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My Canon Speedlite Wishlist | PixSylated

Canon wishlist intro

January 3, 2011 — Comments are now closed for this post. Thanks to the 100s of shooters who shared their opinions. The dialogue about Canon Speedlites and small flash continues in the many articles you’ll find in the ‘Speedlighting & Small Flash’ category. If you’re interested in learning my Speedlite techniques, check out my Speedliter’s Handbook — nearly 400 pages of how-to and why-to on Canon flash.

Original post starts here > As a lifelong Canon shooter, I’ve been witness again and again to the power of Nikon’s CLS Speedlight system. In fact, most of the inspiration I found to explore the potential of Canon’s Speedlites came to me while assisting on a variety of shoots for Nikon’s leading CLS demo-man, Joe McNally. [If you’re thinking “Joe Who?”, let me be the first to welcome you to the planet and suggest that you check out his books on small-flash here and his blog here.]

What types of small-flash inspiration? Let’s see. There was the elephant-with-the-slinky-model in the dry lake bed followed by the silk acrobat hanging from the crane at sunset. There was the ballerina hoisted above the field of sunflowers and the bride in the desert gale. There was the girl holding the pool cue in the smokey bar. There was the leathery guy with the full-sleeve tats. And, of course, the Shining-esque model in the bay windows. Most recently, I spent the better part of two weeks in McNallyland a guest instructor at Joe’s One-Day Lighting Workshops in NY (read my review here and check out Joe’s workshop pix here, here and here.) It’s impossible to be witness to the making of so many great photographs and not be inspired.

Now, don’t get me wrong. For the most-part, I’m a happy Canonista. My first Canon, an A-1 purchased nearly 30 years ago, sits in a place of prominence atop the bookcase next to my bed – meaning it’s one of the first and last things I see every day. I think that the 5D Mark II is an amazing value in the DSLR market and praise the brilliance of adding 1080P video to it. There are a lot of lenses for the Canon system that Nikon has yet to make or only recently introduced. So, as I said, I’m a relatively happy Canonista.

But, there is no doubt, after working on location and in the studio with Joe over several years, that Nikon’s CLS Speedlight system is much more intuitive to use. Why does this matter to me? Well, as a creative, I rely upon my intuition a lot. The more intuitive a process is, the more creative I become. The more creative I am, the more interesting my pictures become.

So here’s my wishlist of features that I hope Canon will incorporate into a new generation of Speedlites.

Syl Arena’s Wishlist For Canon Speedlites

Canon switch_8085 1. Put the wireless switch back on the outside. 90% of my Speedlite photography is multi-unit wireless. I still use a 580EX (which was discontinued in 2007) as my master because it takes too long to switch in and out of wireless mode on Canon’s flagship model – the 580EXII. Virtually all of my event photography uses a Speedlite carried aloft on a stand or boom. This remote unit is controlled by the master parked on top of my camera. Of course, because I want to create interesting light, I program the master so that it talks to the remote but doesn’t actually flash during the exposure. When something interesting happens right in front of me that the remote can’t cover, I want to flick a switch and get the shot with the camera-mounted Speedlite before the opportunity disappears. With the 580EXII, to go from master to solo mode, I have to hold down a button, turn a dial and then press another button – meaning that I miss the spontaneous shot in front of me every time.

2. Design the external wireless switch with four options. Canon, when you re-engineer the wireless switch and put it back on the outside, give me four options – solo, master with flash, master without flash and slave. I’m fine with having to hunt for functions through menus as long as I don’t want to change them very often – like the disabling the sleep/power saving options in Custom Functions. But, I want options that I change frequently to be right at my fingertips. So, I want to choose whether the master contributes to the exposure or not via an external switch rather than an a menu item. Also, “Off” means off — as in the unit is powered down completely. Use “solo” or some other descriptive term to describe a unit that’s working by itself.

3. Come to understand that not everyone lights from the front. Canon’s E-TTL II assumes that Speedlite remote groups A and B are lighting the subject from the front. It’s built upon the classic (think “outdated”) notion that a portrait must be lit with a key and fill at 45º in front of the subject. What if I want to use window light as the key, the A-flash as fill at 90º and the B-flash on the background? I’m not following Canon’s rules when I shoot like this. Don’t worry, the system can actually handle my errant behavior. For the future of creative photography, it would be helpful if Canon would abandon the “must light from the front” attitude.

Canon wireless icon_8151 4. Adopt a better icon for wireless mode. Virtually every Canon shooter to whom I’ve taught wireless flash has had the same reaction I did when I figured out that Canon’s icon for the wireless menu is a lightening bolt / sync arrow tipped on its side (yes, the one to the right of “Zoom”). The reaction to this little insight is always amusement mixed equally with confusion. So, please Canon, find a better icon for wireless. How about an old-fashioned radio tower with those circle lines around the top?

5. Ditch the “Master / Slave” language. Maybe “Master” and “Slave” don’t have the same connotation in Canon’s native tongue as they do in English. But here in the U.S., it’s time to ditch “Master/Slave” for more acceptable terms. Blame it on the era of PC if you must. Nikon already uses “Commander/Remote” – which I think is great. If not that, how about calling it “Tx-mode” and “Rx-mode”?

6. Call groups what they are – “groups”. Canon uses the term “Slave ID” for groups. Yet the LCD on a 580 says just “Slave”. It also says “Slave” to mean a unit set in remote mode. Since we’re going to ditch the word “Slave” for “Remote” or “Rx-mode” anyway, let’s get a label on the screen that matches what we actually say anyway – “Group”.

