Sigma, known mostly as a manufacturer of third party camera lenses, also offers 2 speedlite flashes in versions for Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony. The EF-610 DG Super is their current top model while the EF-610 DG ST – with almost identical name and very similar looks – is a much simpler flash with less advanced feature set.
What sets it apart is the wireless master mode allowing it to control other (slave) flashes in the camera manufacturers’ dedicated remote TTL systems – this clearly is a pro feature. But the EF-610 DG Super lacks other professional features such as an external power supply option, a PC sync port, or an “auto” mode for example. It also does not feel that it would be built tough enough to survive professional use for a long time. That’s at least the clear impression from my unit.
Therefore the flash stands between the usual class definitions of “pro-grade” and “mid-range” flash units. You could label it as an advanced mid-range flash with additional master mode (see picture right for master mode display on the LCD screen). It’s a market segment where you also find the Nikon SB-700 but the Sigma 610 is even lower cost – it’s actually the cheapest wireless-master flash on the market today (among the current models as of October 2011).
Speaking of features: the Sigma EF-610 is well specced; on top of the basic digital TTL support for DSLR cameras it has also the more advanced specs with goodies such as modeling light, high speed sync, wireless slave mode with free channel and groups selection, or a manual mode down to 1/64. Read further below in more detail how it compares to Canon and Nikon flashes.
The EF-610 DG Super represents the 3rd generation of pro-oriented flashes and follows in the foot steps of the 530 DG Super (2007) and the 500 DG Super from 2004 which was the first digital TTL flash from Sigma.
Improvements over EF-530 DG Super
Compared to the 530, the following improvements can be found in the flash: more flash power @35mm with GN 36 (meters) versus 31, and @105 the new GN is 61 compared to GN 53. The one other detail improvement is a reflector card inside the flash head, but this is a minor factor, really.
However not everything stayed the same or got better; according to the specs full power recycling is 1 second slower now with a not-so-impressive 7 seconds for alkaline cells and 5 seconds with NiMH.
But with a guide number of 61 (meters, at 105mm) it’s – on paper – the world’s most powerful shoe-mount flash on the market today, at least among the group of dedicated flashes (i.e. flashes designed for a specific digital TTL system). In an upcoming review this claim will certainly be put to the test.
EF-610 DG Super vs Canon
If classified as a mid-range flash the first feature check against Canon should be done with the Canon 430EX II (about $270). One of the first things you see is more power at Sigma where it stands 36 vs 31 @35mm (in meters, ISO 100), and even 61 versus 43 at tele reflector position of 105mm.
The other clear advantage is the master mode of the Sigma flash to control other remote speedlites. The 430 can act as slave flash but not as a master.
There’s also no simple non-ETTL optical slave mode built into the Canon but the Sigma does have such a feature (known as “S1″ at Yongnuo, or “SF” at Nissin) so that it can be used together with studio flashes without additional trigger.
Advantage EF-610 DG Super vs Canon 430EX II
Smaller Sigma advantages include a bounce card that can be pulled out from the flash head, and the multi flash mode for stroboscopic flash (Canon’s 430EX II can’t be used in strobo mode in the camera hot shoe, only as a remote flash).
The Canon flash, on the other side, has much shorter recycling time, covers from 14mm wide angle with the diffuser panel in front of the flash head (Sigma starts at 17mm), and features a metal flash foot with quick lock design (Sigma comes with a traditional locking wheel).
Another not unimportant advantage is the dual beam AF assist light with wider coverage across the AF points in the frame than the Sigma can offer. And finally, there are more customization options available, e.g. the sensor size detection zoom feature.
Go here for a table with EF-610 DG Super features vs Canon 430EX II
Advantage EF-610 Super vs 580EX II
Compared to the pro flash Canon 580EX II, the only Sigma EF 610 advantage is a slightly higher maximum guide number at the tele zoom position – but there’s really only a very small difference between guide number 61 for the EF-610 Super versus GN 58 for the Canon – you won’t notice in real life. At 35mm wide angle the guide numbers are identical even.
In all other respects, the more expensive Canon is leading: faster recycling; wireless master mode that can be combined with high speed sync therefore allowing the use of all shutter speeds; auto mode; better build quality; 360 swivel flash head; water protection on the flash foot; PC sync; optional power pack – and there is more, e.g. the metal flash foot.
Detailed feature comparison table: EF-610 DG Super features vs Canon 580EX II
EF-610 DG Super vs Nikon
Nikon’s mid-range flash is the SB-700. Just like the EF610 Super it comes with a master mode to control other flashes. To make sure people still buy the expensive SB-900 Nikon decided to take away some of the functionality from the SB-700 however: it can control only 2 groups instead of 3 different ones, and all flashes must be set to the same mode (e.g. all in TTL or all in manual mode). The Sigma flash doesn’t have that limitation.
The guide number battle is even more one-sided than in the Canon 430 comparison mentioned before making the Sigma a clear winner: at 35mm wide angle it’s 36 (Sigma) versus 28 and at maximum zoom it’s 61 compared to 38, even though the Nikon has slightly longer zoom with 120mm (Sigma’s max zoom is 105mm).
Advantage EF-610 DG Super vs Nikon SB-700
Stroboscopic mode is the only other Sigma feature that’s missing on the SB-700 but I think that strobo mode is pretty much useless so this would not be a factor for me.
