Customer Reviews: Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite Flash (Black)
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Style: 600EX-RT|Change
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on June 20, 2012
I sold all of my previous flashes and bought these. Previous flashes include Canon's 580exII, 580ex, and 430exII.

The Good:

First off, if you're a Strobist or an off-camera speedlighter, sell everything you own and get these. The RF signaling system and fully independent group controls right from your master device will change everything for you. Already using RadioPoppers or a PocketWizard FlexTT system? Welcome to a new world of reliability, simple setup, and battery life.

Going into "Gr" mode on the master flash, I can independently tell up to five different groups to operate in full eTTL mode (plus adjust each group's FEC) OR shift one, some, or all groups into M mode with full power controls on each group. I do this right from the flash itself, or from the screen on my 5d mark III.

Shooting a party with dancing? Want to have eTTL on-camera to bounce, and an off-camera light in the background on M for a little dramatic rim-lighting? No problem. All easily configured right from your camera.

Working outdoors at night with nothing to bounce off of? No problem. Tell the master unit on your camera not to flash, and it will simply operate as a master controller for the off-camera units. (If you often need a master controller with no flash, a Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter might save you a bit of money. )

If you get lost in the menus, use the configuration screen on your camera instead. I find this much easier to navigate, set modes, etc.

This is too expensive, you say? Consider that here on Amazon (as of this writing) a 580exII costs $530 + a PocketWizard Flex TT5 transceiver costs $230 for a grand total of $760, and you still haven't invested in the transmitter to go on your camera. PLUS you have to do on-site assembly, AND you have to deal with the finicky unreliability of that system.

Canon claims a range of 100'. I've used these in huge reception venues, and never run out of range. I guess the lawyers were setting a target they could defend? Read around the blogosphere, and you'll find people testing them to over 1000' out in the countryside.

Other changes that I love over the previous units I owned:
-They now clearly indicate when they are overheating. Both the backlight on the screen changes from green to orange, and two little "heat wave" wiggly lines appear above the speedlight's icon. (This may not affect many users, but event photogs doing bounce-flash in high-ceiling venues will appreciate this. Keep another cooling in your bag, and cycle them out.)
-When controlling off-camera flashes, the units are now aware of each other's power states. The "ready" light on the master will not come on until ALL flashes have finished cycling. Yup, they really talk to each other that much. Pretty cool.

Yes, these work with your existing CP-E4 battery packs.

The Neutral:

If you do not do off-camera flash, then yes, this is probably a bit steep. You have to ask yourself how much the additional zoom range is worth (up to 200mm on this unit vs 105 on the 580 series.) You may not feel it's worth that much.

Be cautioned that if you do not own a 2012 generation camera or newer, you will not be able to use mixed-mode with these flashes. As of this writing this means you need a 1D-X or a 5d3. If you don't have one of these cameras, you're limited to setting all groups to M, or all groups to eTTL. I believe you can still control each group's power/FEC, but double check if this is important to you.

If you do a lot of studio work and are hoping to mix speedlights and studio strobes, be cautioned that this is a brand-new RF signaling system developed by Canon. It will not integrate with your existing PocketWizard (classic, flex, or otherwise,) RadioPopper, CyberSync, Profoto Air, etc etc system. I really hope that Canon will chose to release an inexpensive, "dumb" receiver with a generic miniphone plug that can be used to trigger studio strobes, but this is just my own pipe dream. That said, you may be able to use your studio strobes in optical slave mode and get basic integration that way.

The Bad:

If you're a gel-er, you'll hate the included gel holder. Initially I was excited. It's obviously designed to allow you to cut and use your own gels, which is a nice thought. Unfortunately, the way it holds the gel produces harsh, mixed light. The holder does not hold the gel flush against the speedlight head. Instead, it allows it to arch out in front of it. The frosted clear plastic of the holder along the edges not only allows, but encourages ungeled light out around the sides. What you end up with is a bit of an Omni-Bounce (Stofen Gold Color Omni Bounce Diffuser for Canon Speedlite 580EX Flash) look, but with CTO out the face, and daylight out the sides. It's a color correcting disaster. The provided gel holders now sit at home, and I'm back to my previous favorite combo: LumiQuest UltraStrap LQ-126 and HonlPhoto Color Correction Filter Kit

In Conclusion:

