In-depth Review of Canon Speedlite 320EX Flash and Video Light (a 430EX II alternative)

Canon Speedlite 320 EX mounted on T1i for Speedlights.net flash reviewThe new Canon 320EX (not: ’320EX II’) is the first of a new breed of speedlites providing illumination for photo and video shooting.

And – given the advantages this has – it won’t be the last of its kind.

In this in-depth review the Canon AF speedlite 320 EX gets the opportunity to prove its worth as a photo flash in a series of tests, e.g. for the real output / guide number, and the flash recycling time.

It’s not quite as sophisticated as the established mid-range flash 430EX II which will certainly remain in the lineup: it lacks a zooming flash head with ultra wide angle option, the red AF assist beam, there’s also no LCD screen, and it has less maximum power.

On the other side, the 320 EX still offers what the normal amateur photographer needs to produce good looking light: a tilt and swivel flash head for non-direct (not so ugly-looking) illumination, plus the wireless slave feature to use it remote, outside the camera accessory shoe. And it’s a about $50 less pricey than the rather expensive 430 Mark II.

The additional video light makes it unique among shoe-mount flashes today.

To learn about the video LED performance and to see an example video, go to the respective section below. Another first for Canon flashes is the built-in camera control mode.

In the price range of about $250 for this new flash (May 2011, check e.g. amazon), there are a couple of alternatives to consider when shopping for an external flash. Just keep in mind that none of them has a video light. In addition to the 430EX II mentioned above you might also want to consider the entry-level 270EX II speedlite from Canon.

Canon 320EX vs Metz vs Nissin vs Yongnuo

Then, when it comes to cheap Canon alternatives from third part brands, Metz should be mentioned with the 44 AF-1 and the 50 AF-1. Nissin has the Di622 Mark II, and you might look at their Di866 or Di466 models also. Finally, Yongnuo has a couple of options for you, e.g. the low cost flashes YN-465, YN-467 and YN-468, and especially the upcoming YN-565 which will be the first of their flashes with dedicated Canon wireless slave mode support.

Canon Speedlite 320EX Highlights

  • first photo flash with additional continuous light for video shooting
  • use video LED as alternative modeling light (in addition to conventional flash burst)
  • fully fledged wireless slave mode with 3 groups / 4 channels
  • good maximum power between 24mm and 50mm
  • swivel and tilt flash head for indirect lighting
  • camera remote control feature
  • small and light weight

 

Canon 320 EX Review Contents

New Features
    320EX Video LED Light
    Remote Control Mode
Overview
    Canon Camera Compatibility
    Intro: Flash Modes and Wireless Flash
Build Quality & Features
    Accessories
    Build Quality
    Flash Head Features
    Operation & Ease of Use
    Power Supply
Test Results
    Test: Flash Recycling Times
    Test: 320EX Guide Number
    Speedlights.net Power Index
    Test: Flash Duration
320EX Specifications
    Tech Specs Table
Compared
    Features Compared: 320EX vs 430EX II
    Where To Buy

   

 

Compatible Canon Camera Bodies

Speedlites from Canon don’t have lots of compatibility issues – they are backward compatible with previous generation camera bodies. The 320EX is no exception here: all cameras with E-TTL (this was introduced with the last generations of film-based EOS SLRs) or E-TTL II work with this flash.

When it comes to the movie mode things are even easier. In manual LED mode you can use it with any camera out there – doesn’t even have to be a Canon! The only dedicated video feature is the “auto light” mode, which is supported by 2 camera models to date.
 

Photo flash feature Video light mode
  • Canon EOS camera bodies working with ETTL or ETTL II flash protocol (these are all digital camera bodies, even including the last generations on film based EOS cameras)
  • every Canon model and any other camera with a video mode and a standard ISO hot shoe to mount the 320EX in manual video light mode
  • automatically activates the LED at low ambient light level when used with camera bodies supporting automatic LED light up function; to date, there are 2 models: EOS 1100D = Rebel T3, and EOS 600D = Rebel T3i

 


320EX Video LED Light

320EX single LED video light closeupThe single-LED video light does not impress necessarily from the specifications: the 75 Lux output is not a lot – according to the Sekonic conversion table this equals roughly EV 5. Which means it’s about as bright as a street lantern at night. That’s why Canon also states a usable range of only 1 meter for f5.6 and at ISO 3200 (!) on the instruction manual’s specs page.