7. Get rid of the ratios. You have to be really old-school to be comfortable with ratios (which I am, actually). Ratios are an archaic way of controlling light levels among different groups of Speedlites. Who wants to remember that 8:1 really means that there’s 3-stops more light on the A-side than the B-side?  Dump this approach and jump into the 21st-century. There’s a huge market of Canon shooters who want to be able to control multiple Speedlites without having to do the math of how the light level from one relates to another. Nikon shooters have the ability to control the EV level of each group independently. I want this same ease-of-use. Dumping the ratios in favor of an EV approach will also enable Canon shooters to turn individual groups on and off – which is a huge feature when checking the quality and quantity of light coming from a specific group.

Canon ratios _8144

8. Create a true 3- or (better yet) 4-group control system. Those of us who have taken the time to get our heads around ratios (which only work for two groups), still struggle with the logic of using flash-exposure-compensation to control a C-group. There is so much to remember these days, having to remember that C-group works differently just adds to my burden. Canon, if you offer a 4-group system, then you’ll sell more Speedlites because shooters like me will come up with crazy shots that absolutely need Speedlites in four different groups. Heaven forbid that the Canon engineers think of a Speedlite system that could handle five groups…

9. Offer a digital control unit. Our ST-E2 wireless controller is an anachronism when compared to the functionality of Nikon’s SU-800 commander unit. If all you want to do is control a key light and a fill light, then the ratio slider on the ST-E2 gets the job done. But, I want to have digital (not slider) control the output of all my groups and to handle each group independently and to be able to switch a single group or multiple groups from E-TTL to Manual and to turn specific groups on/off and to do all these things without having to dig down deep into a menu hierarchy on the back of my camera.

10. Add a built-in optical trigger. It won’t take up much room. It won’t require a lot of circuity. Heck, it would probably fit right in where the relatively-useless thyristor photo-eye sits right now. An optical trigger solves a load of problems when mixing Speedlites with studio strobes. Studio shooters often want to a just a splash of light on set or to conceal a light within the frame. (Canon, consider this to be a perfect opportunity to sell more Speedlites to guys who are used to using lots of lights.) An optical trigger would also make a Speedlite more friendly in the midst of lights from other companies. Again, ease-of-use will drive users to the Canon system. Making the whole system proprietary means that few outsiders will want to change jerseys.

11. License the RadioPopper technology. The gateway to selling more Speedlites is not to find more people to buy their first unit. Rather it’s to add functionality that makes it really easy for existing owners to want to add more lights to their shoots. Wireless E-TTL is good. Radio-controlled E-TTL is great. Free me of the need for line-of-sight communication and I’ll likely put 3 Speedlites in a softbox or stuff them in small spaces on a set where a studio heads won’t fit. Wedding and event shooters totally understand the limitations of line-of-sight. I want to be able to stop worrying abut the position of the remotes relative to my master unit. Over half the size of a RadioPopper is dedicated to the battery and getting the TTL code out of or into a Speedlite. There’s got to be a bit of space inside a Speedlite for the actual circuits that make a RadioPopper work. I’m convinced that the first company to add radio-transmitted TTL to their flash units will leave their competitor in the dust for a long while.

12. Add a couple more stops of Flash Exposure Compensation. There are many instances where I want just a breath of light from my Speedlite and bump up against the minus-3-stop FEC limit on the 580EXs. If a Speedlite has a 7-stop power range, how about giving me 7-stops of FEC so that I don’t have to jump over to manual in challenging situations? Jumping over to manual means that I have to keep more factoids in my head while I’m trying to concentrate of the light and subject in front of me.

13. Stretch out the Zoom. I’m hard-pressed to think of a situation where I was shooting long lens and wanted to zoom a single Speedlite to illuminate a distant subject. Yet, I routinely use the Zoom button to restrict the cone of light so that I can place a tighter pool of light right where I want it. Detach yourself from thinking that the Speedlite zoom was made to match the focal length of the shot and you’ll see the greater logic of using the zoom as a built-in light modifier. For me, “Snoot” would be more descriptive than “Zoom”. So, you could say that I want a longer snoot on the next generation of Speedlites.

Canon dome diffusers_8162

14. Include a dome diffuser. I’m sure the guys at Stofen are really happy with the status quo. I’m not. In my world, a dome diffuser is a must-have for every Speedlite. Just as I use the Zoom button as a snoot, I use a dome diffuser to enhance the effectiveness of Speedlites when shooting through umbrellas or panel diffusers. So, every time I buy a Speedlite, I also buy another StoFen. It would cost just a few nickles if a dome diffuser were packaged with every Speedlite. If Canon did this, the quality of light for the average shooter would go way up (and they’d like their photos more and tell their friends about their great camera and…).

15. Include a gel holder. The use of gels for color-correction and color effects has become commonplace. I’m not asking for a computer-chip solution – largely because I’ll continue to cut my own gels from larger stock to save money. What I’d really like though, is a way to hold a gel in place without the use of gaffer’s tape or a LiveStrong braclet. As with the dome diffuser, if every Speedlite came with one, then they’d cost just a few pennies each.

16. Ditch the penguin. There has to be a better way to diagram the use of wireless flash in the manual. Seriously.

17. Give me a breath of hope that Canon actually cares about their Speedlite system. As I said at the top, I’ve been a Canon-shooter for nearly 30 years. I’ve also been pulled into the orbit of Joe McNally’s amazing lighting style – a style that pushes his Speedlights into situations never dreamed of by the guys who write the manuals. One only need to read Strobist for a while to understand that there’s a revolution underway in the world of small-flash. Canon dominated the DSLR market for so many years, I truly worry that they just don’t care about their Speedlites.

Speedlite Features That I Don’t Want To Lose

1. Keep the High-Speed Sync Button on the outside. I use high-speed sync frequently (which I wrote about here, here and here). Being able to jump in and out of HSS at the push of a button is very helpful.