I love these for the kind of work that I do, and cannot recommend them highly enough. I'm on the fence as to whether I'll get two more, or one more and an ST-E3-RT. (I'm disappointed that Canon dropped the focus assist beam from the new ST-E3-RT. The previous ST-E2 had one, and is my only hesitation.)
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on March 30, 2012
This is a great move for Canon. I know people are saying its too pricey and they could get full studio lights for this price. True, but not the same thing. I shoot both Canon and Nikon and this is an are where Nikon has always blown Canon away. Their flash system's wireless ability made me green with envy. I have been using Pocket Wizard mini and flex units and they work well. However, no need for them anymore. These work flawlessly so far. I bought 3 of them and will buy the ST-E3 when it comes out. I played wiht them tonight and the wireless communication is perfect. Some really cool features are built in. When you put one in slave mode, its screen turns orange and the master flash is green. Easy to tell which is which. You can configure the colors. Custom functions are now illustrated on the screen so no need to have the manual around to figure out what to do. The flash head is a little larger thean tthe 580EXII but the overall flash is almost exactly the same size. If you use an Omni Bounce, you will need to wait for a new version to fit this one. It does come with a gel holder and CTO gell. Nice touch. I will do some more shooting tomorrow, but my initial tests tonight make me a very happy reviewer. Nikon flash just moved to 2nd place. Radio is the way to go. :)
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on April 6, 2012
I purchased 3 of these flashes from Amazon and plan on adding a fourth soon. I also have a pre-order placed for the Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter which I hope to receive sooner rather than later. The radio's on these flashes are awesome and the menu system is also greatly improved. One of my favorite features is the ability to use a master flash or the ST-E3-RT to control each of my flashes. The group mode is great, but can only be used with 2012 or newer Canon Cameras such as the Canon 5D MKIII which I also own. I tested the group mode on my Canon 5D MKII and it definetly does not work with that camera.

With the group mode you can have up to 5 groups total and set the power levels using either ETTL or Manual mode. I use a label maker and mark my flashes as A B C (and future will be D for the fourth flash). I still have one group left if I want to go to five flashes. If you have more than 5 flashes you can assign multiple flashes to the same group and their power settings will be the same. Using the Master you can easily switch the slaves remotely from either ETTL or Manual mode and set their power settings. When you turn on the flashes they come up quickly and link up before you are ready to shoot - mere seconds. I was really impressed with how the radios worked and it's so nice to have just one set of batteries and not have to hook up a bunch of external gear. These are a huge time saver.

One thing I will mention to those who may want to mix these with Studio Flashes. You can fire these from remote triggers just like the older Canon models as they have a PC input port. Even when using the external triggers to fire in conjunction with my studio lights it's still nice to be able to set up the power levels using manual levels and group mode through the master. The one thing that I discovered and is very important to note is that if you change power settings on the master for the slaves they will not receive the changed information unless you first press the TEST button on the master and I'm sure the same will be true for the ST-E3-RT. Firing the master from the synch port or even using a hot shoe adapter does not transmit the new settings. You must press the TEST button first to get the new settings over the the slaves. This is pretty minor and easy enough to do. Keep in mind if using external triggers you will need one on each flash. I could not figure out a way to get them to fire just by triggering the master in radio mode, although I am still experimenting. It would be really nice to only have to put an external trigger on the master but from what I could find you need one on each flash. I still need to read the manuals all the way through and experiment some more so I will try to remember to update my review if I find out something new.

It would be nice to see these work in group mode with older cameras such as the 5D II and 7D and that is probably my only real disappointment with the flashes. I can't see why that can't work at least in manual mode, but it doesn't unless there is a workaround I haven't found yet.

Overall I am really pleased with these flashes and look forward to giving them more of a workout as well as testing them with an external battery pack. For photographers that are on the go and want a powerful system that is more convenient in terms of space, set up time, batteries and reliability, this is the way to go.

EDIT (04/27/2012): After some more time with these flashes I still love them. I have 5 of them now and am still waiting on the wireless controller. I did come up with a much better solution for combining these with studio lights. Not sure why I didn't think of it before as it's simple and works great. I just put my 600EX-RT on top of my camera in the hot shoe so I have full control - no need for third party radios on the 600EX-RT's. I then use the synch port on the camera to fire the studio flashes. A cable runs from the synch port to the trigger port of the transmitter for my studio lights. I now have a mixed radio system with wireless control over all my lights. Awesome!
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on June 13, 2012
For what it's worth, this transmitter does control off-camera Canon brand speedlites... And that's all it does. Which is a bad thing. It no longer has the autofocus assist beam for focusing in low light conditions -- and low light conditions are possibly a principal reason you're using this equipment. It no longer has the optical transmitter function -- and some of your speedlites may be legacy devices. The interoperability of this device is lacking with other Canon and non-Canon flashes currently on the market; and these flashes will continue to be on the market for a long time.