But when you first use it you’ll find out that it’s a really cool feature, and the extra photons do have a positive impact on your video footage. There are also some other potential use cases:

The LED can be used as the main light source for taking photos, but it’s extremely underpowered compared to the flash tube: in the left picture below, the Rebel could take the shot with IS 400 and 1/200 seconds at f29 with the 320EX set to full power (in manual mode); in the right picture the video LED brought the camera to all of its limits with ISO 3200 and 1/8 seconds at f5.6.

Canon 320EX review photo test with video LED vs flash

Between IS 400 (flash) and ISO 3200 (LED), that’s already 3 stops. Then, between f29 and f5.6 that’s an additional 5 stops almost. The difference in shutter speeds used adds even more. So, unless at really close distance, the LED is not a viable photo flash replacement. But there is other stuff it is good for.

The LED is a good modeling light, better than the short 1-second strobo-based modeling flash found on regular flashes (the 320EX has that normal modeling light feature as well, it’s actually the standard option, fired with the depth-of-field preview button).

Finally, you can use it instead of a regular flash light, e.g. on your next camping trip or for searching stuff in your photo bag. There are certainly cheaper solutions for this, but a conventional flash is not able to play in that role.

Apart from the rather low output, there are 2 other limiting factors:

  1. there is no option to modify the output energy, e.g. to dim the light down; since this is only 1 single LED lamp the light can only be “on” or “off” completely (on larger LED panels, you can often switch off a part of the lamps to vary the output)
  2. due to its construction, it’s a direct light source shining from close to the optical axis and producing harsh shadows, even more so than the naked flash head itself (since the surface is even smaller than the regular flash lens)

But watch the video to see how it still improves a video scene, despite the limitations it has.
 


 

What you can see there as well is the positive effect when you take it out of the hot shoe and use hand-held at an angle – it clearly adds more depth to the scene.


Remote Control Mode

320EX remote release buttonAnother unique feature (actually shared with the also-new 270EX II) is the remote control shooting mode. To use it simply press on the release knob on the side of the flash – feels like pressing on a shutter release button.

Remote mode can serve two purposes:

  1. use it as a simple camera remote control – works with any Canon body compatible with RC-1, RC-5, RC-6 remote controls (using infrared light; receiving signal through sensor embedded in the camera body’s hand grip)
  2. can be used as a remote flash trigger in conjunction with a master-enabled body (60D, 600D, 7D as of April 2011) or a wireless controller in the camera hot shoe (580EX (II), 550EX, Canon ST-E2, 3rd party flashes with wireless master mode)

It’s important to note that the 320EX is not a wireless master itself. In scenario (2) it can be set to fire off as a slave together with other slave flashes when set to “SLAVE”. If you only want to use it as a trigger but not to fire then simply leave it in the “ON” position.

Canon 320 EX triggering T1i with ST-E2 firing 430EX II and 320EX

Canon 320EX as camera remote firing 430EX II with ST-E2 on T1iFor the demo picture on the right, the following setup was used:

  • Rebel T1i DSLR set to drive mode “Self-timer/Remote control”
  • Canon Speedlite transmitter ST-E2 in the hot shoe (this works also with the Yongnuo ST-E2, btw)
  • 430EX II flash in wireless slave mode
  • 320EX flash in mode “Slave”

As you can see in the picture both flashes fire together after the camera was remote fired via the 320EX camera control mode.


Intro: Flash Modes and Wireless Flash

Flash mode can’t be set on the speedlite itself, but only through the camera menu system. The 320EX has ETTL (II) as its standard exposure mode but you can also use it as a manual flash together with compatible cameras or wireless controllers.

ETTL / ETTL II

Canon 320EX review in E-TTL modeETTL (II) is Canon’s standard flash exposure protocol. It depends on the camera whether the gen 1 ETTL or the current ETTL-II gets used, this can’t be set by the user. However, you can change the characteristic of ETTL II through the camera’s external flash settings menu.

ETTL (II) provides full integration between the camera and the flash so that you don’t have to do anything yourself: the camera decides – depending on the ambient light – if additional flash is needed for proper exposure. If that is the case, it fires the flash at the appropriate output level and shutter speed / f-stop settings.

If you want some level of control you can do some adjustment yourself: there’s a flash exposure compensation to increase or decrease the level of flash, and you can change the flash sync mode from 1st or 2nd curtain sync. The high speed sync option is provided as well.