2. Continue to have incremental control between full and half-power. Canon gives us 1/3-stop control all the way from full-power to 1/128. Nikon lacks this ability to fine tune until you’re under half-power.

3. Keep the wireless sensor on the front. It’s easy for me to figure out where the sensor is if it’s on the front. If it’s on the side (like a Nikon), then I have to remember which side.

4. Keep the new battery door. Heaven help us if the guy who designed the door on the 580EX gets his job back. I’m perfectly happy with the design of the door on the 580EXII.

5. Keep the lever-lock as it is on the 580EXII. Give me a round disk (as on the 580EX) and I’ll over-tighten it again and again. The lever-lock on the 580EXII was made for simpletons like me. It gets the job done and stops me from over-doing it.

Why I’m Sticking With Canon – For Now

Honest. I didn’t plan on this article growing to manifesto proportions. But it did. So, it’s fair to ask why I don’t just jump over to Nikon and get what I want right now. After all, most of the items listed above are already standard issue with Nikon Speedlights.

1. Nikon is no more perfect than Canon. It just happens that, when it comes to flash, Nikon has been the innovator. On the other hand, it’s only since the introduction of the D3 less than two years ago, that Nikon has had truly competitive DLSR technology. I’m quite happy that Nikon’s back in the pro-camera game again. Regardless of our brand-preference, all photographers benefit from vigorous competition among the manufacturers.

2. It’s not all about the flash. Bodies and flashes may come. Bodies and flashes may go. Good glass can hang around for a long time. I’ve a good selection of Canon lenses. I’m very happy with the quality. Every photograph I make requires a lens. Not every photograph I make requires a Speedlite. To jump over to Nikon for their Speedlight technology would mean a complete liquidation of my Canon lens inventory – at a hefty price to reacquire comparable Nikon glass.

3. Canon is likely to remain the leader in DSLR-based video. There’s no doubt that the convergence of still and motion is upon us. I’m convinced that still shooters will have to morph into the world of motion or watch their skills become technologically obsolete. Given that Canon has been in the business of making broadcast television equipment for some time, I’m willing to bet that it will remain on the leading edge of dual-purpose (still-motion) cameras.

Tell Canon What You Think – Add A Comment, Then Tweet!

Hobby... so, so funny

I can’t guarantee that Canon will even read what I’ve written. Eyes at Canon are watching the comments. Nevertheless, So, if you are a Canon shooter, I encourage you to lend your thoughts, wishes and gripes about the Speedlite system via the comment section below. Hopefully, if enough of us share our experiences, Canon will hear about this and take a look incorporate our ideas into a new generation of Speedlites (someday). [ NOTE: Keep your comments constructive. All blatant Canon and Nikon bashing will be discarded by the grumpy moderator.]

543 Responses to My Canon Speedlite Wishlist

  1. I agree with most of your points, but have the following to add with respect to point #10 (add a built-in optical trigger): The 580EX et al already have built-in optical sensors. That what they use to sense E-TTL wireless control signals. What’s missing on Canon flashes is just a plain optical mode (Nikon calls this “SU-4” mode) that make the flash fire when that sensor sees another flash. This requires no hardware change, just a small piece of additional firmware, on top of the firmware already in place to interprete the E-TTL wireless control signals. And Canon should keep the “thyristor photo-eye” on the flash. I often use the auto-thyristor modes (A and AA) on my Nikon SB-800.

    Also, I think the High-Speed Sync Button on the flash is redundant. Nikon flashes have no such button. Instead Nikon calls this “Auto FP Mode” and the flash automatically enters high-speed mode / FP mode when you dial in a shutter speed above the X-sync speed on the camera, and disables it automatically as soon as you lower the shutter speed to the X-sync speed and below. To me, this is much more intutitive than having to toggle in and out of HSS mode using a button on the flash.

  2. victor says:

    i'd like to have rear sync (2nd curtain) that work with any trigger or flash (3rd party).

  3. victor says:

    i’d like to have rear sync (2nd curtain) that work with any trigger or flash (3rd party).

  4. I am just about to purchase my first Speedlite- the 580EX II. I have read several reviews and everyone says the same thing about the master/slave switch being removed and the lock lever being installed. I have used a speedlite with the lock lever and I absolutely love it!

    That being said, I think Canon should make a cartridge slot to accept a PW/RadioPopper/Skyport/you-name-it card to incorporate with what people already have. They should get with the 3rd party players and come up with a reasonable sized card to be able to pop in and out as needed. It could get it's power from the flash itself, and I also like the idea of the 110V option. I mean, come on, it already has the external battery pack option- use a transformer to get the power to the right voltage, and come in right where the battery pack would. Pretty easy add-on for them to make.

    That's all I have now, until I buy it and use it on a regular basis.

  5. I am just about to purchase my first Speedlite- the 580EX II. I have read several reviews and everyone says the same thing about the master/slave switch being removed and the lock lever being installed. I have used a speedlite with the lock lever and I absolutely love it!

    That being said, I think Canon should make a cartridge slot to accept a PW/RadioPopper/Skyport/you-name-it card to incorporate with what people already have. They should get with the 3rd party players and come up with a reasonable sized card to be able to pop in and out as needed. It could get it’s power from the flash itself, and I also like the idea of the 110V option. I mean, come on, it already has the external battery pack option- use a transformer to get the power to the right voltage, and come in right where the battery pack would. Pretty easy add-on for them to make.

    That’s all I have now, until I buy it and use it on a regular basis.

