Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash Review

Canon Speedlite 430EX II

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Canon's 430EX II flashgun is firmly aimed at enthusiastic consumer photographers, and it sits in the middle of the manufacturer's range of Speedlites. Like all of Canon's flashguns, the build quality is high, and many pros use this flashgun. Canon has limited the 430EX II's functions to bring the price down, but it's still a great piece of equipment. 

Description

  • Guide Number: 43m (141 feet)
  • Coverage: 24-105mm, 14mm
  • Tilt / Swivel: 270 degrees
  • Recycle Time: 3 seconds
  • Custom Functions: 9
  • AF Assist: Up to 9 points

Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash Review

The 430EX II is a useful addition to any photographer's kit. It's Canon's mid-level flashgun, but, if you're serious about your photography, then it's the cheapest one you should realistically consider. Canon's entry-level flashgun, the 270EX, really isn't powerful enough, and it is very limited in its functions. There's a big difference in price between the 430EX II and Canon's top-end model — the 580EX II. At present, the difference is about $200.

Controls

The reason we haven't given the 430EX II five stars boils down to one simple flaw: The controls. For some reason, most of the buttons on the back need to be pressed quite hard to achieve any reaction from the unit. And, while the 580EX II has a dial (to dial in exposure compensation for the flashgun), the 430EX II still has + and - buttons, which are equally tricky to use.

Batteries and Power

The battery compartment of the 430EX II is easy to open, and there's a drawing to show you how to insert the batteries... something that often is lacking in photographic equipment!

Battery life is excellent, and recycling time on the 430EX II is exceptionally good. As for power, the 430EX II covers a 43m range (141 feet), which should be more than adequate for most enthusiasts. The only time that you might feel a lack of range is when diffusing or bouncing the light, as objects in the distance will lack coverage. 

Body

The 430EX II, unlike the 580EX II, is not weather-sealed. But it is considerably lighter than its big brother, which could be something you are pleased about at the end of a long day of shooting! 

Flash Head

The 430EX II has a tilt/swivel range of 270 degrees. Unless you're doing specialist close-up and macro work, it's unlikely that you'll miss the extra range of the 580EX II. The flashgun also comes with a built-in wide-angle diffuser which allows for coverage with wide-angle lenses down to 14mm. It doesn't come with a bounce card (to help diffuse light), but, to be honest, you're better off investing in a Sto-fen to diffuse the light.

What Is the Guide Number?

We've talked about how the 430EX II has a guide number of 43m (141 feet). But how does this translate in practical terms? The guide number follows this formula:

Guide Number / Aperture at ISO 100 = Distance

To shoot at f8, we would divide the guide number by the aperture to determine the appropriate distance for the subject:

141 feet / f8 = 17.6 feet

Therefore, if we are shooting at f8, our subjects shouldn't be further than 17.6 feet away.

This can be the reason why pros turn to the 580EX II, as it has a higher guide number and allows for shooting at greater distances.

Modes and Custom Functions

The 430EX II features Canon's E-TTL II flash exposure metering system. This is the automatic mode, and it is extremely good. It's particularly useful in helping to provide accurate white balance (something that can be a problem for Canon cameras in certain lighting conditions). The flashgun also features Manual power, and the unit can be set to different power outputs (such as 1/2 power, 1/4 power, etc.). There are nine custom functions, all of which are already allocated to different useful shortcuts.

Wireless Mode

The 430EX II can be used as a wireless slave, but this will require either a master flash unit (the 580EX II) or a wireless transmitter. It should be noted that these will only work within the IR beam range. Using the flash off camera does typically give a much better light, and it helps to prevent red eye and to cut down on shadows.

Conclusion

The 430EX II is a solid flashgun with some great features. If you're on a strict budget, then this would be the model to go for. And it will make a great slave unit if you do decide to upgrade in the future.