Manual Flash Mode M

320EX under review in Mode M at min powerManual “M” mode can’t be set on the 320EX – there are no output level switches or indicators, there’s not even an “M” setting on the mode switch itself.

But when attached to the hot shoe of a compatible camera body, the manual mode can be accessed through the camera’s external flash function menu. The 320EX works in a range between 1/1 full power down to 1/64 with all third stops in between.

As a wireless flash it depends on the master if manual mode can be set: with my Rebel T1i and the Canon Speedlite controller ST-E2 I can’t set the manual flash mode (same for the Yongnuo ST-E2) but it should definitely work with the Canon 580EX II and other flashes with a master mode, e.g. the Nissin Di866. If you have more insight please leave me a comment!

320EX As Wireless Flash

320EX group and channel selection remote slave flashThere’s no master mode built into the 320EX, but it is designed to work as a remote slave in Canon’s wireless E-TTL (II) system.

It’s actually the easiest speedlite from Canon when it comes to setting up as a wireless slave: everything’s done with hard switches, it doesn’t get any easier – or any faster – than that. The light sensor is on the front side which is not an ideal location, but that’s where it sits on all Canon flashes traditionally.

Using the 320EX with simple radio based flash triggers such as Yongnuo RF-602, RF-602 or the V3 or V5 triggers from Cactus does not make much sense: due to the lack of a controllable manual mode, it will always fire at full power so you have no control.

Everything should work OK with the (more) expensive TTL-enabled radio triggers – both ETTL and manual mode flash control (to be confirmed).

 

Basic information
Brand Canon
Model 320EX
Class mid-range
Cost (USD) 250
First introduction 2011
Successor none yet
Canon compatibility
Supported Canon flash modes ETTL(II), M
Canon wireless TTL slave / master yes / no
Manual mode
Manual power settings (on the flash) no manual mode

 

Supplied Accessories

Click here for the Canon 320EX ‘unboxing’ video and a quick demo of the flash from the Speedlights.net channel on youtube (ignore the last 3 minutes).
 


 

The Canon 320EX comes with the following set of accessories (all shown in the video):

  • the flash with GN 24 at 24mm and 35mm (tested GN is almost 27.9 even)
  • blue warranty card
  • semi hard case
  • mini flash stand
  • instruction manual
  • additional leaflet about using LED light

The semi hard case has thick padding to protect against shocks. It’s a high quality product and comes with an additional inner pocket for the flash stand but no belt loop on the back (no Canon flash case has that). It’s basically just a smaller version of the 430EX II and 580EX II flash cases.

The mini stand is almost, but not 100% the same as the 430EX II stand: thick, solid and heavy plastic with nice surface, however this stand is made in Taiwan (not Japan), same as the whole 320EX that also has a “made in Taiwan” marking.

The instruction manual covers using the flash, video light and remote control features on 48 (English) pages; the additional leaflet about the video light reads: “when battery power is low, the LED light may not turn on even if the flash-ready lamp is lit”.

Build Quality

With the 320EX Canon have released a second mid-range flash, positioned below the 430EX II when it comes to its photo features. I don’t think that the build quality of the 430EX II is that great, and therefore had some concerns about the new, and slightly cheaper speedlite under review here.

320 EX and Canon 430 EX II

Casing

The 320EX is a tad smaller and a bit lighter (275g vs 320g) than the 430 series – this is mostly due to the simplified flash head design. Compared to some other flashes it appears even smaller, e.g. the Yongnuo YN-468 (far left), or the Nissin Di-622 mk 2 (far right).

Yongnuo 468 Metz 48 AF-1 320 EX Canon 430 II Nissin Di622 Mark II

When it comes to the quality of the build it does not have to hide: the unit feels well made and dependable, it’s carefully assembled and (apart from the flash head in horizontal direction) there’s not the slightest play in anything.

Flash Foot

The flash foot is made of metal and a bit redesigned versus the 430EX II (picture left): it is more rounded and the pins are not cone shaped but resemble small barrels. The layout is certainly the same with the center x-sync pin and the additional 4 TTL pins to allow communication with a camera body.

Speedlite 320EX review - metal flash foot

There’s a quick release / lock lever on the back of the base with additional safety button and the mechanism also pushes down a plastic plate to lock the flash in the accessory show, in addition to actuating the safety pin in the foot. The flash is snug in the accessory shoe with only a tiny bit of rotation when moved around with the hand.

