The Canon 580EX mk II is Canon’s flag ship flash unit, and as such it offers next to all the bells and whistles also a powerful manual mode. This is exactly the focus of the following review: how does it behave in a strobist setup? How easy is it to set the manual mode? Does it work with Cactus or Yongnuo radio triggers? The answers can be found here.
- manual mode
- has manual mode: yes
- minimum manual power: 1/128
- all full stops from 1/1 to 1/128: yes
- X contact firing: yes
- flash standby mode: can be deactivated
I tested triggering with Yongnuo RF-602 as well as Cactus V4 – and (certainly) found no problems. It’s a minor issue that the “On” switch on the 602 receiver sits in a position that is impossible to reach when the massive Canon flash is mounted – the red cover of the AF-assist light is blocking the finger. Exactly the same holds true for the Cactus V4 receiver – the flash is blocking the On/Off switch. I don’t think however that this poses a real problem, it’s more something like an inconvenience.
There is also a PC port with a screw lock (threaded) and a nice rubber cover. If I’m not wrong, then this is the first Canon flash ever to have a synch socket (apart from the 480EG if equipped with a special synch cord). There are no simple optical slave modes that could be used together with non-ETTL flash units. But the 580EX-II is integrated into Canon’s wireless E-TTL system, and there it can be both a master or a slave flash.
Its locking pin fits perfectly into the RF-602 receiver, and although it is a monster on that little thing, it makes a solid impression even when mounted on a lightweight stand (I use LumoPro LP604).
The Canon 580EX II offers an 8 stop range from 1/1 down to 1/128 with all third stops in between (not like Nikon, where there are no stops between full and half power, only from 1/2 -.03 downwards). This is exactly the same range you get with the Yongnuo YN-468, but the canon model has more power – see below for output specs.
To enter manual mode, just press the “mode” button, and the 580EX-II toggles through all of its modes, which are “ETTL”, “multi” and “M” (there are more modes to select from, e.g. multi = stroboscopic mode, or an “A” auto mode, but not thru the “mode” button). To set a power level in “M” mode, just press the pretty tiny “Sel/Set” button in the middle of the control dial, and turn the wheel until you’re at the desired level. You can now press “Sel/Set” again to stop the flashing of the display and lock in the value, but it is set already before, i.e. while it still blinks.
This all works well although in my opinion there are much simpler solutions out there.
Custom function 01 activates or deactivates the standby mode. To change, keep pressing the “LCD illumination/C.Fn.” button for about 3 seconds, until the display shows “Fn 01 0″. Pressing “Sel/Set” in the middle of the command dial leads to the “0″ flashing, and now you can change this into a “1″ by turning the dial. With standby active (this is setting “0″), sleep mode is entered within 1.5 to 15 minutes of inactivity according to the handbook, and the flash wakes up with a halfway press of the shutter release.
On my sample of the 580EX II, standby happened after 1:26 minutes, and this is definitely too fast for a real life photo session.
With Yongnuo RF-602 attached, standby is entered too (after 1:29 minutes), but halfway pressing the transmitter wakes up the strobe, just like halfway pressing the camera shutter release. With Cactus trigger mounted the flash falls into standby as well, but it’s not possible to wake it up again with the transmitter, so you have to press the pilot button on the flash unit itself. Or – and this is the better idea anyway – de-activate the standby mode on the 580EX II.
There is one release button on the right side of the flash head to enable swivel and tilting. The 580Ex II has an unusually wide swivel area as it can cover a full circle from -180 to +180 degrees. This is especially useful when mounted in the hot shoe for bounce flash.
Together with a light stand there are normally other options to turn your flash to one side or another. For this scenario, the -7 degree tilt is useful as it allows to aim better at the center of an umbrella, especially since the 580EX mk2 is a pretty big unit. Tilting up goes to +90 degrees.
The zoom reflector can be set automatically or by hand. The rather wide range covers 24 to 105mm, and coverage extends down to 14mm with the wide angle diffuser folded down.
If mounted on camera, the zoom head automatically takes sensor size into account and adjusts the zoom accordingly. In non-direct flash mode, the zoom reflector goes into the 35mm position and does not zoom with the lens.
Guide number is stated as 58m at ISO 100 but this is at the 105mm setting. Canon does not tell us what the guide number is at the 35mm focal length used here on this site for comparison. photonotes.org lists the guide number as 36 at 35mm. Nikon SB-800 is a bit higher with 38, Nikon SB-900 is a bit lower with 34 (all in meters).
I measured 3.0 seconds with 4 eneloop NiMH batteries, and 3.8 seconds with fresh Duracell AA alkaline batteries. This is faster than what’s stated in the handbook, where you find 5 seconds recycle time with alkalines.
Apart from being powered by the 4 internal batteries, there is also an external power pack available: the CP-E4 holds 8 alkaline, NiMH or lithium batteries, and like the flash itself it is dust and weather sealed.
The 580EX II is the current top-of-the-line flash unit in the Canon lineup. The mid range unit is the 430EX II, and the 270EX serves as the entry level model. I used the Canon 580EX II to compare with the Yongnuo 468 E-TTL and manual flash, and it certainly offers a plethora of features the Chines can’t compete with yet, and it also has a lot more power to offer: guide number 36 versus 26 is definitely a difference. But there is also a big difference in price: while you have to invest almost 400$ to get a Canon 580EX II, you can get a YN-468 for only around 110$ on eBay.
Full Tech Specs
|Guide number spec
(35mm, ISO 100, in meters)
|Guide number test result||39|
|Manual power settings||1/1 – 1/2 – 1/4 – 1/8 – 1/16 – 1/32 – 1/64 – 1/128|
|Flash duration (full power)||1/833|
|Recycle time spec
(at full power)
|5.0 sec alkaline|
|Recycle time test result||3.8 sec alkaline, 3.0 sec NiMH|
|Flash foot material, type||metal, standard ISO (Canon)|
|PC Sync Port||yes|
|Other Trigger||wireless TTL slave mode|
|Trigger Voltage||4.49 V|
|Standby Mode||can be deactivated|
|Flash Head Features|
|Swivel||-180 to +180 degrees|
|Tilt||-7 to +90 degrees|
|Manual Zoom Head||(14) 24-105|
|Auto Zoom||(14) 24-105|
|Bounce card / 2nd reflector||yes / no|
|Batteries Used||4 x AA|
|External Power Source||Battery Pack CP-E4|
|CLS Wireless Slave||na|
|CLS Wireless Master||na|
|E-TTL(II) wireless slave||yes|
|E-TTL(II) wireless master||yes|
|Other Flash Modes|
|AF Assist Light||yes (triple beam)|
|Exposure Compensation in TTL Mode on the Flash unit||-3 to +3 EV|
|Rear Curtain Synchronization||yes|
|High Speed Synchronization||yes|
|Sensor Size Detection (DX, FX, etc)||yes|