Testing & Finding The Limits
I purchased my first digital SLR in 2002 the trusty Canon EOS D60 (not to be confused with today’s 60D). I had used a Canon EOS D30 for about a year but didn’t actually own it. When I bought the D60 I had a desire to purchase two Canon 550EX Speedlites and a Canon ST-E2 Wireless Controller. I knew about the principles of wireless flash and the concept just grabbed my attention. It wasn’t long before they became part of my kit.
Fast forward 9 years to the present day. I’m now on my 5th different model DSLR and I still have these flashes and the ST-E2. I’ve also added a 580EX II and a second hand 420EX as well. The Canon EOS 7D that I’m currently using has a built in wireless controller, so the ST-E2 has been benched for the last year or so, until now.
I have a photo shoot coming up next week with a local model. This photo session requires the use of flash outdoors during the middle of the day. Due to the fact that I will be at the beach and in sand dunes & 240v power is not readily at hand, I will be using Canon Speedlites. But what is the limit of these little light emitting monsters?
One thing I’ve never done is found out the range of the wireless system in daylight. I’ve read reports that it was less than 5 meters outside during the day and I figured now was a good time to find out for myself. So I set up my flashes on stands, attached external battery packs and placed them around the back yard. I used both the built in transmitter and the ST-E2 to see which had the better range.
I was surprised at the range I managed to get out of the transmitters. Line of sight (red panel facing camera) 18 meters with the ST-E2 but only 12meters with the built in transmitter. Not bad at all. I don’t think I will be further away than that anyway. I also wanted to find out how far apart I could get them. Again I was surprised. The widest lens I currently own is a 15-85, I was able to place a flash as wide apart as my back yard would allow at approx 14 meters away and they still fired.
I then set up another experiment of direct sunlight hitting the flashes. Here’s where it got interesting. With a 550EX in the shade as a control I placed the other 550EX and the 580EX facing directly into the sun and stood 14 meters away. Both the 550EXs fired but the 580EX did not. The 580EX didn’t fire until I got within 5 meters of it. Maybe that’s what the reports were on about. I reversed the position of myself and the flashes for the final experiment and fired the ST-E2 directly into the sun and with the flashes facing me they all worked at the 14 meter mark with no problem. Now the possibilities are starting to flow. I see a model on a sand dune, blue sky. She’s holding a flash…….Things that make you go Hmmmmmm!!
During this whole experiment of mine, my Alaskan Malamute, Aluka, just laid there and watched, as I moved back and forth moving the light stands. So before packing up I positioned the flashes around her and took a couple of doggie portraits. The image below was taken at 4pm in the shade, 250th Sec – f7.1 @ 200ISO, 2x 550EX Speedlites. Goes to show with the right settings you can turn Day into Night. You have to make hay while the sun shines.