The Best Canon Flashgun

You can dramatically improve your flash photography by purchasing a Canon flashgun. There are three types, all of which are a big improvement over any built in pop-up flash. Here you will discover the pros and cons of each one when used for wildlife photography.

They all use Canons latest through the lens technology (e-ttl II), can swivel up (bounce head) and have an AF (Auto Focus) assist beam to allow your camera to focus in the dark.

The main things to consider when deciding which one to buy are:

  1. Guide number as high as possible.
  2. Recycle time as short as possible.
  3. Second curtain sync option.

For an explanation of some of the terminology and why its important click here.

owlleftwingup The best value Canon flashgun is the Canon 430EX II.Don’t buy the 270EX II unless your budget is very tight.Only buy the 600EX-RT if you need the radio trigger system.

 Canon Flashgun – Speedlite 270EX II

Overall Rating
For Cheap.

  • Small.
  • Light.
 Against

  • Short range.
  • Doesn’t swivel left or right.

This is Canons cheapest, smallest and lightest entry level flashgun. One of its benefits over the 430EX II or 580EX II is its size – you can fit it into your shirt pocket.

Only buy the 270EX for wildlife photography if your budget is very tight.

I strongly recommend looking at the 430EX II instead because of its extra features and power (see below).

Range: 27 meters / 89 feet, ISO 100 at 50mm.

Swivels left and right: No.

Swivels up: Yes.

Time between flashes for battery to recharge: Normal: 0.1 to 3.9s, quick flash: 0.1 to 2.6s.

Canon Speedlite 430EX II

Overall Rating
For

  • Good range.Good recycle time.
  • Good price.
Against

  • Cannot be used as a master.

This is Canons mid-range flashgun. It has a lot of power and features for its price and is a good flashgun for wildlife photography especially when combined with a Better Beamer.

Range: 43 meters / 141 feet, ISO 100 at 105mm.

Swivels left and right : Yes (180 degrees left, 90 degrees right).

Swivels up : Yes.

Time between flashes for battery to recharge: 3s with alkaline batteries. 2s with NiMH batteries.

Canon Speedlite 580EX II (Discontinued)

N.B. This flashgun has been discontinued but used ones can still be purchased. It has been replaced by the 600EX-RT(See below).

This is a top of the range Canon flashgun – there isn’t much that it doesn’t do. The main benefits that it has over the 430EX II are:

  1. It is more powerful.
  2. It can be used as a master in a Canon wireless system. However if you do buy a 430EX II and later decide to use this feature, you can always buy a 580EX II and use the 430 EX II as a slave.
  3. It can be powered from an external power source.
  4. The AF assist works with all 45 focus points on 1 series bodies rather than just 9.
  5. It is weather sealed.

Range: 58 meters / 190 feet, ISO 100 at 105mm.

Swivels left and right : Yes (180 degrees left and right).

Swivels up: Yes.

Time between flashes for battery to recharge: Normal: 6s, quick flash:3s.

Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT

Overall Rating
For

  • Good range.
  • Good recycle time.
  • Radio Trigger System.
  • 200mm zoom.
Against

  • Expensive.

The Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT has replaced the 580EX II as Canons top of the range flashgun.

The main reason to buy it is if you want to use the radio trigger system. Even then you’ll have to buy more than one to make use of it. The rest of the benefits aren’t sufficient to warrant paying almost double the price of the 430EX II.

Range: 60 meters / 197 feet, ISO 100 at 200mm.

Swivels left and right : Yes (180 degrees left and right).

Swivels up: Yes.

Time between flashes for battery to recharge: 5.5s

Summary

270EX II
430EX II
580EX II
Discontinued
600 EX RT
Range (Meters) 27 43 58 60
Left and Right Swivel No Yes
Left 180 degrees
Right 90 degrees
Yes Yes
Swivels Up Yes Yes Yes Yes
Full Recycle Time Alkaline Batteries(s) 3.9 3.7 6 5.5

Further Reading

If you have a Canon flashgun or are planning to buy one then you’ll find the following articles extremely useful:

Fill Flash Photography – The best way to use flash for wildlife photography.

Flash Bracket – Improve the effectiveness of your flashgun by using a flash bracket.

Flash Extender – Extend the range of your flashgun. This is essential when photographing wildlife and is cheap.