  6. Jason Smith says:

    I would like canon to give the option to turn off the auto fill reduction or the aiblity to pre set the amount acording to taste.when shooting i would like to know that the compensation iam dialing in is what iam getting giving more consistacy and control to the photographer. insted of trying to 2nd guess how much or how little light the softwhere is going to give you according to the ev range

    (hope this makes sence as i am dyslexic)

  7. Jason Smith says:

    I would like canon to give the option to turn off the auto fill reduction or the aiblity to pre set the amount acording to taste.when shooting i would like to know that the compensation iam dialing in is what iam getting giving more consistacy and control to the photographer. insted of trying to 2nd guess how much or how little light the softwhere is going to give you according to the ev range

    (hope this makes sence as i am dyslexic)

  8. Carlos Querales says:

    Agree, thanks!

  9. Carlos Querales says:

    Agree, thanks!

  10. Jannie Anderson says:

    I found this only moments ago, while searching for some published simpler way to understand my 580EXIIs than having to go back and re-read the manual to remind myself that it's the zoom button that tells me which is slave and which is master and do I really want to get a third (C) 580EXII because I still don't understand how to make it work.

    I put about $1,800 into a very nice portable kit with two lights, stands, lightbox, umbrellas etc. about 9 months ago with the hope I could use it for the occasional shoot that didn't absolutely require my strobes on location.

    I've never used it for what I bought it for. Being that I needed it maybe once a month, I always forgot in the speed of setting it up how to make the system work (I'd do a quick reminder setup the night before and ditch the idea after about a half hour).

    So now my whole kit sits by my table top shooting setup in case I need to tuck a small light somewhere close or need extra bounce, pretty much the whole thing's been a waste of money. This should not be the case.

    I hate on camera flash-if someone asks me to run around with a speedlight on my camera and catch photos of people, if that's the only way-I turn it down-always.

    So I bought the ETTL coil cord, too short, so I bought an aftermarket ETTL cord, but then I was back to reminding myself what the freaking menu meant.

    I used to have a 420EX, it wouldn't recycle fast enough and I needed more power sometimes but after using it once, I always knew what to do.

    So now I've got all this investment, I only use the 2 580EXII's for table top as I said, and I've had to add a Skyport receiver to each head, set the speedlights permanently on manual and forget the whole point of why I bought them.

    I came to this website today hoping for a easier explanation (for gods sake have you ever used these speedlights with the camera menu system. the other day I messed with it and counted having to do 9 things with the camera to change an on camera flash down 3 stops (yes I was trying on camera fill light for a product shot outside) instead of pushing a button on the top left side of my MKIII and then rotating a dial to reduce the power of the speedlight.

    This guy Syl must be a genius to lay it out so clearly or he's otherwise channeling something far beyond the reach of many of us including Mr. Numbnuts Joe McNalley who misguidedly uses Nikons (its a joke Joe, I read your blog religiously-I'm a fan but I much prefer Canon, except for their speedlights.

    And yet my fear is that Canon will come up with something sensible in the way of speedlightsj (both MKIII's are genius as far as I'm concerned and I'm already looking at the MKIV as the Holy Grail) because I will spend all that money over again, just to try a new system that will hopefully help me leave the strobes at home for something lighter.

    Bless you Syl, whoever you are, I think I am now a fan!!!

  11. Jannie Anderson says:

    I found this only moments ago, while searching for some published simpler way to understand my 580EXIIs than having to go back and re-read the manual to remind myself that it’s the zoom button that tells me which is slave and which is master and do I really want to get a third (C) 580EXII because I still don’t understand how to make it work.

    I put about $1,800 into a very nice portable kit with two lights, stands, lightbox, umbrellas etc. about 9 months ago with the hope I could use it for the occasional shoot that didn’t absolutely require my strobes on location.

    I’ve never used it for what I bought it for. Being that I needed it maybe once a month, I always forgot in the speed of setting it up how to make the system work (I’d do a quick reminder setup the night before and ditch the idea after about a half hour).

    So now my whole kit sits by my table top shooting setup in case I need to tuck a small light somewhere close or need extra bounce, pretty much the whole thing’s been a waste of money. This should not be the case.

    I hate on camera flash-if someone asks me to run around with a speedlight on my camera and catch photos of people, if that’s the only way-I turn it down-always.

    So I bought the ETTL coil cord, too short, so I bought an aftermarket ETTL cord, but then I was back to reminding myself what the freaking menu meant.

    I used to have a 420EX, it wouldn’t recycle fast enough and I needed more power sometimes but after using it once, I always knew what to do.

    So now I’ve got all this investment, I only use the 2 580EXII’s for table top as I said, and I’ve had to add a Skyport receiver to each head, set the speedlights permanently on manual and forget the whole point of why I bought them.

    I came to this website today hoping for a easier explanation (for gods sake have you ever used these speedlights with the camera menu system. the other day I messed with it and counted having to do 9 things with the camera to change an on camera flash down 3 stops (yes I was trying on camera fill light for a product shot outside) instead of pushing a button on the top left side of my MKIII and then rotating a dial to reduce the power of the speedlight.

    This guy Syl must be a genius to lay it out so clearly or he’s otherwise channeling something far beyond the reach of many of us including Mr. Numbnuts Joe McNalley who misguidedly uses Nikons (its a joke Joe, I read your blog religiously-I’m a fan but I much prefer Canon, except for their speedlights.

    And yet my fear is that Canon will come up with something sensible in the way of speedlightsj (both MKIII’s are genius as far as I’m concerned and I’m already looking at the MKIV as the Holy Grail) because I will spend all that money over again, just to try a new system that will hopefully help me leave the strobes at home for something lighter.

    Bless you Syl, whoever you are, I think I am now a fan!!!

