Hardware Review/Eulogy – The Canon 550 EX

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Ah, how I loved thee, the Canon 550 EX, with your 3 flash modes, ETTL, Manual and Multi mode.  You were especially wonderful because of how well the ETTL worked in conjunction with the Canon bodies.  Your typical standard hotshoe fit every Canon SLR from the first days of DSLR’s (I think)), and you worked beautifully both as a slave and as a master via the toggle just below the button panel.

Another especially nice feature you had was the variable power settings when in manual, where I was able to adjust you from full power down to 1/128th power.  YOu also were very kind in allowing me to adjust your zoom range from 24mm to 105mm for the range of output too.   Compatability with the ST-E2 and the infra-red line of sight was another added benefit, although the infra-red technology has dated you beyond use in the current spectrum of choices.

When it comes to working in master-slave modes, you were pretty rockin’ though.  The ability to adjust ratios from 1:1 all the way to +/- 1:8 was pretty sweet, as was the ability to  assign you to one of three different groups, A, B, or C.  Although I’ve never used you in the multi-mode, the options there seem quite nice as well.

The Flash exposure bracketing, and High Speed sync with later EOS models has been a nice feature for me too, which is why I’ve hung on to you as long as I have – provided I’ve got the batteries and power to support it!

However, it was your time to go as you did not have a full-360 degree rotation on the head (without a hack), and your vertical tilt only had 3 adjustments at 60, 75, and 90 degrees. You also went through your 4 AA batteries like a hot knife through butter without the accessory battery pack (pricey in its own right).

Additionally, at a smidge over 14 ounces without batteries, and your large size (3.1 x 5.4 x 4.4) you’ve taken up a lot of space in the gear bag.  YOur remote limitations also had their downside since I could only fire you with the ST-E2 or Canon proprietary cable.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Canon gear, but sometimes others had flashes that I would like to have been able to use or borrow and could have if only you had a PC-sync plug.  Sure, workarounds and jerry-rigged devices are out there (which I have ended up using), but the endless testing, mis-fires, and other tangential effects of a home-made brew had some less than desirable outputs.

Ahhh…550EX, I loved thee well – you shall work well as a secondary with your newer cousin, the 580 EX II when she arrives in another month or so!  But when she arrives, I shall bid thee farewell, relegating you to the dust mites of my camera bag.  Good thing your owner kept your vitals intact here

Until that day, I’ll shoot again tomorrow!  (Happy shooting everyone!)

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3 thoughts on “Canon 550EX Review/Eulogy

  1. Never got to play with the 550EX. Instead I started out with the 580EX and I’ve also got the 430EX as well. Both are competent pieces of gear. And yes, I have a few complaints on my 580’s updated features compared to the earlier version. But I’ve worked out my small issues and I’m happy. Enjoy the new flash when it arrives!

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