More than a flash in the pan – Speedlite 600EX RT

Speedlites arrived – first thoughts

My new Speedlite 600EX-RTs and ST-E3-RT arrived just over twenty four hours ago, rather fortuitous as I need to be demonstrating them at some upcoming events soon.

First impressions, the radio is easy to set-up, I didn’t need to read the manual and was able to get the two 600EX’s to talk to the ST-E3. I love the Group mode that becomes available when you use the flashes on the latest EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1D X cameras – I would say that after radio triggering this is one of the most beneficial elements of the update for me. Group mode gives the ability to shoot with one group of slaves as E-TTL another as manual or even external metered (some might say thyristor) mode. In the 600EX-RT self portrait below, I’ve set it to be manual mode with 1/128 power from the ST-E3. This flash is working while having it’s picture taken! Then I have another 600EX-RT in E-TTL II mode slightly off the axis of the camera to the right side with it’s head zoomed in to 200mm to only illuminate the back of the flash.

Speedlite 600EX-RT

Speedlite 600EX-RT

Picture taken with no modifiers at all, just using the zoom on the flash heads. Flash is on black acrylic (perspex) sheet and there’s a big 120cm x 80cm white diffuser overhead at an angle to allow the pictured flash to create the white spot on the black acrylic in front of the flash unit.

Top tips for new Speedlite 600EX-RT owners

  • Change the ID of your flashes and transmitters from the default 0000 to stop other folks using your flashes
  • Using the AUTO radio channel selection seems to work very well for me so far
  • The flash and ST-E3 have personal functions P.Fn in addition to the custom functions C.Fn, but you can only change the P.Fn from the flash / transmitter not from the camera menu so learn how to access the P.Fn from the flash / transmitter
  • The flashes are a bit longer when the head is pointed up to put them in the bag. You might need to have a camera bag divider re-arrangement to fit them in
  • Set the zoom on the flash head before you put the flash well out of reach on the end of a tall light stand, you can’t change the flash head zoom over the radio link. I have been used to using Syl Arena’s OCF-33 10m E-TTL II cable for my master flashes in the past and this allowed me to change the zoom of the master flash from my camera
  • Try out the Ext.A mode on some of the slave flashes, i’ve had good results in trials myself
  • Get plenty of AA batteries, preferably rechargeable ones, as you will be experimenting a lot. 4 x AA in each 600EX-RT and 2 x AA in the ST-E3 RT