  12. rmphotographynow.com says:

    I totally agree!!! Specially with number 11.
    Or if Canon won't then they must upgrade their (vintage) IR to Radio systems.

    The menus at the back of the flash also must be changed to actual words rather than just numbers.

    C'mon Canon!

  13. rmphotographynow.com says:

    I totally agree!!! Specially with number 11.
    Or if Canon won’t then they must upgrade their (vintage) IR to Radio systems.

    The menus at the back of the flash also must be changed to actual words rather than just numbers.

    C’mon Canon!

  14. agreed, agreed!
    There is hardly anything on the 580EXII (i have that and a 430), that is intuitive. Everytime I go to use my flash, it's like the first time. And I muddle through, trying to remember how to turn the 'master' off, and just trigger the 'slave'. Or change zoom to manual or auto, etc. etc. These suggested changes, would make me a happy newbie strobist!! And then I'd have fun adding a 3rd speedlite to my gear.

  15. agreed, agreed!
    There is hardly anything on the 580EXII (i have that and a 430), that is intuitive. Everytime I go to use my flash, it’s like the first time. And I muddle through, trying to remember how to turn the ‘master’ off, and just trigger the ‘slave’. Or change zoom to manual or auto, etc. etc. These suggested changes, would make me a happy newbie strobist!! And then I’d have fun adding a 3rd speedlite to my gear.

  16. Ken Volpe says:

    Syl,
    Kudos for putting this out there! Chuck W., please take note because Syl has hit the nail on the head here and the lighting industry is going through a paradigm shift with the advent of the PW and RP products.
    I read through Syl’s wishlist finding myself routinely exclaiming the word “yes” out loud! Others in the room started to think I needed to see a professional in a white coat! LOL Anyway, I wanted to individually touch upon the points that Syl raised and add my own insight. Incidentally, I am an editorial and wedding shooter, using multiple (>4) remote speedlites routinely. So, without further adieu, here are my comments….

    1. YES!! I happen to use an external battery system that uses a module in the flash battery compartment. That said, when the battery is turned off, the flash is devoid of any power. What difference does that make? Well, all of the presets in the flash are rest to default. That means master/slave as well. If there was a switch on the back (aka: 550EX and 580EX), I wouldn’t have to go into the menu system to tell it to be a slave again. This is one of my biggest pet peeves.

    2. I agree with Syl here too. These are basic features that are changed routinely on shoots and should be designed as hard switch and not menu items.

    3. I agree.

    4. I am not as bugged by this nomenclature, but would add that a dedicated button might be nice. I shoot with a 1DSMk3 and utilize the camera’s menu system to access and control the wireless lighting system as I find it much easier.

    5. Again, I am not as bugged about the terminology.

    6. I agree. The photography world is (has) shifting (shifted) thanks to the huge following on Strobist and here. Photographers use groups of lights. Call them groups.

    7. YES!!! Please, please, please use the EV approach! Canon (Chuck), if you are listening, use this 21st century location-based photography mindset……
    A photographer would love to look at a scene, assess the ambient light conditions and then choose to add lights, here, here and there. Then, they would like to modify them (boxes, umbrellas, grids, etc) and EV them up or down to achieve the desired creative effect. Give us the latitude to still use ETTL safety net and individually add or subtract EV from each group! Please! Of course, the system can currently be used in manual mode. And that is what I do routinely to create the effects I am trying to achieve. However, in the wedding scenario, manual can be dangerous. If you are of the news photo school where “A” shot is better than “NO” shot, then having ETTL engaged is better than manual. Let’s say you are shooting a scene with a given ambient lighting and off camera ETTL. You quickly turn around (with a totally different set of lighting circumstances) and grab the instantaneous shot. In ETTL mode, you would have an enormously better likelihood of getting a usable shot as opposed to being in manual mode.

    8. Yes! Yes! Yes!

    9. YES! And please add this to the functionality of a master speedlite used as a controller as well.

    10. I agree here as well. As one of the commenters noted, there already is an optical receiver. The firmware needs an upgrade to allow it to be uses as a dumb optical trigger, akin to Nikon’s SU4 mode.

    11. This is the BIGGEST, MOST IMPORTANT and MOST GROUNDBREAKING request in the list. Yes, we all know the issues about multi-country radio frequency-related licensing issues, HOWEVER, the first to the table with a factory radio frequency controlled ETTL lighting system will be ahead for years as Syl said. The technology is there. Chuck, think about this for a moment. The 21st century trend for photographers, thank you Strobist and others, is to get your flash off the camera. Photographers go out and spend the green for the manufacturer’s flash units and then another $200/flash for a RP or PW. Wouldn’t you want that profit? On the licensing front, its easy. Create plug-in modules for each country. The flash unit is the same and the purchaser just buys the right radio module for his/her country. Here’s an idea….Canon, design a “Pro” OFF CAMERA speedlite that has wireless radio, the power of at least two 580EXII’s and external battery options. Hint…think Qauntum.

    12. YES! I have often found myself wanting to throw a “touch” of light on an element in the photo only to find the 3 stop limit. Ugh. Change to manual settings. If the flash can do it, give us the control to use it. Please.

    13. YES! If Canon would stop thinking of the speedlite mounted on the camera, this may have been incorporated. Alas, it hasn’t. Let us zoom the flash, or “snoot” it as Syl says, to create the lighting effect we want and need. This is for off-camera and on-camera concerns as well. You only need to consider the wildlife shooting segment to realize they want tighter zooms on the flash as well. I have shot wildlfe as well and we will use fresnel lens flash extenders to do this. Nikon’s SB900 goes up to 200mm zoom. Canon, get on it!

    14. This is not a big item on my list, but it would be a welcomed addition.

    15. I often use gels and an integrated holder would be very nice. Also, it would allow Canon to keep up with the Jones’s.