The flash has no PC sync port and no connector for external power.

Flash Head

The 320EX has a smaller flash head than most other speedlites as can be seen in the photo below.

320EX with small flash head compared to Yongnuo Canon Nissin Metz

The compact size comes at the cost of a fixed 24mm coverage for full frame DSLRs / 15mm for EF-S cameras, e.g. EOS Rebel models such as the 600D. The front screen is also a bit smaller than comparable flashes, and above all more rounded.

Adjustment

270 degrees Swivel and 90 degree Tilt Head on 320 EX FlashAdjusting the flash head is easy: simply move it out of the center position, there’s no flash head lock on the side of the head.

The flash head snaps nicely into the 60, 75, and 90 degrees position when turned to the right.

Towards the left it allows a full 180 degrees rotation so that the total horizontal adjustment area is 270 degrees.

In the vertical axis the maximum is 90 degrees = straight upward. There’s no close-up position with negative tilt.

Wide Angle Coverage

The 320EX comes without a snap-on bouncer / diffuser, and given the special shape of the flash lens it will also require a special design to get one released by third parties. A wide-flash panel is also not implemented, and there’s no bounce / reflector card / catch-light panel either (the small flash head would not allow inclusion of either).

That’s why the 24mm (full frame) / 15mm (for Rebel bodies and other EF-S EOS cameras) coverage is really the minimum unless you bounce the light off from a ceiling or use modifier such as an umbrella or soft box which give you a wider light spread. But this is certainly no problem when shooting with the 18-55 mm kit lens which is fully covered.

(since there is no wider coverage than 24mm the usual speedlights.net light fall-off test was not performed for this unit).

No Auto Zoom but Additional 50mm Reflector Position

Simply pull out the entire front section of the flash head to manually “zoom” to a 50mm coverage position. The camera detects this “tele” setting (as can be seen from the camera menu) but it can’t move the flash head itself, this is something the user has to do with his hand. Don’t forget to push the head back for wide angle shooting or heavy vignetting will occur.

Operation

This flash is very easy to use and falls into the emerging category of “no frills” speedlite products similar to Nissin Di622 Mark II and Metz 44 AF-1. It doesn’t have all the features found on other flashes but it’s really much easier to use.

Simple Controls, no LCD Panel

320EX Review Power SwitchOn the back of the flash you find 5 control elements: 4 sliders and one button, all made of hard plastic and all with a good and tight fit. On the right side of the flash body there’s one more button for the camera remote feature (see photo further above). All controls have a good size and overall the flash is super easy to use and a joy to handle.

On/Off is located on the bottom left and implemented as a slider with 3 positions. You can turn the flash on, or set it to the “Slave” position. As a slave it still can be used in the camera hot shoe (the flash foot does not lock up) but you’ll eventually want to switch over to “On” to stop the flashing slave indicator LED that will irritate people.

On the bottom right you find the switch for the video light. Here you can toggle between manual mode and auto light mode (not supported by the Rebel T1i used for testing). In mode “M” you turn on the light source by pressing the light button for about 1 to 2 seconds – it takes a bit longer to react, probably a safety measure against unwanted activation.

The 2 sliders at the top are used for setting the slave group and remote channel. The 320EX is not downgraded here: it gives you the full range of A-B-C group selection plus channels 1-2-3-4.

320EX Review Tele Reflector Setting LightFinally, in the center left there’s the TELE indicator for the 50mm flash lens position: when the flash head is pulled out you see an orange light there. If the light is flashing that’s to warn you about insufficient coverage with a wide angle lens.

When used with the EF-S based T1i with the small sensor, the flashing stops at the 32mm lens position: from that point on the 50mm reflector fully covers the lens (50mm / 1.6 = 31.25mm).

The last light indicator is the red flash ready lamp. It has no embedded “test flash” button, which means there’s no way to fire a flash with the unit alone and unmounted. If you just need some light, simply use the the video lamp.

Customization

320 EX flash review - custom features screen on Rebel cameraThere is no custom functions setting on the flash, but you can do some feature tweaking through the camera menu: there are 3 auto-power off settings plus the quick-flash feature that can be adjusted.

Power Supply

Canon’s new 320-EX runs on AA 4 batteries (alkaline or NiMH can be used) which provide up to 4 hours of video light or 180 full-power flashes according to the specifications from Canon.

