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on May 26, 2007
I upgraded from a 420EX to this 580EX II. I got it just in time for a wedding photo shoot, and I must say I was NOT disappointed.

First, its battery life is outstanding. I shot shot more than 650 photos with the flash, most of them bouncing off the tall ceiling, with only ONE set of 4 AA batteries.

Compared to the 420EX, the advantages are huge. The recycling time is amazingly fast. It reminded me of the time the shutted lag difference I noticed when I switched from a compact digital camera to a digital SLR! You can even burst the flash for half a dozen of exposures (bounced off ceiling!) in 2 seconds (interesting for the garter throw!), to match the speed of the Canon 20D or 30D.

The quality of the TTL exposures is also singificantly better than what I would get with the 420EX. 95% of my shots were spot on, using full TTL mode. It is consistently excellent.

The fact that you only need to press one button to move the head of the flash in all directions was what sold me on the 580. What a pleasure to be able to switch from landscape to portrait and still be able to bounce the flash! This simple operation took 3+ seconds on the 420, and only 1 second on this one, which is the difference between getting the shot or missing it (or just giving up trying to get a vertical shot with the flash). The light reflector is also a nice feature, to get a catchlight in your subjects' eyes. However, it won't work if you shoot in portrait mode (will reflect off to the right side).

But the ONE feature that is worth the upgrade alone is the hot shoes quick release mount. Just slide the lever to the right, it clips right into position and is securely mounted on the hot shoe. It is of course just as easy to unmount the flash.

One other very nice feature is the direct access to "second curtain flash", simply by pressing a button on the flash. No need to go wandering into the Cn functions of the camera body!

On the down side, the flash is a lot bigger and bulkier than the 420EX, although not that much heavier. It is a little more difficult to fit it in my camera bag now. It is longer, wider and deeper. The only way to really be able to tell is to have it in your hands. Comparative photos won't really do a good job at showing the difference in size. That said, I had it mounted on my camera the whole day, for more than 8 hours, and it never bothered me.

I haven't even scratched the surface of everything that this flash can do, manual mode, etc, since I got it 2 days before the wedding and didn't have time to explore its features. I can't compare it to the 580EX mark I either, since I am coming from the 420. But if you're in the market to upgrade your flash, don't look twice, and get the mark II right away.

To sum things up, I would say that this flash is worth every penny, and well worth the price premium compared to the 420EX. It beats it hands down in every single category, has an outstanding battery life, and is completely silent (I forgot to mention that). I am not a professional, just an enthusiast, but I can definitely justify its cost, at my level. In other words, you don't need to pair it to a 5D or a 1D Mark III to notice how much better than the 420EX it performs.
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VINE VOICEon July 3, 2007
I read a quote where someone said they'd rather have a good flash than another lens. Bingo! And this is a GREAT flash. I didn't own the original 580, so I can't comment on that. I do however own the 430EX and this is a terrific upgrade from that already very capable flash.
The 580 - in case you don't know - is capable of serving as the master in a master/slave relationship with other Canon flashes. It can, when used in ETTL mode, configure and determine the flash needs of up to three sets of flashes. You can set ratios, create sets and program everything from this one flash.
Alone, it's one powerful little beast! True, it's not a studio monolight, but try taking a set of those out to the park - or even the front yard - to get shots of the kids on prom night. This is a lot bigger than my 430, but not so big that it isn't part of my 'everyday' kit.
For those considering a lesser flash - if you ever intend to use multiple flashes or need a more powerful flash, that 430 or 220 will limit what you can do. If I could do it all over again, I'd certainly purchase the 580 first, last and everything in between.
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on September 12, 2007
I have the 420EX for my Rebel XT. It's a decent flash, but doesn't produce amazing pictures. I promised someone I would take pictures of their wedding and knew I had to get something better. I was very much eyeing the new Sigma EF-530 DG Super. Unfortunately there was not much definite information available, so I found it hard to make an educated decision. In the end I decided to pay the extra money, know that this flash will be compatible with future cameras without hassles and will reliably control my 420EX.

