580EX Flash Tutorial Book?

Started Nov 28, 2006 | Discussions thread
Chuck Gardner Forum Pro • Posts: 10,381
Re: 580EX Flash Tutorial Book?

These tutorials are specific to speed lights. I currently use a pair of 580ex:

Here are details on basic operation:

The Canon 580ex can operate in TTL or manual mode. The user interface is a bit confusing because it requires pushing several different buttons and turning the dials. The manual isn't very clear on many functions, but if you follow all the steps in order things usually work.

First if you are using the 580ex on a camera or the TTL extension cable by itself with no other slave flash the three position "off-master-slave" switch must be in the "off" position. Seems counter intuitive until you realize that switch is for wireless multi-flash mode and when using a solo flash the wireless remote control signaling must be turned off. I suspect you may have that switch set to Master.

Turn camera on. Put it in M mode ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 1/125th.

Turn flash on. Press camera shutter half-way. Display should read E TTL and focal length of zoom head and lens f/stop. Bar graph at bottom will show the effective TTL range of the flash at that f/stop and focal length. If you change aperture or zoom of lens the bar graph will also change. For example, at ISO 100 and f/5.6 the max range is about 18ft @ 24mm and 25ft @ 70mm

Make sure the flash is in the normal horizontal position. Note the bottom position is 7 degrees below horizontal. If you see a icon of a flash unit blinking in the LCD raise the head one click. If you see - - where the zoom setting should be lower the flash head. The - - indicates the head is tilted up for bounce

The camera / flash should work fine in E-TTL mode. Don't use FEL. Just frame, shoot, evaluate, and the adjust FEC as needed. In other words let the camera make its best guess first before you try to second guess it.

Depending on the overall reflectance of the scene + 1 stop or more FEC may be needed. That is normal. It simple terms the camera metering thinks the woirld is a perfect average of light and dark tones which will refect 12 - 18% of the light back to the camera. When more or less is reflected back the camera’s best guess at the expoure will be wrong. That’s were FEC comes into play. It acts to override the camera’s flash calcuation

Manual Mode

In manual mode the camera metering isn’t use at all. Exposure adjustments must be made by evaluating the image in the LCD playback and histogram and then adjusting the manual power level. In essence its the same as TTL and FEC with needed to wait for the camera’s guess. If the camera flash is put on 1/2 power and a test shot taken it will either be 1) perfect, 2) underexposed, or 3) over exposed. If under the next logical step would be to change to double to full power and try again. If over the next logical step would be to cut power in half to 1/4 and try again. The test shot process might need to be repeated a few more times, but so does the process of making FEC adjustments. Both involve trial and errot to get the exposure perfect with about the same number of steps. The difference is that TTL will adapt to changes in flash/subject distances but manual will not; its manual.

Using the flash in manual modes:

Press the "mode" button once. Display will change to M and 1/1 (or some other fraction if used previously).

Press the center button (set) button in the adjustment wheel to change power setting. When you press button fractional power indicator will flash.

Turn wheel clockwise to increase power, anti-clockwise to decrease. If you don't turn the wheel within 10 sec the indicator will stop flashing - press the button again

1/1 = full power. 1/2 = 1/2 full power (-1 stop) 1/4 = 1/4 full power (-2 stops) etc.

Between the full stop settings there a 1/3 step increments, so as you decrease power you will see 1/1, 1/1 -0.3, 1/1 - 0.7, 1/2, 1/2 -0.3, 1/2 - 0.7, 1/4 .... But if you are turning the wheel clockwise to increase power you will see + signs 1/4, 1/4 +0.3, 1/4 +0.7, 1/2, 1/2 +0.3, 1/2 +0.7, 1/1 Perfectly logical, but a bit counter intuitive.

In M mode there will only be one distance for each power setting where exposure is perfect. Perfect in digital is defined as correctly exposed highlight detail. The bar graph on the LCD show the distance where the exposure will be correct. As with TTL the zoom setting and aperture will affect that distance. With the camera set to ISO and f/5.6 and 50mm the 580ex indicates the following distances for correct exposure with various power levels:

1/128 = 2.3 ft
1/64 = 4ft
1/32 = 5ft
1/16 = 7ft
1/8 = 10ft
1/4 = 15ft
1/2 = 20ft
1/1 = 30ft

Getting the correct exposure is simply a matter of picking the power level which corresponds to the range of that level. The position shown on the LCD is approximate. Determine your the actual level needed via the highlight detail in your images. FEC is not active in M flash mode. Making an FEC adjustment on the camera will have no effect, To change exposure change the power level manually. That's why its called manual

To recap Manual flash is really as simple as cooking on a stove top>

Press mode until M appears
Press center button of wheel

Turn the dial to increase or decrease the "heat" until your subject is perfectly "cooked".

Use the LCD distance scale as a guide for max range and optimum distance for the ISO and f/stop being used.

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