If you’re shooting analog film (or use a first gen Nikon DSLR such as D1, D100) the situation is clear: the Sigma supports all TTL versions, from film-based TTL over D-TTL to the current i-TTL flash exposure protocol. Nikon’s SB-700 ‘speaks’ only the latter but is not compatible with old camera bodies.
The Nikon on the other side scores with much faster recycling times, longer zoom with 120mm maximum range and 360 degree swivel flash head, metal foot with quick lock design, better AF assist beam design and sensor size zoom for DX camera owners.
There’s more to justify the high price point of $330, for example a high build quality, complete standard accessories including encoded color correction filters, a great user interface with many direct keys – and so forth.
A full feature comparison list can be found here: EF-610 DG Super features vs Nikon SB-700
Advantage EF-610 DG Super vs Nikon SB-900
The EF-610 Super looks even worse when compared with Nikon’s pro flash SB-900 but there are 2 small points it can score: first at the guide number front where it’s 36 : 34 at 35mm wide angle and 61 : 56 at the long end (despite the 200mm zoom of the Nikon 900). To put this in perspective it should be said that the difference is not big enough to be clearly noticed in real life shooting, but something is there.
The other Sigma advantage is backward compatibility: Nikon decided to also remove all previous TTL mode support from the SB-900 spec sheet, just like they did for the SB-700.
OK, and then there’s one more: the Sigma 610 Super costs half of the Nikon – you can buy a lot of other gear for the money you save.
The list of feature advantages that speak for the SB-900 is almost too long to be posted here. It’s probably best to go check the table with EF-610 DG Super features vs Nikon SB-900
Sigma EF-610 DG Super Alternatives
Alternatives to the EF 610 Super flash include the Nikon SB-800 / SB-900, or the 580EX and 580EX II from Canon. Consider also the Sigma EF-530 DG Super which can be still purchased as a new product from amazon or eBay for example. The new 610 series is only a minor upgrade or ‘facelift’ after all.
EF 610 DG Super Highlights
- master mode, dedicated slave mode, built-in optical slave
- high guide number (record setting at tele end with GN 61)
- almost 50% less expensive than 580EX II or SB-900
What it’s not
- no PC sync, no power socket
- not the fastest recycling flash on the market
- wireless master mode does not work in HSS / FP Sync mode
- lacks some less essential features e.g. sensor size zoom, auto mode, recycling beep etc and allows fewer customization
Compatible Camera Bodies
The following page on the Sigma website provides camera compatibility info for Canon, Nikon and the other supported systems. Please note that there’s no option to update the flash firmware by the user which might potentially affect functionality with future camera models. The table below displays the compatibility basics:
|Canon compatibility||Nikon compatibility|
|The Canon version of the EF-610 DG Super is designed to work with all Canon EOS cameras – older film-based models as well as DSLR; both ETTL and ETTL II are supported.||When it comes to Nikon camera bodies the Sigma is compatible with all digital camera bodies that were ever made.
In the analog system, the following cameras are listed as working with the EF-610 Super: F6, F5, F4 Series, F100, F90X/N90S Series, F90/N90 Series, F80 Series, F75/N75, F70D/N70, U/F65/N65, F60D/N60, F55/N55, F50D/N50, F-801S/N8008S, F-801/N8008, F601M, F-601/N6006, F501/N2020, F401X, F401S/N4004S, F-401/N4004, F-301, N2000, FA, FE-2, FG, FM3, Pronea 600i
TTL does not work with F3 series, FM10, New FM2, FE10, Nikonos V.
Speedlights.net In-Depth Review
Sigma EF-610 DG Super Tech Specs Table
The tech specs table shows the performance data for the EF-610 DG Super.
|Model||EF-610 DG Super|
|Guide number spec
(35mm, ISO 100, in meters)
|Guide number test result||?|
|Manual power settings||1/1 – 1/2 – 1/4 – 1/8 – 1/16 – 1/32 – 1/64 (Canon only: 1/128)|
|Flash duration (full power)||1/700|
|Recycle time spec
(at full power)
|7 sec alkaline, 5 sec NiMH|
|Recycle time test result||?|
|Flash foot material, type||plastic, standard ISO|
|PC Sync Port||no|
|Optical Slave||yes (simple slave mode)|
|Other Trigger||wireless TTL slave mode|
|Trigger Voltage||safe (?)|
|Standby Mode||80 sec standby|
|Flash Head Features|
|Swivel||-180 to +90 degrees|
|Tilt||-7 to +90 degrees|
|Manual Zoom Head||(17) 24 – 105|
|Auto Zoom||(17) 24 – 105|
|Bounce card / 2nd reflector||yes / no|
|Batteries Used||4 x AA|
|External Power Source||no|
|D-TTL||yes if Nikon version|
|i-TTL||yes if Nikon version|
|CLS Wireless Slave||yes if Nikon version|
|CLS Wireless Master||yes if Nikon version|
|E-TTL(II)||yes if Canon version|
|E-TTL(II) wireless slave||yes if Canon version|
|E-TTL(II) wireless master||yes if Canon version|
|Other Flash Modes|
|AF Assist Light||yes|
|Exposure Compensation in TTL Mode on the Flash unit||-3.0 to +1.0 EV|
|Rear Curtain Synchronization||yes|
|High Speed Synchronization||yes|
|Sensor Size Detection (DX, FX, etc)||no|
Where to buy the Sigma EF-610 DG Super flash
Check also the prices on eBay where you don’t only find the current 610 DG Super flash but also the previous model 530 DG Super and others.