Without a doubt, this flash takes excellent pictures. It also has enough power - the 420EX pictures always seemed like it was on its limit. I am quite the electronics geek and figured most of the controls out without consulting the handbook. I was worried about having to sit down and learn all abouth the MASTER/SLAVE options it has, but to my relief, I switched it into Master, the 420EX into Slave, and wow, the resulting pictures are simply stunning with the 580EX II as Master with the Catchlight Panel and the 420EX bounced.

Yes, this flash is not cheap, but now that I have it, I don't regret spending the money one bit. If you're trying to decide, I recommend to spend the extra money. I can't imagine this flash will disappoint you.

I should mention that the battery panel door is a new design compared to the 420EX and seems very sturdy.

I submitted a few close up pictures here. Especially of the rear panel which seems to be hard to find pictures of.
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on November 2, 2010
If you're on the fence about the 580, it's a fair bet that the other flash you're considering is the Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash for Canon Digital SLR Cameras. I own both the Speedlite 430EX II and this 580EX II. The 430 is no slouch as a flash, but the 580 is even better.

The similarities: Both support TTL/E-TTL/E-TTL II as well as manual. Both flashes have the same capabilities for bouncing or feathering (head rotates 180 & pivots up 90). Both move the flash element forward or back to broaden the flash for wide angle, or concentrate it for zoom. Both have slide-out wide-diffusers on the head. Both flashes have high speed synchronization, the ability to do 2nd curtain-shutter flashing, and can work as a "slave" in a multi-flash configuration. Both include a quick-release dedicated hot-shoe for Canon cameras and both also come with a mini-stand which also has a threaded hole on it for standard tripod screw mounting (typically only used when firing remotely. Both support Flash Exposure Compensation to +/- 3 stops. Both include a case. That's where the similarities end.

The differences: The 580 has more power & range (Canon claims 190' vs. 141' at ISO 100). Recycling times are much faster (typically at least twice as fast - but to be honest I haven't tried to measure the difference.) The worst-case is a recycle time of just over 3" on the 580 vs. 6" on the 430 -- but that's after a full-power discharge. Typically you can burst off several rapid shots. While both flashes support Flash Exposure Compensation up to +/- 3 stops, the 580 supports Flash Exposure Bracketing (next three shots will fire at 3 different power levels. While both flashes can behave as a remote/slave flash in a multi-flash configuration (communicating via built-in infrared), ONLY the 580 can work as the primary/master flash unit (I sometimes run a 2nd flash as a side-light to soften harsh shadows when shooting with straight-on flash -- typically when shooting outdoors and there is no ceiling to bounce OR when indoors but the ceiling isn't practical for bouncing. While both the 430 and 580 have slide out wide-diffusers, the 580 also has a slide-out bounce/catch-light card. The 430 handles up to 9 AF focus points (suitable for most any EOS "Rebel" series camera), while the 580 can handle up 45 AF points (suitable for any EOS camera). The 580 supports multi-strobic mode in which you define the frequency (flashes per second) and quantity (how many total flashes) and power level. It's useful for photographing an action shot where you'd like to capture a subject, say an athlete, in multiple positions within a single exposure. The 430 doesn't have it's own multi-strobic mode but if used as a slave, a multi-strobic master can order a 430 to fire repeatedly. The batteries will last longer on the 430 than on the 580 (on average, nearly twice as long) but then the 580 has more power/range and recycles about twice as fast as the 430. I've never had the 580 kill a set of fresh batteries in a full evening of shooting, but if your'e using it heavily, can can get an external battery pack (made either by Canon or by 3rd parties) for the 580. There is no socket for an external battery pack on the 430 (although there are 3rd parties who make an insert pack shaped as a cluster of the four AA batteries with a wire leading to a battery pack you wear over the shoulder or clipped to a belt -- but this requires cutting a hole in the battery door. Physically, the 580 is about 1-1/4" taller (with flash head pointed straight up) is about 1/4" wider and 1/4" thicker.

