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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 October 7, 2015
I absolutely love this flash and now own two of them ... as well as the ST-E3-RT transmitter. This is the flagship Canon speedlite flash and it's very full-featured.

To have good light you want something that can produce shadows that you can control. No shadows creates a "flat" look, but mild shadows creates some dimensionality to the subject. That means you need to get the flash off the camera so that the light comes from the side.

This flash can either be a "master" to control off-camera speedlite flashes (Canon E-TTL system) or it can be the off-camera remote "slave" flash. It can be configured to communicate either via visible light (optical trigger) or via radio. When it radio mode it is compatible with all Canon speedlite products that have "RT" in the name.... including other 600EX-RT flashes, the ST-E3-RT transmitter and the 430EX III-RT flash.

The head will tilt & swivel to put the light where you want it. It does have a slide out wide-diffuser panel (intended for use when shooting with a very low focal ratio lens) and it also has a slide-out catch-light / bounce card. The bounce card is a bit too small to be very useful (I use the large sized Rogue Flashbender as a bounce surface instead -- it works MUCH better.)

It also includes a gel holder and two gels including a standard CTO (color-temperature orange) gel and 1/4 CTO gel -- these are intended for use when shooting in a mixed lighting situation either with incandescent (tungsten) light bulbs which give off an "orange" like color or when shooting near sunrise / sunset and you want the color of the flash to match the color of the ambient light so you don't have wonky light color problems when you try to establish white balance.

I use the radio technology constantly and I love the rock-solid reliability of the system. The radio triggers fire the flashes EVERY time and since it's a Canon E-TTL system radio, you still have full on-camera control of pretty much every setting on the flash without having to walk over to the flash to change settings.
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on January 11, 2015
There is no question about how good this flash work, it works great as master, slave and covers a wide range. I bought 2, both for $499 each and was planning to buy 2 more to use as slaves to use in my studio, surprisingly (actually not surprisingly, it happens) price went up to $549 (That is why I am giving only 4 stars, otherwise this is a 5 star product), I decided not to buy for that price and researched more on YN-600EX-RT made by YongNuo which is sold at Amazon for $179, and bought one to try. YN product is not equivalent to Canon product, but is the quality difference is 3 times as for the price? NO WAY. On side by side tests, straight mounted on the camera without diffuser, Canon flash produced better pictures (YN wasn't too bad), but when I used as a slave along with other Canon 600EX-rt, it worked fine like the Canon, I used both canon and YN flashes in umbrella setup using YONGNUO YN-E3-RT Flash Speedlite Transmitter to trigger.
Bottom line: Good to have one or two Canon 600EX-RT in your bag, but if you need more, YN-600EX-RT will do the job.
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on July 16, 2015
I love my two Canon Speedlite flashes, which I use sometimes on-camera, and sometimes off-camera with the ST-E2 infrared controller.

All these devices include an autofocus assist beam, which is nice, because my EOS 5D3 and 1D4 bodies do not have flashes or AF lights. Sometimes I use the ST-E2 purely for that feature alone.

Speedlite 580EX II (bought January 2010)

This is a very reliable, easy-to-use flash. It replaced a Speedlite 550EX, which was quite complicated to operate. Unlike the old 550EX, you push in one button and you can tilt and swivel the flash head with ease. The flash recharges quickly and gets lots of shots out of a set of batteries (see note). The flash can act as a master or slave with another Speedlite via infrared; I use it with the SE-E2 below. It’s a bright flash, with a guide number of 190ft. The zoom on this flash is 24-105mm, or 14mm with the extendable panel. I keep this flash in “slave” mode.

The 600 below is much easier to use and more versatile. However, if you can pick up a 580EX II for a good price, it makes a good slave — assuming of course that you’re controlling via infrared. If you might want to go radio frequency, it’s of no use unless you use a Pocket Wizard or some such.

Speedlite 600EX-RT (bought July 2012)

This is the flash I use most often, because it’s slightly brighter, and the automatic zoom has the best range. (Though in practice, I can’t see the difference in brightness compared with the 580EX II.)

Both have the one-button release for tilting and swiveling. Although this flash’s specs say that it’s a little bit brighter than the older model, with a guide number of 197ft, in practice it’s the same. I like the width of the coverage, from 20mm-200mm, with the extendable panel bringing it to 14mm.

The 600EX-RT can work as a master/slave with either infrared or radio frequency. I’m committed to infrared because I have the ST-E2 master (which is infrared, as opposed to the ST-E3 which is radio), and because my other flash is infrared-only. If I were starting over, I’d go radio, because in order to use infrared the “eye” on the slaves has to be able to see the infrared beam from the master. Maybe some day I’ll sell the 580EX II and the ST-E2 and move to a full radio frequency system.

I switch this flash from standalone mode to slave mode, depending on what I’m doing. Fortunately it’s easy to make that change.

