There is nothing like it in the world for a photographer. The day the new gear arrives! I recently bought three Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT. I also bought ST-E3-RT controllers by a brand called Yongnuo.
Nothing like the sweet smell of new plastic as you open your new gear!
When I buy new gear, I try to be able to justify it in terms of my business. I have to do this because I have an affliction called GAS - Gear Acquisition Syndrome - that tries to force me to buy all the latest gear all the time without thought for how much it costs! To combat my GAS, I have come up with four questions that I must be able to answer to the little accountant in my head. The questions are as follows.
- Will it help directly help make more money?
- Will it help me make more dynamic images for my portfolio that will lead to making more money?
- Does it make my job easier/quicker/lighter to carry?
- Do the advantages justify the cost?
[/list] As you can see, the little accountant in my head is no pushover. He is a right mean little man with no idea of the amount of fun it is to play with new toys.
Before I talk about the new gear, I want to tell you a little about photographic history and the flash equipment that I have used in the past. I started out with a mix of Canon and cheap off-brand flashguns. I would use the Canon Speedlite on the camera with a big Pocketwizard radio trigger to fire a manual flash on the dance floor or to set up backlighting that was fired by the pocketwizard. It worked. it was kind of bulky and clunky, but it worked.
Then I moved on to using a combination of Canon Speedlites with a Canon ST-E2, Radiopoppers and manual flashguns. The Radiopoppers allowed me to have eTTL for my main light off camera. I loved my Radiopoppers. I could have a smaller, lighter trigger on my camera (the Canon ST-E2) and the advantages of radio reliability. For those of you that don't know, Canon has had a very cool line-of-sight optical slave system. It allows you to use multiple flashguns with different power settings and eTTL automatic flash. However, if someone stepped in front of one of the Speedlites or if you were outside where the light was bright, things wouldn't fire right. So it was far too unreliable. Radioppers are amazing pieces of engineering. They take the settings on the flash and convert them to radio waves, then convert the radio waves to pulses of light to tell the slave flashguns what to do. I was thrilled with them. However, because of the complexity of the system, sometimes things went wrong and it was hard to tell what was going on. This doesn't mean they didn't work right 95% of the time, but rather that the 5% when things were being inconsistent, it was really frustrating. With there being an extra device on the transmitter and on each receiver, there was also additional battery management and troubleshooting issues on rare occasions. The most common was that I got everything ready to go and it didn't fire right because I forgot to turn on one of the 4-6 devices.
Then Canon came out with their Speedlite 600EX-RT and I was incredibly excited. It took all the features of my Canon and Radiopopper combined system and put them all into single units rather than requiring two pieces at each location. It also added the ability to adjust the power in either eTTL or manual remotely, and the ability to control up to 5 different groups of flashguns rather than three. All very cool. However, my excitement dimmed dramatically when I read that the controller unit, the ST-E3-RT did not have an autofocus assist lamp. I use that at every wedding I shoot to make sure my camera can focus in the dark. "ARGH!!!" I yelled in my best pirate voice. "Me mates at Canon are idiots!" So close, but so far.
I had basically resigned myself to continuing indefinitely with my previous system of Canon/Radiopopper combination. I was not willing to change the way I work for added convenience and ease of use. But boy did I want the new system. I even made some compelling arguments to the strict little accountant in my head. But I couldn't justify it without that one little feature.
Finally, the solution to my problem came about. However, it was not by Canon, but rather by a Chinese manufacturer of knock-off photo products called Yongnuo. Yongnuo has a reputation of creating good products, but with cheaper materials. However, they have been improving their quality. But they did offer a product that did everything I wanted the Canon version to do and a bit more. In addition to having the AF assist beam, it also works with older cameras and other brands besides Canon, though in manual mode only.
So, I bit the bullet, told the little accountant to take a chill pill and bought my new toys that I am going to claim as tools.
Now I have them, how do they work?
With this image, I put up a pop-up black background (Impact by B&H) and put up three lights. Then I started to play with my lights. This is with two speedlites high and behind at about 45 degrees. They were zoomed to 50mm and power was adjusted remotely! Awesome. Worked perfectly. Even when I switched to another camera and ST-E3-RT with completely different setting. That is a big deal. With some other flash systems, whoever fired the flash last gets the settings. With these, the settings are sent out each time before they fire.
A big shout-out to West Coast Goalkeeping. They make awesome keeper gloves for about half the price of comparable gloves from other manufacturers. That is a big deal for me. I have two keepers in the house (this is the smaller of the two). Keeper gloves don't generally last that long, but I am finding that the West Coast gloves last longer in addition to being cheaper. Plus, they are a local Seattle company.
Back to the photography, these are all taken with mixing eTTL and manual, or all manual, or all eTTL just changing things up to try out the gear.
Changed the lighting a bit for this one. Turned down the speedlites in the back and moved the softbox in the front to the side a bit more.
And finally a product shot. For this, the speedlites in the back were on the ground rather than high. I also took the flash in front out of the the softbox and have the harsh, direct light skimming across the front to show the texture int he shoe.
And here is the behind the scenes of the "product" shot.
So I finally have the flash gear that I always wanted. There is a bit of a learning curve. They do so much that it can be a little confusing about which button to press to do what you want. I should have that sorted quickly as I use them. Other than that I have nothing but high praise for my new gear so far!