The bottom line: I like and still use both flashes. Neither is a slouch. Neither has given me any grief or reason to complain. These flashes are made for slightly different target audiences. The 580 has more capabilities. If you're using a Canon EOS "Rebel" and you're not using your camera for professional work, then the 430 is probably more than enough for your needs. If you're using a high-end EOS (non-Rebel), doing professional work, need more power/range, faster recycling speeds, and the abilities to run multiple flashes, then you'll probably want the 580 and I don't think you'll be disappointed with it. It costs more, but it's worth the extra if you plan to use it for the additional features it provides.
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on August 3, 2007
Like many photographers I used my 430EX as a flash, not a lighting tool. I set it to ETTL and fired away.

After buying Gary Fong's WhaleTail flash defuser I viewed the training CD that was included and my eyes were opened to the creative potential of on camera flash as well as master slave lighting.

I obviously required an additional unit and the 580EX II seemed to be the perfect choice.

Powerful, feature rich, totally compatible with my Canon 30D, and rugged.

With a guide number of 190 it produces all the light I will require. Fast, silent recycling, power on in .2 seconds, powerful AF assist and almost perfect exposure every shot.

I use lithium-ion batteries to both hold the weight down and keep the recycling speed as fast as possible without resorting to an external power pac.

One work of advise, read the manual. There is so much the 580EX II can do you need to use the manual extensively at first. One of the advantages of digital photography is you can experiment as much as you need to without wasting anything.

The 580EX II gives you a studio lighting tool with none of the bulk and weight.

Oh, yes. The 480 as a slave is a perfect partner.
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VINE VOICEon August 28, 2008
Bigger is not always better. The more you pay for a piece of camera equipment does not necessarily mean you will get more out of it than a less expensive alternative. These are two axioms that I wish I could learn someday, but I guess some lessons have to be learned the hard way.

This is a great flash, don't get me wrong. It's a 5 star flash--if it is what you need. I bought this thinking it was what I needed but as it turns out it is too big and too powerful for me. It is extremely large, powerful, and top-heavy. I sold it back on the used market and picked up a 430ex which comes in at almost half the price. The 430ex is also around half the weight/size but still packs a good 60-80% wallup of the 580ex II. For me, this has been ideal. The 430ex provides enough flash but not too bright, and it isn't top-heavy or attention-grabbing like the gigantic 580ex II.

If you are going to be photographing celebrities, people who are far away from your camera, or other situations which call for a very powerful flash then this is the flash for you. If you are looking for more of a wedding or cocktail party flash, then I believe the 430ex is the flash. It is hard to tell from the pictures just how different the sizes of the two flashes are, so I didn't know the 430ex was such an ideal size compared to the 580ex II.

While I can't say anything bad about this flash, just take another hard look at the 430ex unless you know you need some serious flash-power.
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on June 16, 2007
Very powerful. Possibly the best flash I ever owned, but you better read the instruction manual carefully. This is not a flash that you can just guess. I been experimenting for a week I am possibly 50% into it (not sure). I use it on top of my EOS5D mounted on a BG-E4 battery grip, with a EF 24-105 mm EF f/4 L IS. This whole setup is heavier than a cow, but I like it heavy.

For starters, I got my 580EX II stacked on the master flash for a multi-flash setup setting. It took me two days to get it back to a single flash shooting mode. Evidently, it would take only 10-15 minutes if you know what you are doing and you know what to look for.

Second, I got the mounting lock swivel in the stuck position. I think I waited until the next morning to figure out how to release the flash from the camera. At night time, under low light conditions you will never see the extra release buttom.

Third, all automatic modes work just fine if you like to be in the hands of somebody else making decisions for you. Not my style. When the flash is set in the ETTL mode with the camera set in auto or P, it gives me too low of a shutter speed, 1/60 sec, and the minimum f value, f/4.0. In my view, these setting are useless. My preferred mode is ETTL in the flash, and camera set to manual mode at 1/125 sec at f/8 or higher. Now you are really in control to get a good image. You can now also play with flash exposure compensation, and I think you will be much happier. I do not care about discharging the batteries faster. I only care about getting the best image I can get.

