Canon Speedlite Menu System Videos

Small Strobes

Canon has released two great new videos on the Canon Digital Learning Center from photographer Bruce Dorn. Each video demonstrates how to control your on-camera and off-camera Speedlites using the menu system found on the Canon 5D Mark II and 50D cameras.

Bruce Dorn Speedlite Videos, Part I: External Speedlite Controls

Bruce Dorn Speedlite Videos, Part II: External Speedlite Ratio Controls

I use Canon’s 580EX II strobes in most of my studio and on-location product shoots and really love how these units can be controlled almost completely from the menu system on the back of my 50D (and soon from my new 5DII).

However, every time I look at these two videos, one glaring problem keeps staring me right in the face. Watch how many menus Bruce has to navigate through time and again, just to change a setting on the remote strobes.

The problem is that Canon’s menu system has no way to remember where you were in the menu hierarchy once you click the shutter. You have to start over from the beginning and navigate through each layer of menus to get back to the setting you just changed, even if all you did was adjust the flash exposure compensation (a very common task).

In fact, watching Bruce go through this routine again and again is one of the best demonstrations I’ve ever seen of why manual flash control as taught by the Strobist community is a much more efficient and effective system for off camera lighting. Watching these two videos, I felt like I could have gotten up, walked over to the remote strobes and set them manually much faster than Bruce could work through the menus. I certainly hope someone at Canon (besides Fake Chuck Westfall) has seen these videos and realized how tedious this routine really is.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon Speedlites

Gear Friday – Powering your Speedlites

I’m a strong believer in David Hobby’s “Strobist” techniques and Kirk Tuck’s “minimalist” lighting philosophy as detailed in his best-selling book Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography. Back in the late 70′s I dabbled in this with very little success using Vivitar Thyristor 285 strobes, which strangely enough, some folks still use today.

As a Canon shooter I use Canon’s 580EX II Speedlites for all my product (and now) commercial photography work. Although not as sophisticated as Nikon’s SB900 and CLS (creative lighting system), Canon’s Speedlites work very well in the field with one exception; they suck batteries dry at a furious pace.

I solved this issue by switching to Sanyo’s Eneloop rechargeable batteries as I described in my post earlier this week and by using Canon’s CP-E4 battery pack as shown below. The CP-E4 holds eight AA size batteries and when plugged into the 580EX II Speedlite, it more than doubles the flash capacity and reduces the recycle time considerably.

When using the CP-E4, the four batteries already in the Speedlite are used to control the strobe and the eight external batteries are used to power the strobe. This separation of power seems to work very well and I’ve taken several hundred shots without draining the battery pack. My only complaint about this setup is the cost. Canon charges around $135 (USD) for their CP-E4 battery pack although you can find after-market packs for around half this price.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon Speedlites