Canon 430 EX Speedlite Flashgun
16/09/09Using an external flashgun can yield much better results than by just using a built-in flash. External flashguns are more powerful and many have tilt and swivel heads which allow further directional light control. Canon call their flashguns ‘speedlites’ and there are two models that have both tilt and swivel capability. These are the 430EX and the more expensive 580EX. Both the 430EX and the 580EX have now been replaced with mark II versions. This review relates to the Speedlite 430 EX Mark I.
The Canon Speedlite 430 EX is a reasonably powerful unit with many useful features. It has a very respectable guide number of 43 metres (141 ft) at ISO 100. This compares to a guide number of 13 metres (43 ft) at ISO 100 for the built-in unit on a Canon 40D camera body.
The flash head can be tilted upwards by 90 degrees from the horizontal position and can be rotated 180 degrees to the left and 90 degrees to the right. This may seem fine but personally I have found it frustrating that it it can’t be rotated 180 degrees to the right as this restricts the ability to direct the light where you require it. A single button on the right side of the speedlite is pressed to tilt or rotate the flash head. This is a quick and easy process.
The flash head can zoom from 24mm to 105mm focal length and there is also a diffuser panel that widens coverage to 14mm. The flashgun can automatically allow for the camera sensor size (full frame, APS-H or APS-C). With compatible Canon EOS SLR cameras the 430EX can be set to automatically change the flash coverage as the camera lens is zoomed. Alternatively, the flash coverage can be controlled manually. This can be useful if using the 430EX with an umbrella or softbox.
The 430EX uses Canon’s E-TTL II flash exposure metering. This can be over-ridden by 3 stops of flash exposure compensation (FEC) in 1/3 stop increments. Manual control of flash output is also possible with settings from full power to 1/64 in full stop increments. Control of FEC or manual power output is by two arch shaped buttons and a circular button on the control panel. These work well but are fiddly compared to the dial used on the 580EX. I’ve found exposures to be consistently reliable with this flashgun.
The 430EX can function as a wireless slave as part of a multiple flash set up. To do this it needs to be used in conjunction with a master unit such as a Canon 580EX, Canon ST-E2 wireless transmitter or independent transmitters such as Pocket Wizards. However, the 430EX cannot work as a master unit to control other flashguns.
There are also a couple of other handy features with this unit. Second curtain synchronisation can be set as an option enabling the subject to show motion blur and then be frozen by the flash at the end of the exposure. High speed sync allows the use of any shutter speed. The flash range is reduced as the shutter speed gets faster.
Finally, several custom functions are available to tailor the operation of the 430EX to personal preference. The custom functions are:
• Auto power off (on or off)
• Slave unit auto power off (10 minutes or 60 minutes)
• Auto zoom for image size (on or off)
• AF-assist beam (on or off)
• Modelling flash (on or off)
• LCD panel display (maximum range or aperture)
Many people find the choice between the 430EX and 580EX a bit of a dilemma. The choice is a personal one but for me the main issues are:
• Price. The 430EX II costs about 4/7 as much as the 580EX II. There are also plenty of secondhand Mark I versions of both units on the market.
• Bounce and swivel capability. The 430EX cannot turn 180 degres to the right – only 90 degrees whereas the 580EX can turn 180 degrees to either the left or right. For me this was the main reason for upgrading to a 580EX. The 580EX can also tilt 7 degrees downwards.
• Power. The 430EX has a guide number of 43 metres at ISO 100 compared to 58 metres at ISO 100 for the 580EX.
• Weight. The 430EX weighs 370 grams compared to 405 grams for the 580EX.
• Master/slave function. The 430EX cannot be used to control other flashguns.
• Manual control. In manual mode the 430EX can be adjusted in while stop increments to 1/64th full power. The 580EX can be changed by as little as 1/3 stop to 1/128th full power.
The key upgrades from the 430EX Mark I and the 430EX Mark II versions are:
• 20% quicker recycling time
• Improved mounting foot
• Redesigned quick release and locking mechanism
• Manual control in 1/3 stop increments
The 430EX is a well built and reliable flashgun. Mine has served me well over several years and I can thoroughly recommend it. If you don't think you'll need the increased power and features of the 580EX then it's a great buy. However, you may find you outgrow it's capabilities so I would suggest going for the increased versatility of the 580EX if you can.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Ease of use: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Build quality: 4/5