The Canon 430EX II is an amazingly compact and good all purpose flash which is the reason that our studio carries them along with us on every wedding photography day. These useful little marvels can make impossibly dim lighting situations much more manageable. Their small, compact size make them much more portable on the days we need to carry them along all day. In addition to their size, we like that they can be adapted to work on camera or off. With a few small and inexpensive tweaks we got ours integrated with our Paul C Buff Cyber Sync Radio Frequency Systems and prefer these speedlites to any others that we have used to date.
For the price these flashes come with a pretty strong feature set of useful tools that pros are accustom too. Of course these flashes have E-TTL capabilities which we will use ONLY if we are faced with a dimly light fast paced situation that is to darker than our f1.4 lenses can see. The intermediate flash also has the ability to zoom the flash head, which can give it an almost electronic snoot like ability! It supports High Speed-Sync so you can shoot longer lens without concerning much about banding. Also dark reception dancing shots benefits immensely from the usefulness of its AF-assist beam which is handy all by itself.
It’s easy to get it into manual mode and you can quickly adjust it by 1/3 stop increments! It’s perfect on light stands and seeing the screen in the dark is easily accomplished thanks to it’s illumination feature. The custom function menu on the flash is a little cryptic and we actually carry a cheetsheet on our iPhones should we need it from time to time. If the batteries drain completely the memory will be erased and we will need to reset the auto shutoff function. This is a very import setting if you are using these on light stands that can be over looked. This is not an error you want when the bride and groom make their grand entrance…
We certainly had our fair share of experience with Canon’s infamous speedlite systems. Initially when we were exploring flashes we didn’t want to make a huge investment in lighting and we chose two of the 430EXII as they are very affordable at $299 (as of this writing) and they were great starters for our studio. We used these lights on our cameras primarily to bounce flash ONLY when we really needed too. However, at the time we were shooting with 2.8 zoom lenses and found that the 430EX having 35% less power than it’s big brother the 580EXII it struggled to recycle.
The 430EXII being the middle of the line flash makes it affordable, the trade-off = less features. Given this the 430EXII can be fired off camera via Canon’s IR system. However, if you have’t used this IR system before take our word on it, in bright daylight it miss fires and is very unreliable at long distances (15ft or more outdoors). Our studio began researching and investing the time and effort into learning off camera flash and the 430EXII became less attractive than than other off camera radio transmission systems.
In mid 2012 Canon’s flagship flash the 600EX with it’s ST-E3-RT made its debut! WOW no pocket wizards needed for radio transmission and it was all just built in!! We made the investment in two 600EXs and the ST-E3-RT wireless controller @ roughly $1500 total and for a time we were very happy with this system. Canon’s Flagship Wireless Speedlite System works as well as you would expect it too. It fires 99.9% of the time and because the wireless controller button layout is the exact same as the speedlite it was very quick to learn the controller menus/dials alongside the flashes.
1 Low Cost
2 Easy to carry for an entire wedding day
1 Less Power
2 No built in RF Triggers
So we had our Canon Speedlite Cadillac system and it honestly worked exactly as advertised. However, over time what we found is we very rarely used it for off camera lighting except on very few occasions for artistic purposes. Quite frankly off camera lighting with 100 watt speedlites really only provides enough light to be used as kicker lights or some sort of secondary light and we rarely used them in this manner. As we moved into faster and faster prime lenses the need for flashes diminished to the point that we were rarely using our fancy 600EX system at all. We did however have another issue that we were having trouble solving, posed group shots in dimly light church.
So we sold the whole thing off to help us fund our third iteration lighting system. We had learned a great tactic from F-Stoppers RL Morris to light an entire church evenly for the group shots and it required studio lighting. Studio lighting is very expensive, so we choose a good starter strobe, The Paul C Buff Einstein to help us solve our occasional church issue, but we still needed speedlites to bounce in the occasional dark room, dancing or late night departure. So with open arms we welcomed back the 430EXII and purchased two! However, we still liked having the artistic usage of off camera lighting so to solve this issue we purchased Zebra Flash mount adapters. which allowed us to plug them into our Cyber Sync system.
The 430EXII for us is the perfect flash. We rely on our speedlites very little and most of the day they remain in our bags. This also makes the 430EX the more practical version for us as it weighs significantly less than the 600EX. While it does not have as much total flash power as its big brother this doesn’t affect us much as prime shooters, most of our lenses are super fast 1.4 or faster and we rarely have an issue with the 35% less juice from the 430EX compared to the 600EX. This flash works great and has a comprehensive feature set for it price tag. Regardless if you are just getting started in flash of you are a seasoned vet this flash is a great little performer and for the price and size we love it!
Are you interested in learning more about this lighting system? There are lots of great, useful resources all over the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams! We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.
Canon Official – 430EXII Tech Specs