Frankly, it makes a lot more sense to purchase a 600EX-RT and use it as a master transmitter with the flash set to not discharge on exposure (yes, you can use the 600EX-RT as a low-light autofocus assist or transmitter without flashing. It's an in-camera external speedlite menu item at the bottom of the menu options.) The 600EX-RT gives you the same master transmitter controls as the ST-E3-RT, but in addition you get the autofocus assist beam, a backwards compatible optical transmitter capability, and a flash bulb. For just a little bit more in price.

I've also heard a few people in the industry comment about the placement of the screen facing upward rather than to the rear. I can see how this would be an inconvenience while shooting becaues it requires you to drop your camera off the tripod or monopod to chest or waist height to look at the screen or make adjustments with your free hand. It's a relevant design choice to be aware of. But it's an ergonomic consideration and not one of the design oversights that I'm addressing here. I'm just bringing it up because more than one person has mentioned that it was awkward to make group flash adjustments when they had it held at their waist level. If you are shooting from a lower position, you'll never notice this.

There are many people who seem to take the Kanye West approach to reviewing this radio trigger: "Hey 3rd party accessory vendors, I'm gonna let you finish... But Canon makes one of the greatest radio flash triggers of all time... One of the greatest radio flash triggers of all time." That ignores the omissions of important features many of us need in varying applications for our work. What about Pocketwizards? This has virtually the exact same functionality as a Pocketwizard, but the Pocketwizards are cheaper. And other items here on Amazon (the NPT-04 transmitter and receiver radio package is insanely cheap for someone who wants basic radio triggers) like the "4 Channels Wireless/ Radio Flash Trigger Set With 2 Receivers" are much better for amateurs. Yongnuo even reverse engineered this by creating their own model, the "YN-E3-RT". BUT - they added the AF Assist beam that everyone wants and GR mode works for pre-2012 camera bodies! Really Canon? This is a no-brainer. Skip the ST-E3-RT and wait for Canon to release the ST-E3-RT Mark II update that also includes the autofocus assist beam and the legacy optical transmitter functionality. If you want to use only Canon gear for wireless flash, you can use a 600EX-RT as a master transmitter; and even have the option to drop the power down to 1/128 with a light color gel and add a subtle stylistic drama. Canon could have definitely made these better.

So Canon. I summarize my suggestions to you for the Version 2 with three points: 1. Add an AF Assist beam to this product. 2. Add a swivel head screen to this product for horizontal and vertical viewing. 3. Add an optical transmitter functionality so we can use our older gear with this.
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on September 28, 2012
I don't know what canon was thinking when they released this with no focus assist beam.
Even though the 5D mark III has a AF sensitive down to -2EV, it's still not enough for low light places.

Could have been awesome, but we are forced to buy another 600EX. It still works awesomely when you dont need an AF assist beam.
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on May 19, 2013
After shooting with three Canon 580EXII flashes and three Pocket Wizard TT5 triggers and a Pocket Wizard AC3 Zone Controller, I was so frustrated by the complete lack of consistent flash-firing that I sold all that stuff and bought three of the Canon 600EX-RT flashes. I use a 5D3 so compatibility isn't an issue. What is an issue is the overheating of the 600EX-RT. Even when I use brand-new batteries, and an external battery pack for my on-camera flash, the on-camera flash hits the 10-second recycle shutdown after only a few flashes. This happened to me last month at a wedding and I didn't know what was going on. I changed all the batteries, thinking that was the issue, but it happened again. I turned off my off-camera flashes, set my on-camera flash back to its regular settings (not acting as a transmitter), and everything worked great...except the fact that I couldn't use the other two flashes at all, the ones I'd just paid $1200 for. This happened the rest of the day and it was extremely frustrating.
This has only happened in full sunlight, when I'm using one or more of my flashes at full power. I understand that I cannot shoot them at full power for extended periods of time, but I'd literally only shot two frames before the 10-second recycle kicked in (and, hence, no working flash at all until those 10 seconds had elapsed). Setting my Custom Functions so my flashes will still fire even when not fully re-charged is pointless; I set all my exposures just the way I want them...firing at anything less (or more) than I intended will create a bad looking image. As a professional photographer I expect professional results from Canon's top-of-the-line speedlight.
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on September 10, 2012
Doubtless, all of your off-camera-flash (OCF) strobists are wondering if it's worth the money. In short, yes. Whether on-camera or off, this is the Ferrari of flash guns. If you can afford it, buy this along with a Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter and don't look back. Yes, cheap, knock-off triggers with manual flashes will do exactly the same thing in the right hands (Phottix Stratos, Cactus V5, Yongnuo, Cowboy Studio, etc.). Yes, there are even cheaper options offering ETTL and features not found on the 600EX-RT such as 2nd curtain sync with OCF (Phottix Odin, Pixel King, Yongnuo YN-622). However, Canon really did their homework and have hit a towering home run. It's not just the features, but the little things. For example:

- It's not just pretty with it's dot matrix display, but incredibly useful, intuitive, and fast to use. I usually read the manual the instant I get a new product, but this flash is completely self-explanatory for an experienced photographer.
- Dedicated buttons for the most important camera functions (e.g. MODE -no ore holding the ZOOM button!), with four buttons that change labels and function as required.
- Dedicated "LINK" lights for instant visual confirmation. Customizable, color coded screens for master/slave that are easy to read.
- Dozens of Custom (CFn) and Personal Functions (PFn) to further customize the way it works, e.g. allow the wheel to change FEC without pressing a button first, and enable the DOF button as a MODELING light.
- The MODELING light is very, very helpful, and allows you to visualize the shot like your using a studio strobe.
- 200mm zoom setting creates a tight beam of light similar to a snoot, and opens up to 20mm (14mm with flip-down diffuser panel).
- Up to FIVE groups using the "Gr" mode, allowing you to mix ETTL, manual, and other modes with different groups.
- One integrated, weather sealed unit rather than PC cords and radio triggers dangling everywhere or stacked on your hot shoe.
- Two-way communication so the flash can feed information back to the camera. This is no dumb flash trigger.
- Intelligent Gel filter holder with full CTO and 1/2? CTO (not sure the exact shade) that communicate back to the camera for automatic adjustments with compatible bodies. Yes, I'd like it if there were more gels (e.g. window green, 1/2 CTB, and more hues), but no more orange backgrounds. I hated velcro-ing my old flash guns. Other downsides are; it's more fiddly than a HonlPhoto Color Correction Filter Kit or ExpoImaging ROGUEGELS-U Rogue Photographic Design Rogue Gels Universal Lighting Filter Kit, you need to turn off the automatic gel detection in PFn for third party gels, and there's a bit of light leakage along the sides a top of the flash head as they gels sit on the face of the holder rather right up against the flash head.
- Supports the new 61-pt AF system in the 5D Mark III and 1D X.
- Good (but not great) range. If you really need more than 100ft. (I think this is very few of you), then consider the Pocket Wizard 801-130 Plus III Transceiver. I've used it, and yes, it's better than any of the cheaper manual only triggers. And it's not a knock-off. BTW - Who really NEEDS more than 100ft.?

The list goes on and on, and adds up to a flash that can do ANYTHING. Get one immediately.

BTW - If cost is a big issue, consider waiting for the rumored 440EX-RT in 2013. I expect it to be similar, if less powerful and slave-only for OCF. If Canon makes one, I'll probably be in for two as I only need this kind of power and features for key light or on-camera flash.

*UPDATE (12/27/2012)*:

- I tacked on the Canon CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack to cut my recycle time. No more dark frames!
- I generally prefer Sanyo NEW 1500 eneloop 8 Pack AA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries for peak performance.
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on April 13, 2012
The main thing that sets this flash apart from others is the built-in radio slave system, and Canon has nailed this one!

Invented by Radiopoper and improved upon by Pocketwizard, radio slaves have been a huge asset for working fast on location with TTL control of off-camera speedlights. But they have always been too fiddly, unreliable, and ungainly. Finally, we Canon shooters can pop a 600EX-rt on the camera, others on clamps or stands, turn them on and shoot with full control of several lights at once!

Seriously, I keep one set to "master" and two others set to "slave", and I just turn them on and instantly all three show by their green lights that they are communicating and ready!

You have more control over your ttl slaves than ever before. Five independent groups with different output settings. To avoid interference with other photographers' strobes, choose from not only 15 channels, but also up to 10,000 "ID" numbers. Save settings to memory.