Speedlite ST-E2 (bought January 2011)

I use this mainly to control the 580EX II and 600EX-RT flashes, but sometimes use it standalone if I want the autofocus assist light.

HINT: The 580 and 600 flashes work best with lithium AA batteries. You get a lot more flashes than with alkaline batteries. I keep eight of them in my camera bag. The ST-E2 uses a 2CR5 battery, and I keep one spare in my camera bag.

HINT: Both the 580 and 600 flashes have tripod mounting sockets on the side, hidden under rubber covers. Those are really handy! They also come with “feet” with tripod sockets which are good for when you don’t need to use a full tripod.
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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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on June 24, 2016
When they are working, they are superb, but I have had significant reliability issues on the 6 of these I own. At this point, 4 of the 6 do not function at all, and one is looking like its on its way out.

Apart from the durability issues, I find these flashes to be excellent. The focus assist is quick and accurate, the flash tethering is exceptional and convenient, and the controls, while complex, are easy to master. The flash is powerful and the light beam is nice and clean. The construction is pretty rugged.

But, at $500 a pop, having 4 flashes fail in 2 years is unacceptable. I am in the process of working with Canon to determine what may be causing this issue. My guess is undetected overheating that is compromising the circuitry - but I'm no electronics pro.
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on March 3, 2016
Have four of these flashes. Had to have several conversations with Canon about defects and concerns. Hopefully there will be some updates to the new version coming out soon. Like that you can control all other flashes from the one on the camera. Wish they would solve the heating problems. When shooting at 1/8 power, there should be no concern for overheating when needing to shoot rapidly. Pain in the rear to lose connectivity too, however, tech guy did point out another feature that scans available signal strengths. Now they need to make it so that if flashes are already linked, have the primary auto check for the best signal range and auto-update the other linked flashes to the same channel. That would be a great feature in conjunction with the scan feature. Sure hope they address these types of concerns.
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on August 14, 2012
The majority of the photographers I know are Canon shooters, but I have a handful of friends that are Nikon guys. I have envied the superiority of the Nikon strobes over Canon. In my opinion, the 600EX-RT levels the playing field. Here are a few comments from my first impressions of this new strobe:

1. The built-in radio communications seems to work flawlessly, and the connection is almost immediate
2. Adjustment of flash intensity of the various groups is not quite as easy to adjust as it is with a Pocket Wizard AC3, but it's not bad. Once you get the hang of it, it's only slightly slower than using the AC-3
3. Two advantages are 5 groups vs 3 with the AC3 and the backlit display is MUCH easier to see in low-light situations. The AC3 can be almost impossible to see in low-light, and you have to drop the camera down to see the AC3 dials from above, where the 600EX-RT can easily be seen in the dark and while the camera is on a tripod.
4. With no need for separate radio units, you will spend less on your strobe setup, you'll need fewer batteries, and the entire setup will take up less space in your camera bag or Pelican case.
5. The higher cost of the 600EX-RT is less then 1/2 the cost of a Pocket Wizard Mini or Flex.
6. AF assist seems to work WAY better than with the 580EX-II or a 430EX-II and is compatible with the 61-point AF system of my 5d Mark III's.
7. Possible negative: A 600EX-RT or an ST-3 must be on the camera as a transmitter. A 600EX-RT, used as just a transmitter, is much more expensive than a Pocket Wizard Mini or Flex. I find that on-camera flash plus a 2nd on a stand or held by an assistant works well for wedding receptions, so I don't mind the requirement of a flash unit on the camera. You can easily disable the flash of the master unit on the camera and use it just as a transmitter and controller. I find the backlit display to actually be a huge plus.
8. I have no intention of buying an ST-3, as it does not have the AF assist feature and I don't care for the orientation of the screen, which requires viewing from above ala the PW AC3.
9. Since it's a Canon product, there is no requirement to wait for companies to reverse engineer the Canon cameras and strobes to develop functionality. For example, my Mini and Flexes are still not compatible with my new Canon 5D Mark IIIs.

I highly recommend upgrading to the new 600EX-RT, ESPECIALLY if you have a 5D Mark III or a 1D-X
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on October 10, 2015
Love this flash, hated spending this much money on one but I plan to have for years to come, I coupled it with a Yonguo transmitter on my Canon 6D and it works great. If you can afford it go for it!
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VINE VOICEon November 19, 2013
This flash is a winner. I actually have three of them! By using the radio transmission feature of this flash, one can link multiple 600EX-RTs together without needing any optical path between them. That means I can put one on my camera, and the other two in softboxes and like a pocket wizard you can remotely trigger them.

The flash itself is VERY bright and adjustable on the back of the unit, along with adjustable diffusion based on zoom ratio. AF assist beam works perfectly.

I can't really think of any criticism of this device, even the price is fair given the quality and featureset. Highly recommended!
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