320 EX takes 4 NiMH eneloop or alkaline batteries

Battery handling is easy: slide down the battery cover which then automatically swings open supported by a spring loaded mechanism similar to the 580EX II. There’s a sticker with large polarity icons in the compartment, and each of the cells has it’s own slot. The whole construction is of high quality and very user friendly which makes changing the batteries really a breeze.

Test: Flash Recycling Times: 2.3 sec / 3.3 sec

Modern flashes have full-power recycle times between 2 and 6 seconds, depending on their maximum power and battery type. Speedlights.net recycle times are tested according to ISO 2827; see details.

Official flash recycling time is a fast 2.3 seconds according to Canon. Interestingly the handbook does not specify if this is the average for alkaline or NiMH batteries. But that’s what the recycling times testing is for so let’s simply find out.

As you can see in the video it’s really pretty fast with eneloop NiMH cells and the average is exactly 2.3 seconds, but with the Duracell alkalines (fresh from the packaging, charged at 1.614 Volts) recycling time is above 3 seconds – the ISO-average is 3.3 seconds to be precise.
 


 

What’s weird is that sawtooth pattern in the curve for NiMH eneloops – I haven’t seen this with another flash yet. My thought was that (1) I made some error with the calculations but that doesn’t seem to be the case after I checked. Please feel free to use the video to prove me wrong.

Flash Recycling Time Canon Speedlite 320EX Review

So I thought that maybe (2) it doesn’t fully discharge the capacitor with every 2nd flash, but that’s not the case either. The flash meter shows the exact same output for every burst in the series.

So what is this then? Maybe the overheating protection starting to kick in?

Flash Output and Guide Number Testing

The guide number (GN) of an electronic flash is a measure of the maximum light output – visit the test details page to learn more.

Official Specification GN 32 (@50mm)

All flashes are tested using the same standardized method using a Sekonic flash meter in a controlled environment. Speedlites are never tested alone, but always together with re-tests of other models to guarantee consistent results between sessions.

Canon advertises the flash under review as GN 32, but that’s the output for the 50mm position of the flash head. To allow comparisons between flashes all Speedlights.net guide numbers are stated at 35mm. For that focal length the 320EX reaches a guide number of 24 (meters) with the flash meter reading of f16 plus 6/10. It’s the same guide number for 35mm as for 24mm due to the fixed flash reflector unable to zoom, apart from the 50mm “tele” position.

Guide Number Table

The calculated guide number is obtained by adding exactly 1 f-stop to the flash meter test results. Learn more about this method on the test details page.

The flash outperforms its specs pretty clearly, just like the other Canon speedlites 430EX II and 580EX II tested before here on speedlights.net. Instead of 24 meters it reaches a strong 27.9 at 24mm, which makes it almost as powerful as the bigger brother 430EX II for that specific flash lens position.

Canon 320EX guide number test review

For the 50mm setting a calculated GN of 35.5 can be achieved, which is now clearly less than what you get with the 430 (has tested GN of 39.4). The 430EX mk2 has then its maximum GN at 105mm with GN 48.5 in the test – for the 320 EX there’s no more zooming after the 50mm position.

Speedlights Power Index

The light blue bar in the Speedlights.net Power Index shows the official 35mm-GN, and the dark blue bar indicates the test results. Go to the test details page for more information on the Speedlights.net Power Index.

Speedlights.net digital TTL flash power index

The entry-level flashes 270EX and 270EX II have not been reviewed yet. On paper, they reach a guide number of 22, so they’re a bit lower than the 320 EX. Go here to compare the specs for Canon 270EX II and 320EX.

Continuous Shooting Output

The normal guide number test process requires a 60 seconds waiting time between the shots, which is certainly not how you’re using the flash.

To test the continuous shooting power a rapid series of full power flashes gets fired. For this minimum recycle time scenario the guide number is then determined.
 

Model Calc. guide number at 60 sec wait Calc. guide number at continuous fire Difference in f-stops
Nissin Di866 40.8 34.3 -5/10
Canon 580EX II 39.4 34.3 -4/10
Nissin Di622 Mark II 36.8 32.0 -4/10
Canon 430EX II 34.3 26.0 -8/10
Canon 320EX 27.9 23.4 -5/10
Yongnuo YN-468 20.4 19.0 -2/10

 
All speedlites lose some power in rapid fire. Powerful flashes tend to lose more, while weaker flashes like the YN-468 have a smaller decrease. With a half stop the 320EX achieves an average result in this discipline.