    16. Ah, the penguin! LOL Having been a wildlife shooter in the past, I can’t say I am particularly bothered by the little guy. LOL

    17. YES! Canon, your flashes haven’t changed much in a while, other than to take away important assets as mentioned above (hard switches in lieu of menu items). Please show us that you are still in the game!

    I wanted to add one more wishlist item that Syl didn’t mention. It would be a miniplug adapter on the flash. The PC cord port is archaic. Ditch it and go to the miniplug as a standard port. Anyone using these ports is simply adapting wireless receivers to them anyway!

    I also agree with Syl’s list of features to retain.

    I truly hope decision makers at Canon see this and act on it. As a Canon shooter for 20 years, I believe in them and trust their cameras and glass immensely. If they can get their speedlite system up to par, we would all benefit!

    Respectively,
    Kenneth P. Volpe

  17. ken says:

    are you guys REALLY that upset with the use of "master" and "slave" nomenclature? lol!

    i mean, lots of good points on the technical stuff, but c'mon–let's not get carried away in PC language. every person i know has a master they are a slave to.

  18. ken says:

    are you guys REALLY that upset with the use of “master” and “slave” nomenclature? lol!

    i mean, lots of good points on the technical stuff, but c’mon–let’s not get carried away in PC language. every person i know has a master they are a slave to.

  19. Jason Smith says:

    Hi this is a grate post I just hope canon listen. I use off camera flash 90% of the time I left a post earlier about being able to turn off the auto fill reduction. I now have another suggestion that would be all most a dream come true regarding off camera ettl flash for me. That would be that when you take a fel (flash exposure lock) meter reading as you do at present that that could be stored in the memory until it was cancelled by a 2nd push of the fel button . While this fel reading was stored in memory you could as you can now in manual mode change aperture and shutter speed and still get the same flash exposure on subject from shot to shot. also if you could change exposure comp to this stored memory with out having to take another fel meter reading (I think there is a canon camera that you can change flash exsposure comp on after you have taken the fel reading ).also if 2 or more flashes were on when first fel was taken that you could also adjust the ratio based on the info stored in the fel memory. The advantages of this would be huge this would be like an auto manual setting giving the photographer a seamless swap over from the inconsistency of ettl metering to a pre set and predictable base line flash exposure spot metered by photographer that can be adjusted with manual type predictability but with auto benefits as in the flash is recalculated for the aperture and iso changing to keep same output. flash exposure comp could be used for any subject movement. ratio could be predictably controlled from shot to shot. once fel had been taken there would be no more single pre flashes until new fel was done this would stop model moving to next pose thinking shot had been taken . Wow this would be fantastic and this would all be done with the buttons and dials we are all ready using and with out the trial and error and leg work of manual .

    I hope this makes sense as I am dyslexic

    Thank you

    Forever hoping Jason

  20. Mark says:

    I mostly use an Alien Bee ringflash as my key light and then add up to 3 speedlights for rim/bckgrd etc. All triggered by PW's. My biggest complaint is that rear curtain is controlled in the speedlight and not from the camera. I have a 5D mk ii. So when I need to get a creative shot with some motion blur and then fire the strobe at the last second I cant. This sucks. Nikon and Sony let the camera control when the flash should fire, what was Canon thinking ? After all the camera knows best what the shutter speed is and therefore when the flash needs to fire.

    I have $15,000 of Canon gear, I really cant bare the thought of the amount of money I'd lose if I sold it second hand and restocked the same gear with Nikon, but its very tempting. For the moment I'm holding back, but definitely not willing to invest in additional Canon gear, that as that would be more stuff to sell.

    Please Canon make some progress here. You stepped up to the plate with the ISO now its time to shift focus to your flash fundamentals.

  21. GlenF says:

    Give me an ST-E3 that has full wireless TTL control of groups. Everyone else is doing it, why must Canon lag behind. 50m range would be good. Let it handle HSS and remote zooming, be compatible with existing Canon flashes but also trigger manuals.

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/strobist/discuss/721

    Supply it with the Canon 5D MkIII (let's get those better focus points)

    I'm reading Joe's Hot Shoe Diaries – I like the practical way of discussing the settings you can use that go beyond the assumed basics. "Go Try This, and here's how"

  22. AndrewB says:

    Though I agree with the 17, I'd encourage a different prioritization. As someone getting into using the system the big three are:

    1) Loss of the switch on the 580. (I'm so glad I had a Mk1 to keep).
    2) Ditch the ratio. This control system is a nightmare for a new user.
    3) Get 4 (or more) groups. One can easily come up with 4 groups to control and adding a 5th would be a nice bonus.

    I'm already invested in radiopopper technology, but fixing the line-of-sight issues that CLS doesn't seem to have would be a great #4, and adding a 4th switch option to disable the flash on master would be a sweet #5.

    It would be wonderful to 86 the penguin and clean up the archaic master slave stuff and get the nicities that should be on a strobe this expensive (like a diffuser and gel-holder), but I'll take these 3 as enough to get me to replace my 580's. Nailing this whole laundry list would be a real marketing coup.

  23. stuarty says:

    yip
    keep the 580 style switch
    gelholder built in
    wireless radio ettl
    multiple groups
    higher flash duration with more power

    plus/minus ev
    canon make your own flash accessories ie snoots/ grids instead of us togs having to use poorly made or badly designed 2nd party stuff..

    ditch the aa batterys why in this age of high tech battery research pleese make a battery that we can plug into the camera charger

    push the boat out get the rd department thinking …….
    speedlight ringflash …..proper designed beauty dish with grid

    could go on and on ……..