But my favorite feature--and the reason I decided to write a review--is that they are easy to use and reliable! I've used mine heavily for a couple of weeks now and haven't had a single misfire (a frequent issue I had with both Radiopoppers and Pocketwizards). Menus are easily accessible and--for once--make sense. And best of all, one less thing to pack for each light.

These are the only faults I've found so far:
1. For old guys like me, it would have been nice if the continuous scale for ratios were easier to see (at least a highlighted "1:1" in the middle).
2. The stated range can't match what Pocketwizard claims, but I've never needed to fire a strobe from farther than 100' anyway (at least not with TTL).
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on April 2, 2012
This flash is everything that I have been hoping for. As a professional photographer who shoots a ton of low-light weddings and events and works nearly exclusively with bounced flash, this is the perfect flash for me, and every bit worth the price. That said, if you are an amateur, or prefer to work with direct flash or flash fill, you would be just fine with an older, less expensive model.

Because of the way I use the flash, it takes way more power than simple direct flash. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED my 580 exII's, but this flash blows them out of the water. I used to overheat the 580 CONSTANTLY, and was always having to switch back and forth between two or three flashes to give them time to cool off. Worse, there was no indicator to tell me whether the flashes were out of batteries, or if they had simply overheated and needed a cooling off period. The 600 solves all of that. It has indicators to tell you if the unit is overheating or if the batteries are low, and takes SO much longer to overheat. I shot a 5-hour party with lot of dancing on Saturday night, and only had to swap out my flash twice the entire night. With the old models, I would be changing flashes every 20 minutes to half an hour by the end of the evening. They cycle time is amazing as well, and the menus allow for so much customization, plus are a lot easier to adjust.

The RT capabilities are great we well, though I haven't had a chance to test them yet, and I love the fact that I can zoom this one in to 200mm to throw a tighter spot of light, where the 580 stopped at 105mm. The built in CTO gel is an awesome addition as well, and looks so much more professional than a janky piece of plastic velcro'd to the end of the flash.

All in all, I love this flash, and think it is totally worth the price. I'll be trading in my last two 580 exII's for another one of these, and can't wait for the start of wedding season now.
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on December 22, 2012
Yesterday, I received my second 600EX-RT Speedlite. I had been using the first one on-camera and it worked great. Last night I practiced using my T4i with my two 600EX-RT Speedlites using radio transmission and the combination are exceptional. Rather than using a OCF E-TTL Cord (which I have) to get the master off camera, I experimented bouncing the on-camera flash into a reflector on a stand and it gave a soft, beautiful key light. I used the second 600EX-RT off-camera as a hair light at 1:8 power in E-TTL and it worked great. I was tired of the unreliability of using third party flashes and also wanted the radio transmission with the 600EX-RT over my previous 580EX and 580EXII's that I sold. Using Pocket Wizards with the 580EX & 580EXII was a hassle and now everything is all in one unit with the 600EX-RT. They work great so far and are considerably cheaper than adding a Pocket Wizard to a new 580EX and probably similarly priced to adding a Pocket Wizard to a used 580 EX or EX-II.

Please be aware that only the 2012 Canon camera bodies (the T4i, 5DMKIII, 6D, and the Canon EOS-1D X) with a Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite (or an ST-E3-RT) in the hot shoe can be used to trigger an off-camera Canon 600EX-RT slave with radio transmission using high speed sync. The 5DMKIII , 60D, 7D, T2i, and T3i cannot use high speed sync with radio transmission. Also, like the T3i, 60D, and 7D, the T4i has an on camera flash that can serve as a master for optical transmission in firing a 600EX-RT slave.

The 600EX-RT menu system is more complicated than that of the 580EX and the 580EX-II. But once I figured out how to disable the Optical wireless system, using Radio Transmission became easier. If you go into the custom functions (C.Fn.) list and then go to personal functions (P.Fn.), P.Fn.-06 will allow you to change the wireless button toggle sequence. Use this to disable the Optical wireless system (looks like a lightning bolt) since we know that Radio works so good that most of us aren't going to use Optical anyway. This eases the process of connecting to slaves and help prevent you from making the mistake of selecting the wrong wireless connection method (thanks to Mark Webb Photography and FunPhotons on the Canon Rumors Forum for making this helpful suggestion). So far, I would highly recommend this product.
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