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REVIEW: Canon Speedlite EL-1

CANON SPEEDLITE EL-1: A versatile on-camera flashgun with extensive weather sealing, a maximum GN of 60 (ISO 100/m) and the ability to fire up to 170 full power flashes in sequence without overheating. It’s pricey, but ticks pretty much every box in a professional photographer’s wish list. It’s the most adjustable on-camera flash currently available.
RRP: $1879
Speedlite EL-1
The Speedlite EL-1 covers the zoom range of a 24-200mm lens. It is robustly built, as you’d expect from Canon’s pro-grade equipment and features professional-standard weatherproof sealing. The head can be swiveled through 180 degrees to left and right or bounced upward through 120 degrees and down through seven degrees, enabling light to be directed as the photographer wishes. A built-in wide panel extends coverage to match lenses up to 14mm, while a bounce adaptor is provided for softening and spreading the light to suppress harsh shadows. Two colour filters enable users to modify the colour of the light output, adding a subtle or obvious orange glow that will appeal to real estate photographers.

Features include a Quick Flash function that enables the flashgun to fire before it is fully recharged, albeit with some reduction of light output. The EL-1 can also recognise the size of the attached camera and adjust coverage to match. It can also exchange information with the camera to optimise colour output and is also able to fire an AF-assist beam to help the camera to focus the lens in difficult lighting.

Canon EL-1 multiflash
The Speedlite EL-1 being used as part of a multi-flash system. (Source: Canon.)

Wireless integration provides the basis for a highly portable lighting system for product and interior photographers. Portraitists, product photographers and those who need controllable light for close-up work can benefit from the high levels of flexibility in both the intensity and directions of the light. This flexibility will also make it useful for fashion photographers, who will appreciate the convenience of the built-in modelling light.

Its large rechargeable battery pack gives it plenty of stamina for wedding and event photography as well as indoor sports, while its robust weatherproofing enables it to be used for outdoor portraiture and nature photography. All these features and versatility help to justify the high price tag.

Canon EL-1 portraits
Portrait photographers will enjoy the high levels of flexibility in both the intensity and direction of light. (Source: Canon)

Purchasing Points:

Canon El-1 controls
The EL-1 features a new joystick among its suite of controls (Source: Canon).

1. The first flashgun that can fire up to 170 full power flashes in sequence without overheating thanks to an active cooling system that uses an internal fan.
2. The GN (Guide Number) range of 27.3-60 (ISO 100/m) covers focal lengths from 24-200mm in 35mm format. A built-in wide panel extends the angle of light distribution to accommodate wide-angle lenses up to 14mm focal length for full frame cameras. Above this panel is a pull-out white reflector, which is used to create attractive catchlights in subjects’ eyes.
3. Recycling times average 0.9 second and the LP-EL rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack supports approximately 335 flashes at full power or up to 2345 with the lowest output mode.
4. The flash head can be swiveled through 180 degrees to left and right or bounced upward through 120 degrees and down through seven degrees.
5. A new joystick control and easy-to use LCD screen enable photographers to navigate the menu and change settings quickly.
6. Users can adjust output across 14 steps, ranging from full power to a new low-power setting that reaches down to 1/8192th of full power.
7. The EL-1 can be connected to up to 15 other flashes for studio use. Wireless transmission supports a range of modes, including second-curtain synchro.
The weatherproof sealing is as good as the sealing in Canon’s flagship interchangeable-lens cameras, enabling the EL-1 to be used in challenging weather conditions.
9. The EL-1 is supplied with a bounce adaptor and two-colour filters – one providing slight warming and the other very noticeable warming of the light output.
10. It also includes a tunable bi-colour LED modelling lamp that enables photographers to see where and how the light will fall on their subject.

Distributor: Canon Australia; 1800 021 167;

For a more extensive review of the Canon Speedlite EL-1, click here

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