Functions Settings from Camera.
Canon definitely wants consumers to think of buying, or using, the Speedlite 580EX II and EOS 1D Mark III DSLR together. Although not a huge feature, being able to select the flash’s custom functions settings from the camera is another plus for Canon freaks.
10. A Wide Choice of Controls and Custom Functions.
To be worthy of Canon’s premier flash unit, the Speedlite 580EX II offers many controls, such as FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation), High-Speed synch, FEB (Flash Exposure Bracketing), FEL (Flash Exposure Lock) and first/second curtain synch, as well as 14 different custom functions (C.Fn-00 through C.Fn-13).
11. Both “Master” and “Slave.”
The Canon Speedlite 580EX II becomes an integral part of a quite versatile lighting system. Use it as a master to manage ratios for as many as three groups or as a slave with compatible Canon Speedlite models. Add the Canon ST-E2 Wireless Transmitter to the system as a dedicated control point. Select FEC, High-Speed synch, FE Lock, FEB, manual flash and Stroboscopic flash settings on the primary unit and this data is conveyed to the slave units and automatically set.
12. Loyalty Trumps Price.
The differences between the Canon Speedlite 580EX II and the Nikon Speedlight SB-900 are minimal, in some cases, even microscopic. You’ll pay approximately the same for the Canon ($450 to $500); however, if you’re a Canon freak, then loyalty and compatibility with your EOS 1D Mark III may be all differences that are necessary for you to pick the 580EX II over the SB-900.
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