In general, setting the flash to ETTL and controlling everything else from the EOS5D gives me the best results. I am glad my camera allows me to do that. And, I love the full frame capability I get with the 5D, I don't have to guess what is the real focal length at which I am shooting. It is my strong belief, all cameras should be full frame. I do not believe the cameras should become any heavier because of that. If any, the weight increase should be in the order of a few grams max.

All automatic modes would be pretty good for outdoors fill in flash photography, something that I have not tried yet.

Fourth, you better make sure you leave the wide angle frosted flash cover tucked in. Even if its is "barely" out, the flash will get stuck in 14 mm lens setting. The focal lens automatic adjustment will not work anymore. It took me about an hour to figure out what was wrong.

My only complain is that I get vigneting (or 4 dark corners) when I shoot with a focal lens of 24 mm. Placing the 14 mm flash cover solves this problem almost completely.

Other features like flash bouncing work very well. This flash is very powerful. I can get pretty decent shots even standing 30 ft away from the subject under minimum ambient lighting conditions.

All in all the 580EX II is a wonderful flash, I would recommend it to anyone. But you have to study it pretty carefully to get it to do what you want to see in you photos. In a way, it becomes a challenge to figure it out who is the smartest, you or the flash. I believe I am winning so far.
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on October 20, 2007
I had heard many good things about this flash while waiting for this flash to become available (and the price to come down :O).

My expectations were exceeded. This flash unit is very robust and confidence inspiring. A metal foot finally, with a twist-lock that holds it totally securely to the top of the camera, yet removes in less than a second when you want to take it off. Excellent build everywhere, recharges nearly instantly, great oomph of course.

It is totally silent which means no curious head turning just before you're about to get the money shot. The flash head twists easily and quickly in every direction to do wall or ceiling bounces for vertical shots.

I have had many Canon and other flash units over the years, but today this is the one to get. If you shoot with a flash regularly, scrimp on something else and get this one, you will not regret it.

Its high light output makes many otherwise impossible shots possible, especially with wall/ceiling bounce or with a Gary Fong C4 Lightsphere which is often my favorite combo.

This flash unit also has a lot of features that work with newer Canon DSLRs. Autozoom (from 14mm) is old now, but how about the flash sending its current color temperature to the (high-end) camera body as it is recharging to full? That makes for perfect color balance even in ultra-fast shooting.

And there is lots more, such as a choice of flash metering from the lens focus distance setting or based on reflection from the subject.

I haven't seen any other flash unit at any price that can compete with this puppy, and I looked quite carefully before spending this amount of money.
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on May 30, 2007
I purchased a 5D w/24-105 IS L-series lens in December. I decided to get the Canon because I have an older Elan (film) camera and several EF lenses. Then, I decided I would need a flash, which the 5D does not have. Before I could order the 580 EX, I got wind of the upgraded 580 EX II and decided to wait. And wait I did. Finally, as I was cruising the Net for any dealer with one in stock, I stumbled across one at B&H. I called them and they confirmed availability and shipped one immediately. I've had it for about two weeks, now.

The construction is pretty solid, but the slide out wide angle lens and the catch light reflector will require special care. The catch light feature really works when you bounce flash and the unit puts out enough light that bounce will work in places where lessor units would not. The swivel head makes bounce a really viable option because it not only tilts but swivels. Once you see how natural portraits look with the bounce, I doubt you'll use direct flash again.

In the future, I plan to add at least 2 slave flash units to this primary unit, which is another reason I chose the 580. I am used to lighting for video and film, so consider key, fill and backlight absolutely necessary for professional results. I'd like to add background lights as well and the 580 should make that easy to do.

Incidentally, the 580's modeling light works just fine and is bright enough to be seriously useful only it makes me nervous because I wonder if it can be easily over-used, possibly damaging the unit. I need to check on that.

The fact is, I have just scratched the surface of the capabilities of the 580 and therein lies both it's beauty and it's drawback. It simply is capable of doing so many things (like the 5D), that a user will have to spend a lot of time reading and experimenting. Also, I fear that if the camera and flash are not used a lot, that users will forget how to use even the simple functions.