Flash Duration

Flash duration is the time between the beginning of the flash and the end of the light emission. Go to the speedlite test methodology page for information on t0.5 versus t0.1 flash durations and the method used here on the site.

Canon 320EX Flash Duration Compared

Flash duration was measured only for the full power output level since the flash offers no partial steps on the speedlite (only through the camera menu). With 1/325 sec the result for t0.1 flash duration is in the expected area – albeit a tad longer than for the slightly more powerful 430EX-II.

Model flash duration spec at 1/1 power (sec) t0.1 metering result (sec)
Nissin Di622 Mark II 1/800 1/375
Canon 430EX II unspecified 1/350
Metz 48 AF-1 1/125 1/230
Canon 320EX unspecified 1/325
Yongnuo YN-465 1/800 1/375
Yongnuo YN-468 1/800 1/405
Yongnuo YN-467 1/800 1/405

 

Tech Specs

The following table now lists a complete set of specifications for the new photo-video speedlite from Canon and compares them with the results from the testing for the review.
 

Model Information
Brand Canon
Model 320EX
First introduction 2011
Successor none yet
Output Specs
Guide number spec
(35mm, ISO 100, in meters)
24
Guide number test result 27.9
Manual power settings no manual mode
Flash duration (full power) unspecified
Recycle time spec
(at full power)
2.3 sec
Recycle time test result 3.3 sec alkaline, 2.3 sec NiMH
Triggering
Flash foot material, type metal, standard ISO (Canon)
PC Sync Port no
Optical Slave no
Other Trigger wireless TTL slave mode
Trigger Voltage 4.45 V
Standby Mode configurable (C.Fn-01)
Flash Head Features
Swivel -180 to +90 degrees
Tilt 0 to +90 degrees
Manual Zoom Head 24 + 50
Auto Zoom 24 + 50 (no auto zoom)
Bounce card / 2nd reflector no / no
LCD Display no
Power Supply
Batteries Used 4 x AA
External Power Source no
Nikon TTL
D-TTL na
i-TTL na
CLS Wireless Slave na
CLS Wireless Master na
Canon TTL
E-TTL(II) yes
E-TTL(II) wireless slave yes
E-TTL(II) wireless master no
Other Flash Modes
Stroboscopic Mode no
Auto Mode no
TTL Features
AF Assist Light yes (flash tube / LED in live view)
Exposure Compensation in TTL Mode on the Flash unit no
Rear Curtain Synchronization yes
High Speed Synchronization yes
Sensor Size Detection (DX, FX, etc) no
Modeling Light yes

 

Features Compared: 320EX vs 430EX II

Which flash should you buy for your Canon camera body: the new speedlite 320EX, or the slightly more expensive 430EX II?

320 EX review Back panel no LCD

The following table provides an overview of key feature differences between the 2 mid-range flash offerings from Canon, the established 430EX II vs the new speedlite 320EX. Go to the 320-EX vs 430-EX II comparison page for detailed information.
.
 

Main advantage Speedlite 320EX Main advantage Speedlite 430EX II
  • extra LED light for video shooting
  • easier to set up wireless slave mode
  • built-in camera remote control
  • dedicated dual beam AF assist light
  • suitable for “strobist” photography
  • more power, esp. with tele zoom lenses
  • auto zoom flash head
  • ultra wide angle coverage from 14mm (full frame)

 
In summary you can say that the 430 is the more capable camera flash, but only the 320EX has the additional option for video lighting.

The 320EX is not made for professionals – the Canon 580EX II is made for that target audience. But for the average user the 320 EX does 90% of what the 430EX II is doing as a photo flash. The biggest downside vs the 430EX II is probably the flash-pulse based bright white AF assist light (“disco light”) that can be quite annoying over time.

Where to Buy

Get the new Canon 320EX from amazon or Adorama. It helps maintaining and expanding this website if you buy through these links. Thank you for your support!

Check also the prices on eBay where you don’t only find the current 320EX but also older and used speedlites from Canon.

Please use the comments to post questions and add your own insight and experience.


This entry was posted in Canon, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to In-depth Review of Canon Speedlite 320EX Flash and Video Light (a 430EX II alternative)

  1. Royston says:

    Hi, i’m an amateur user of canon 500d, and recently I purchase a canon 100mm macro lens to explore. I find that lighting is important when it comes to macro photography. Therefore, i’m considering getting a flash and 320ex seems to be a good choice with the led light that will be useful to macro shots? The 1m range is more than enough. What do you think?

