Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash review

Found in: ReviewsSpeedlightsCanon
Jan 26 2009
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Canon Speedlite 430EX II

Content

In a nutshell

Canon Speedlite 430EX II is a consumer level flash that is also widely used by many professionals. Canon obviously tried to limit its functionality to make it cheaper, but 430EX II still has a good set of features. Also, the quality of materials and build is very high.

Out tests show good reliable exposure in different setups. The recycling is fast and silent.

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: head 90 degrees to the right, side view Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: angle view
Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: head tilted and rorated 45 degrees Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: head straight up, rotated 90 degrees

Specifications

Guide number (ISO 100, lens 105 mm): 43 m (141 ft)
Recycling time: about 3.0 seconds (normal flash)
Modes: : TTL, E-TTL, E-TTL II, Manual
Head swivel: from -90 to +180 degrees
Head tilt: from 0 to +90 degrees
Bounce card: No
Build-in wide panel: Yes
Wireless capabilities: Slave
High-speed synchronization: Yes
Second curtain synchronization: Yes
Modeling light: Yes
Weight (no batteries): 320 g / 11.3 oz

Head

The flash head swivels from -90 to 180 degrees. This covers almost any shooting situation but can be annoying when, on occasion, you do want to set the head to -120 degrees. The flash head also tilts from 0 to 90 degrees. It cannot be set to a negative angle for better macro/close-up shooting.

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: head movements, a page from manual Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: tilting angles
Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: head rotate position, to the right Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: head rotate position, to the left

Wide panel

Canon Speedlite 430EX II features a build-in wide-angle diffuser (wide panel) that allows avoiding light falloff while shooting with wide angle lenses.

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: wide angle diffuser

Please note the flash does not have the white bounce card. So, you'll have to buy an after market flash diffuser (light modifier) or make your own one. It is still possible to redirect some light forward while bouncing off walls or ceilings. If you pull the wide panel out from the head in such a way that it stays vertical, then it'll serve as a bounce card. The reflected light will be weak, but this can be of some use in certain situations (if, for instance, flash is much closer to the object then the reflecting surface).

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: using  wide angle diffuser as a reflector

Controls

Controls on Canon 430EX II are far from great. The action is what troubling us. The buttons have to be pressed really deep to operate. If you push a button to (what we consider to be) a comfortable level, then the button may or may not work. For us, this is beyond convenience threshold.

This is especially apparent with the big "+" and "-" buttons. They are used more often than the others and have the worst action. The only good way to press them is by using finger nails, which can be uncomfortable or even unacceptable.

The buttons are usable, but for better experience, improvements are highly desirable. (We actually wondering why Canon designers did not make the same controls upgrade for 430EX II that they did going from Canon Speedlite 580EX (Mark I) to the second version of the 580EX.)

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: controls

Batteries

Battery compartment door is easy to open and close, so it won't get in a way when you need to quickly replace your batteries. There is no spring to hold the door open, though.

Nice little picture shows you how the batteries are supposed to be inserted. It may seem to be a minor thing (and it probably is), but many flashes don't have that, and we believe this kind of visual aid is very handy.

The batteries life is very good, in general, but it greatly depends on the way the flash is used (bouncing, diffusing, etc.).

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: battery compartment, door open Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: inside battery compartment

LCD display

The display on the Canon Speedlite 430EX II is reasonably sized. Most of the symbols are easily readable. The layout is simple and effective.

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: LCD display, layout

Mounting foot

The mounting lock allows rapid locking and releasing of the flash in the hot shoe of your camera or a cold shoe for off-camera work. The metal foot is more durable than the more traditional plastic one, which makes it more resistant to normal wear.

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: pins Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: metal mounting foot

The lock release button could've been better. You have to press it with the tip of your finger, which can be uncomfortable, and, for someone with a manicure, even impossible. Aside from this, mounting mechanism is great and is superior comparing to the screw-on design.

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Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: foot close up, on a stand

Bracket mounting

Canon 430EX II features a flash bracket mount on a side of its body. Unfortunately, the door that covers the mount can be easily lost since it is very small and does not stay connected to the body with some kind of wire when detached. So, if you intend to use the bracket mount, you'd better leave the mount door at home.

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: bracket fitting door Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: bracket fitting, close up

Wireless

Canon Speedlite 430EX II can operate as a wireless slave within Canon proprietary wireless system. So, having a Canon compatible master flash or wireless transmitter allows you controlling 430EX II remotely. 430EX II supports an impressive number of wireless functions including TTL, manual and stroboscopic modes, flash exposure compensation and bracketing, high-speed sync, and all 4 Canon wireless channels and 3 groups.

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: infrared receiver

Pouch and stand

The flash is shipped with a good quality pouch and a plastic stand for off-shoe operation. Both, the stand and the flash, fit into the pouch, so you can always carry the stand along with the flash and use it when necessary.

Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: included stand Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: included pouch
Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: flash in the pouch Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash: stand in the pouch

Conclusion

Canon Speedlite 430EX II is a high quality flash. It is powerful and is loaded with features that will satisfy many consumer and semi-pro photographers. Swivel and tilt head makes it possible to get nice lighting effects bouncing off walls and ceilings. The buttons on the unit have to be improved to achieve better ergonomics.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.


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