Frankly, unless you plan to use the unit frequently and for generally professional work, you may not need this much technology. A simpler camera with built-in flash may be a better choice for the more "casual" user. Also, when combined with the 5D full frame sensor body (read heavy), and the relatively large IS L-series zoom lens, the flash adds a lot of weight to an already heavy package. I was really surprised at how much lighter my friend's new D20 was when he came to visit this weekend, even wih a zoom lens attached. I will have to comment, however, that after shooting at a car show burnout event, that people move out of the way for you, because the package won't be mistaken for "amateur". Sometimes that's handy!

So far, the unit has performed flawlessy, however, I've discovered that once "manual" zoom has been selected, it is not easy to get it back in "automatic" mode again. The owner's manual does not explain how to accomplish this, saying only that the unit will go into auto zoom mode if it is used on a compatible camera. There may be some easy way to do that, but I had to temporarily remove the batteries to get the unit to return to default mode (and auto zoom). After about 3 hours of no success trying to figure out the right combination of button pushing to get it to do so with no luck, I was about to assume that the unit was not functioning properly, but as with much of today's technology it was...USER ERROR!
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on October 30, 2007
I have a rebel XT and three non-L lenses, the 75-300, 50 1.8, and the 17-85 IS. I have read all over that a good flash is better than any two or three lenses. I now see what they mean. I was always "happy" not "ecstatic" with the pictures I had taken in the past. (Close to 30,000 on this body BTW) I always shied away from using the on board flash because it is so AWFUL when it comes to quality. This lead me to using the larger apertures on the lenses I have, and the higher ISO settings to get the exposure I want. Well, lenses aren't at their sharpest when full open. Enter 580EXII. Set it on manual exposure, dial in 100 ISO, 1/100 f8 and shoot away. This gets the lenses comfortably into the middle of their aperture range for their peak sharpness. This also gets you to your lower ISO ranges where the (Already Low) sensor noise is minimized. It is a thing of beauty. I took it on out first Disney cruise, and in a variety of conditions it excelled. I can almost believe there is a little professional photographer inside there making sure my exposure is correct every time. The bounce flash works like a charm. Any time there is a ceiling within 12 feet or so, it will work beautifully. Only issue I have seen is bizarrely decorated ceilings with lots of wood and figuring (think Disney ship level of decorations) or blacked out ceilings. These both can cut the reflection level to a point of uselessness. The bounce reflector does a good job of setting up a catch light. I am thoroughly amazed by the small nuclear detonation that this flash puts out with a +3 flash exposure set. I have no doubt to its power claims. the focusing aid is almost worth the price alone. I can take a picture in thee FULL dark, with no epileptic flashing from the on-board flash, with instant focusing lock and perfect exposure. Incredible. I have not had a chance to use any of the advanced stuff like the wireless, external battery supply, or PC cord.

First one isn't really a problem, it is a big flash. You knew that going into this, but there is no denying that it is a big flash. If you are used to holding the camera by the zoom/focus ring on your lens while carrying, it is going to flop around from the weight of the flash.
Does not degrade well when the batteries get low. It has no visible battery meter either. It just starts behaving erratically. Not flashing, not going into ETTL mode. It would be nice if it just shut off, or flashed the word "battery" or something on the LCD
If you plan to use the custom functions, you better have the manual handy because they are labeled "Custom Function 5" and that is all the help you get on what it does.

Overall, I LOVE this flash.

Update: 8/31/2010
Guess what? This flash is not gravity proof! While at a photo shoot, a rogue gust of wind tipped the light stand and umbrella with flash over onto concrete. No flashie anymore. I opened it up to see what had happened. The bulb had snapped in half. I think to myself, buy new bulb, internet is a big place.... Alas, no. The 580EXii does not have a replaceable bulb, it is soldered in place, and not for sale. Ahh well, a $120 trip back to canon resolved the issue. I must say they were very fast about it.

I still LOVE the flash. I have had the occasion to use its wireless functionality with other canon 580EXii's and it works pretty well.. Full ETTL control. You have to be a little careful about getting them to see each other, and the range is only 30 feet or so out in the sun. Its a LOT cheaper than a whole set of pocket wizards, and more reliable than "pocket change wizards" (ebay wireless triggers)

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