    Regards,
    Royston

    • Speedlights says:

      Hi Royston

      I’m not a macro expert but the flash gives you a couple of options so it could be a good choice. One advantage is that it can be used wireless for full control over the lighting angle as well as direction, and that holds true for both flash and continuous light. There is no intensity control for the LED so you’ll need to play with the subject distance or camera ISO settings, but that’s a general LED problem pretty much. I’d also try to find some more info from more experienced macro photographers than I am myself. Frank

      • Royston says:

        Hi Frank,
        Thanks for your reply.

        I see that you mention that I can use the ex320 as a wireless flash. Is my 500D capable of doing that alone? Or do I need a transmitter or master flash?

        I’m deciding between 430 ii & 320.
        From your review on the comparison between these two flashes, I understand that 430 is a better flash in terms of functionality, but its size & weight seems to be abit too much to use as an on-camera flash on my small 500D. I like the size & weight of 320. It is a better choice for an on-camera flash. I somehow feels that the led light might be a good option when it comes to macro photography, though there is a possibility of harsh shadows forming. The led light can also double as a light source to se arch for bugs! But the downside of 320 is that it uses ‘disco light’ for AF assist. This is not a problem for objects but a problem for living things – spook off bugs & irritating for people.

        I’m looking for a general use flash, could you advise me further?

        Regards,
        Royston

  2. GregR says:

    Royston,

    Your 500D doesn’t have built-in wireless-flash control, so if you want to use the flash remotely (off-camera), you’d need to either use them as dummy optical slaves, get an off-camera extension cord, or get a controller (ST-E2 or 580EX II or whatnot). for macro, you’re probably going to want to have the flash off-camera due to lens-subject distance and also to allow side- / back-lighting of the subject. so, either pony up the coin for a master flash, or rough it with dummy slaves (and in either case, the 320EX isn’t an option).

    actually, i don’t think any of the current Canon flashes can work as dummy optical slaves (which kinda sucks). you either use them on-camera, or only as wireless slaves (which need a master of some sort).

    however, if you ever wanted to upgrade to the Rebel T3i (600D), now is a good time since it has wireless master function built-in! the only recent EOS cameras that have master built-in are 7D, 60D, and 600D/T3i. it’s an alternative to consider (over getting either the ST-E2 or 580EX II)

  3. Royston says:

    Hi GregR,

    Thank you for your reply.
    I would love to have 600D but I have no use for two camera, and my current one is working fine.

    I’m more into shooting life subjects, like insects. It is sort of locate-&-shoot style. I don’t think I will have the time to setup wireless flash. The current standard flash for macro is the ring flash which is solely for macro only. This is impractical for me and not to mention its price.

    I greatly understand that it is impossible to get an all rounded flash, or one that suits all my needs, I’m trying to get one that is best suited for my needs. For now, I’m just an amateur in photography, and a beginner in macro, so I won’t be expecting professional looking photos. I would just like to pursue my interest, and one day, when i’m ready to sink deeper, lots of accessories will be flooding my home!

    so for now, I just need a flash to aid me in my learning process.
    Thanks a milion for all the help and advices!

    Reagrds,
    Royston

  4. ash says:

    Although Canon 320EX and 270EX do not have manual power adjustment switch in the body, it can be used as a Non-TTL off camera flash with adjustable power. The power adjustment have to be done in the menu putting the flash unit on the hotshoe. Now if you take the flash off the hotshoe, the flash will retain the set power and can be fired as Non-dedicated flash.

  5. Will says:

    Hi there – I was all gung-ho about this 320Ex feature set and lighter weight vs 430EX II – but you reminded me at the very end about the pulse-flicker disco light thing…. I wanted the 320EX as a lightweight wedding flash but now it sounds less likely…
    So – I really want a smaller sized flash – are there a few flash options on the market smaller than the 430EX II that would have good features?
    (I look forward to YN coming out with a smaller size similar to the 320EX – hopefully without the pulse-disco-light)

    • Speedlights says:

      Hi Will

      There’s nothing serious out there competing with the 320EX. Polaroid had announced flashes with additional video light, but I would stay away from these. If the video light is less important I would consider the YN468-II but it’s not smaller than a 430EX II.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>