The price gap between Canon’s flagship 600EX-RT Speedlite and the venerable 580EX II Speedlite has narrowed to a point where it makes no sense to purchase the 580EX II. If you are going to purchase a Canon Speedlite to use as a master flash, make sure that it is the 600EX-RT. If you are going to purchase your first Speedlite and you have the financial means, the 600EX-RT is also a great choice.
When I first published my 600EX-RT vs. 580EX II comparison eight months ago (here), the 600EX-RT was $100+ more than the 580EX II. Now, the gap has narrowed to $10 and the choice becomes a no-brainer.
Why The 600EX-RT Is Now A No-Brainer
- 600EX-RT has a larger LCD. The display on the 600EX-RT is 35% larger than the 580EX II. The letters are larger. The icons are more detailed. If you are new to Speedliting, the 600EX-RT is much easier to read and understand.
- 600EX-RT has better buttons. As shown below, the four function buttons underneath the LCD change their functions based on the mode of the Speedlite. The labels on the LCD change accordingly. Also, the Mode button has been separated from the function buttons and made larger. And…(loud applause!) a dedicated button has been added on the left shoulder to activate the wireless system.
- 600EX-RT is fully backwards compatible with 500- and 400-series EX Speedlites. When activated in optical wireless, the 600EX-RT is essentially a 580EX II with a much improved user interface. In optical wireless, the 600EX-RT can be used as either a master or slave with 500- and 400-series EX Speedlites. It can also be controlled as an optical slave via the pop-up flashes on the 60D, Rebels T3i, T4i, T5i, and the SL1.
- 600EX-RT has radio wireless. This greatly simplifies the communication between master and slave 600EX-RT Speedlites. The signal can go through walls, the sides of softboxes, etc. [Note: it is NOT possible to use a 600EX-RT in radio AND optical wireless at the same time. The 600EX-RT is activated in either radio OR optical wireless.]
- 600EX-RT can change the color of the LCD backlight to green or orange. As shown above, I have the backlight color set to orange when the Speedlite is a slave (either radio or optical). As shown below, the backlight is set green when the Speedlite is a master. This small feature is a huge help when setting up wireless Speedlites in dim ambient light.
Weird Pricing In The Market For 580EX II
There’s no doubt that the 580EX II is close to the end of its market cycle. For the past several weeks, B&H Photo has listed it as a Discontinued Item. Although, yesterday I checked again and found that it is back in stock at B&H for $489. Equally weird is that Amazon lists the 580EX II for $619—a full $120 more than the cost of the 600EX-RT. As I said above, deciding today between the 600EX-RT and the 580EX II is a no brainer.
Current Pricing & Availability
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SUMMER SPEEDLIGHT WORKSHOPS—I have two extended workshops on Speedliting this summer. I’ll teach Crafting Dramatic Light With Small Flashes in Santa Fe, June 26-29. I’ll teach Canon Speedlites Demystified in Maine, August 4-10.
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