What kind of fash to get for your Canon Rebel? (originally posted 2007-01-07)

i just got this question from a friend. and after writing a long-winded response to it i figured i'd just as well post it is as a FAQ-style blog...


hey bro. its T. i dont know if Z has told you or not but i got a rebel xti for christmas. so far its amazing and im just kinda learing as i go along but i got a pretty nice zoom lens. and if i were to get a flash. from your opinion. what kind and where would you get it at?

-thanks, T


the Rebel's built in flash is a small low-powered direct flash. you can buy larger direct flash units and they're usually less expensive, but direct flash rarely makes for a good photo. you need a good bounce flash, meaning you need a flash with a head that will tilt and swivel. so instead of hitting your subject with a lot of harsh, hard light directly, you're "bouncing" the flash off of a ceiling or near-by surfaces which softens or diffuses the light and results in a MUCH better image. there's a lot you can play with and experiment bouncing off different colored surfaces and different directions (an off camera cord can also be useful for that, but will run you around $50). you can also use diffusers to soften the light. they're generally made from a translucent material covering the flash source. you can buy ready made ones ($10-$30) or make your own using papers, cloth, clear/foggy plastics, etc.

flash photography guide/tutorial for Canon EOS cameras

i use the Canon 430EX Speedlite. it'll do about everything you need, short of transmitting to a slave flash (but that's more advance/complicated stuff). it'll run you around $230. you can always hit Ebay for a cheaper used one or Canon's 420EX which is their older model, but be careful not to buy anything too thrashed. and if the seller is a photographer, ask what kind. if he/she is a photojournalist, field photographer, etc (like me) they're a lot more likely to damage they're equipment (like me).

there're off brand flashes like Sigma and Sunpack, but i don't know much about them. they're cheaper, but you generally get what you pay for. in my opinion you're best bet is to stick with Canon if you can afford it.

but no mater what kind of flash you get, remember they eat batteries quick, so be prepared to buy a lot or some good rechargeables. and be careful how you treat camera equipment. the Rebel is a consumer/pro-sumer level camera. it's damned sturdy for what it is, but it's not built especially tough. and the hot-shoe (flash mount) can come loose if it's thrashed around too much (mine's starting to). also, as far as prices and bargain go, don't trust mail-in rebates.

B&H is generally the best place online to buy camera gear. Amazon probably carries most everything B&H does, but it'll be harder to find, more confusing, and provides less information on the product. and Best Buy usually has a few 430EX Speedlites in stock, but you'll pay a little more (which may balance out compared to item+shipping costs ordering online). and obviously, don't expect anyone at Best Buy to know dick about real photography stuff. Real camera shops are best for quality, quantity, and variety of equipment, but they're few and far between. Peace Camera in Raleigh is the nearest good one, but Camera Corner down Church Street might work. And sometimes Wolf/Ritz Camera will do in a pinch.

Canon 430EX Speedlite @ B&H Photo
Canon 430EX Speedlite @ Best Buy
Canon 430EX Speedlite @ Camera Corner
all other current flashes for Canon EOS cameras @ B&H Photo
off camera cord for Canon EX flashes @ B&H Photo
good/simple diffuser @ B&H Photo
other diffusers @ B&H Photo

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