  24. I agree with the diffuser and gel holder, both things that Nikon has with their flashes.

    1/8" jack for hooking up my Radio Popper.

    Optical Slave

  25. Kurt Anderson says:

    I would like to see future DSLR’s with builtin wireless control Like the newer Nikons have.
    I also think that an optical trigger would be great.

  26. Daniel says:

    I absolutely support this wishlist! It's nothing fancy you're asking for. Just an up-to-date flash system. The cameras developed a lot in the last years, but what about the strobes? Still using PC connectors and infrared for remote triggering? Well, at least we got a PC connector built in now. Had to wait some years for Canon to integrate it… Now please include the optical trigger and the rest. Thanks!

  27. Daniel says:

    I agree with you 100% on each and every topic. I can not believe how you have hit every nail on the head. i only hope Canon picks up on the. Even if they only implement 25% of what you propose, it would be a great leap forward. I know they want to improve the system and have made the couple of steps forward like the locking lever on the shoe and even a shoe made of metal. What a concept. Now I will not have to keep sending them in for a new shoe every time someone bumps into me a wedding dance floor. Thank you for putting this out there.

  28. Bill Allsopp says:

    I think you've nailed it, I love my Canon camera but hate the b**** flash units

  29. Tom Hewett says:

    Hear hear! I too am a Canon shooter who's very happy with the camera, yet insanely jealous of my Nikon-toting pals for their flash technology! One of them gave me McNally's 'Hot Shoe Diaries' for Xmas and all that is doing is inspiring me to make more pictures, which in turn sends me running to the Pocket Wizards. If this stuff was included in the flashes, I likely wouldn't have bought the PW's, just two more flashes…

  30. Munch says:

    Great wishlist!
    Lists everything I miss in the Canon Speedlites.

    I want all of it, but the most important for me are:

    1. wireless on the outside
    2. four options on external switch
    3. not everyone lights from the front
    7. MUST, MUST, MUST get rid of ratios
    8. true 3 or 4 group control system
    10. optical trigger
    12. More exposure compensation
    13. more zoom

    I would also like the possibility to have a sound signal when the flash is charged

    When you see the size of some of the radio triggers out there I would like to see the trigger built into the flash

  31. Harv says:

    Yes its been said but if canon's watching I'll say it again.
    -"Master" switch with 4 options.
    -replace ratios
    -diffuser!
    -optical is not a must but would be so so sweet.

    Thanks for getting this out there Syl!
    Harv

  32. I've spent a considerable amount of money on gadgets trying to make up for all the short comings in the Canons flash system. I tried a bit of everything, STE 2, radio poppers, pocket wizards,lumedyne pack and head, Vivitar 285 and a Nikon SB24. Each have their advantages and disadvantages but it's a nightmare packing for an assignment.

    After buying 2, 540's, a 550EX, and a 580EX, I am through with Canon flashs until they make some major changes.

  33. albes says:

    you completly right about canon flash(must have).really great.

  34. Brian says:

    Well put, Syl. Give me the speedlights in your vision and I'd be a happy, happy shooter.

  35. Ernie says:

    AMEN to all of those things.

  36. Ed says:

    I’m a bit new to all this, took up photography as a serious hobby in August 2009 after encouragement from family, but through all my reading it became clear that for TTL, on or off-camera flash it was the Nikon guys who were posting and had respect. There was just not that much Canon stuff on flash, until i saw this post. As a Canon invested shooter I really want this to change. For this to happen it seems that Canon shooters have to get more impressed and enthused by Canon flash-systems. This is a good starting point. Thanks for posting Syl!

  37. Pip Neville says:

    Well said Syl!
    I'm not all that invested in gear yet as I'm only starting out really on this road, but I have given very serious thought to changing to Nikon before I get too much kit, and considered this almost entirely due to the flash system. What kept me Canon was the range of lenses available, but it was a very close call. As it is I've just bought a 580EXii so we'll see how we get on. But at the back of mind there is still a little voice telling me it'll be decision time again when I next upgrade my camera body.

    So come on Canon, sort it out!

  38. Chip says:

    Amen brother! I own 2 speedlights and an ST-E2. But given the limits outlined here, I have decided I can't get where I want with Canon. I have longed for Nikon because of their flash system, but have too much $$ in Canon glass. But, I will not spend anymore $$ on Canon flash gear.

    If I got the ability for remote manual control of a flash, got rid of the silly 'ratios' and individual control of multiple flashes, I would start buying more Canon flash gear (plus no longer look longingly at that D700).

    Come on Canon, bring your flashes up to the standard you are setting with the the 7D, 5DMkII, and 1D!!

  39. Beth says:

    Honestly, it was cathartic to read your post. Your suggestions are spot on.

    I bought Canon for the same reason, but have been very disappointed and frustrated with the Speedlites. I am a newbie using the Speedlites…and I have been hitting my head against a wall trying to do stuff I am reading on the Strobist site. And I keep realizing, I am not completely stupid, I am trying to do things with the Speedlites that are not physically possible. (no Pocket wizard/radio communication, zoom the way I thought it would work, no optional slaves, the limitations with infrared, etc.)

    Thanks so much!

  40. R. Scott says:

    Well after 5 years being a Canon flash user and watch them lose the market to Nikon I've decided to move on to something 'better'. I've had enough of trying to work round the limitations of the system and instead opting to move to a power pack solution. At the end of the day we're jury rigging a system to do something it wasn't designed for and it's flaky. If you're doing client work that's not acceptable.

    Will I continue to use the Canon system? Probably, but I'll not be sinking any more money into it.

  41. J Packard says:

    Please also add 3.5mm jack and get rid of PC! 3.5mm is more compatible with radio triggers, is more reliable, and cords can be bought for cheaper than PC and available in almost every city block.

    For a more thorough argument, I refer you to the Strobist article 2/18/2010 on why it's past time we got rid of the PC.

  42. As a Canon guy since my EOS 650 in 1987, now Canon Digital … And trying not to repeat everything already said:

    1) Fix the exposure algorithm! Shooting the bride 15' away with a 580 EX II in a dark reception hall should work even if someone with a light color shirt walks into a corner of the frame 5' away. Right now, ETTL changes its mind about what is important and exposes the 5' non-focus-pointed-corner correctly and underexposes what is under the focus point. Flash Exposure Locking all the time isn't the correct solution and often isn't an option when run and gunning.

    My EOS film cameras never had that issue.

    2) Port that software fix back to models you aren't selling anymore.

    3) If nothing else, do the items on the list that are $0 recurring cost items, like adding the gel filter holder to the existing plastic molding. It is a slit and a spacing tweak. Increase FEC range – should be a firmware update, again $0 recurring costs as the hardware can clearly already do it.

    And just because Syl said Canon was listening … Not a flash, but a camera feature.

    Get rid of A-DEP mode. Nobody in their right mind could expect a camera to figure out for itself what the closest and farthest points the photographer wanted in focus are. Bring back DEP mode, where the photographer TOLD the camera what those two points were. I don't buy the 'its too complex' arugment which I've heard before – computing power, memory, speed, etc. has increased many orders of magnitude since 1987. Why do I have to break out my iphone app to do depth of field calculations and go back to manual mode when the camera used to, can, and should do all that for us?

  43. Michael Ward says:

    Thank you Syl for a great web site. I heard you on TWIP last week – it was very useful. One small point – I think my Nik D90 can adjust flash exposure compensation and 'general' exposure compensation independently.

    My wish list would include a hope that a good third party company (Metz?) would make system flashes which incorporated all of the best features of the Canon and Nikon systems, so we would not need to sacrifice flash capability to access our preferred UI or lens system…

  44. Jon Westcott says:

    Couldn't agree more!

    I've invested in the Pocket Wizard TT1/TT5 system despite the issues to address some of these shortcomings. The new zone controller will allow control of three channels independently, switching between manual & TTL and switching off channels. Great, but with all the extra boxes, controllers, batteries etc. wouldn't it just be so much better if it was built in? I'm not sure it would even be that difficult either compared to the hoops the 3rd party manufacturers have to jump through to get something working!

    Jon

  45. mike kromjong says:

    Thanks Syl for analyzing what’s wrong with canon speedlites.

    Couldn’t agree more with your conclusions/wishlist. I hope that canon-management are starting to realise what kind of speedlite revolution is going on. They need to get on board . . . . now!!

    So please canon, put your best engineers at work, print out the wishlist for em and tell them you’re expecting results tomorrow!!!

    Mike

  46. Titus says:

    I love that list. One thing I'd add to it: sanity in external triggering. There is no reason I can think of that a 580 in Manual triggered by its PC port should suddenly not bother to trigger the slaves (or that a 580 Master in ETTL should trigger the slaves . . . about a second late.)

    • Syl Arena says:

      Titus –

      The deal with Canon Speedlites and optical slaves is easy to fix. You just have to by EX-compatible optical slaves. They cost about 75-cents more that the standard version. What happens is that the voltage in a Speedlite does not drop as far as other brands (don't know why, don't care). An optical slave won't reset for another shot until it senses that voltage drop. I use the green-based Sonia optical slaves with complete reliability. You can get them from FlashZebra.com.

      No standard optical slaves (EX compatible or otherwise) will work with E-TTL because they fire at the preflash rather than at the actual flash. Far better to use the built-in wireless system. If you need to shoot studio flash as Speedlites, shoot in Manual.

  47. Terry Richmond says:

    I fully support this wish list. I have considered switching from Canon to Nikon solely because of the flash system. Joe McNally has several great tutorials on using off camera flash (Nikon). After watching these tutorials it becomes very apparent that Nikon is head and shoulders above Canon when it comes to features and usability of their respective flash systems.

    Canon… you are way behind!

  48. Tim L says:

    I was actually wondering to myself as I drove into work this very morning why neither Canon nor Nikon has incorporated radio control in their flash units. It seems so obvious to me. Great, well thought-out article, Syl. I can say with certainty that if Canon decided to take you up on your suggestions, I would be investing in more Canon Speedlites.

  49. Pip says:

    Another vote here for built in radio control. There's quite a few of us who have to save up to buy flash units, and when we come to the big choice we tend to save for another flash or another lens rather than a fully functioning pocket wizard… make a decent and cheap hotshoe controller before the chinese wipe the floor with you completely or you just won't sell anything in the near future in terms of flash unit controllers.

  50. cham_001 - Afzal says:

    I agree with Syl completely. Well done in raising and highlighting these points!

    My gear – so that Canon can understand ‘our’ commitment
    Canon cameras are fantastic (Have x2 camera bodies)
    Canon Lenses are the best (Have x4 ‘L’ & x3 normal)
    Canon Speedlites are ‘shite’ (have x2 580ex2)
    Canon MT24 twin macro flash
    Recently purchased 2 x PW TT5’s, planning on getting Bowens studiolights with Pocket Wizard radio cards

    Canon users ARE becoming more ‘imaginative, creative and more techno-aware’. We need the flexibility and ease-of-use that this article and ‘MANIFESTO’ that Syl has articulately expounded.

    Canon, show your customers YOUR commitment & seriously revise the Canon Flash System. Otherwise simply introduce a new range of flash-units that Pro’s, enthusiasts and serious amateurs can hit-the-ground-running with for creative their flash photography requirements.