Review: Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI flash
Before we get into this review of the Canon 470EX-AI speedlite (B&H / Amazon), I need to mention that I wanted this review video to be more than just a listing of the features of this flash. We therefore also delve into bounce flash technique. So there is something here even for those photographers who don’t shoot Canon, or have no real interest in getting this flash. So please do check the video out.
I was really curious to get to play with the Canon 470EX-AI speedlite (B&H / Amazon) for a review, and see just how well it works. If you’ve been following the Tangents blog, you will know the topic of bounce flash photography comes up often. It is an uncomplicated way to get really good light indoors, with the least effort. However, you need to be specific with your technique to get the best results. This topic is also thoroughly discussed in my books, On-Camera Flash, and Direction & Quality of Light.
What makes this flash unique, is the ‘AI’ portion – Artificial Intelligence. The flash has the capability to figure out what it thinks is the best bounce angle, or at the very least, automate the change in position in the flash head as you rotate your camera between vertical and horizontal orientation. The video explains much of that, with with practical examples where I photographed a model, Anastasiya, in the studio.
Does the 470EX-AI’s intelligent bounce feature work?
Does the 470EX-AI’s intelligent bounce feature work? Kinda … I was prepared to be quite cynical about this flash, but it does implement the AI feature in a way that can be useful. Ultimately though, a photographer that is aware of the direction they want the light to come from, will always outsmart this flash.
The Canon 470EX-AI has 2 modes in how it handles the Intelligent bounce feature:
S – Semi – available for all Canon cameras, where the flash can swivel the head for you to keep the same angle, as you flip your camera from horizontal to vertical position.
F – Full – available on the most recent Canon cameras, where the flash sends out two pre-flashes to determine subject distance and ceiling height.
- Check out to the compatibility chart to see how your camera interfaces with the Canon 470EX-AI.
The Semi mode will be useful for photographers who change the camera’s orientation often when they bounce flash. The Semi AI feature handles that very well (with the occasional mis-match, as seen in the video.)
Corrections to the video:
1.) At some point I misspoke in the video – I called it ‘Simple’ mode when the S really is for ‘Semi’.
2.) Where I mentioned the flash is ‘too high’, I meant the flash’s bounce angle is too high. The angle should have been lower, so that the light comes in at an angle where the eyes are better lit.
As I noted in the video review, I was pleasantly surprised by the Canon 470EX-AI (B&H / Amazon). While the ‘Full AI’ setting has marginal usefulness in my opinion, the ‘Semi AI’ setting does make it easier to rotate the camera between vertical and horizontal orientations.
I would suggest the Canon 470EX for any Canon shooter that wants to move up from using the built-in pop-up flash to something more serious. This flash will help with that transition and help give much more pleasant light than hard, direct flash.
For professional use, I would strongly suggest something more powerful – the Canon 600EX II (B&H / Amazon)
The 470EX doesn’t have as much power as the 600EX flash, and this becomes an issue when you are bouncing in larger areas or need a smaller aperture. Another advantage the 600EX has over the 470EX … the 470EX an only be used as a slave flash, and then only as an optical slave. There is no radio capability.
So here we have a really sweet flash, the Canon 470EX-AI (B&H / Amazon). But for a slightly bigger investment, the Canon 600EX II (B&H / Amazon) makes a lot more sense.
- Bouncing your flash
- Tutorial: Bounce flash photography
- Black Foamie Thing
- book: On-Camera Flash
- book: Direction & Quality of Light
- For more videos, follow me on Vimeo / YouTube
On-Camera Flash Photography – revised edition
This book is explains a cohesive and thorough approach to getting the best from your on-camera speedlight.
Particular care was taken to present it all with a logical flow that will help any photographer attain a better understanding of flash photography.
You can either purchase a copy via Amazon USA and Amazon UK, or can be ordered through Barnes & Nobles and other bookstores. The book is also available on the Apple iBook Store, as well as Amazon Kindle. Also check out the Amazon Kindle store.
Learn more about how the cover image was shot.
8 Comments, Add Your Own
Nice review and it seems to be an useful feature for Canon shooters now, especially when once set (semi-mode) and you change orientation, it will auto flip back to same direction you want it to.
2Frank Rodrick says
Hmmph. . .what a party poop you are. I wanted this to work! Computers always do a better job than I do, and then it’s easier, too. Damn. Great review, and I’ll save my money. I’m not sure I could recommend it to any photographer, though; not even a beginner. Learning to work around the AI would be as hard as learning to do it manually.
3Mr Randell John says
Reading honest reviews on equipment makes for a nice change. Nice one Neil.
I honestly though this flash was a bit gimmicky. Like, the technology is cool and all and useful, but my concern would be that it’s effectively a permanent crutch for bouncing flash. Because the flash does all of the work for you, the user doesn’t learn really how to bounce light from a flash. It doesn’t cross me as something that a person would ever really grow out of without A LOT of effort on the user’s part.
I could imagine a customer coming in saying that they wanted to get into flash photography, and if they’re a person who may get more serious into flash going down the road, I would not recommend this to them. I’d say to go with a normal Canon/Godox/Nissin unit and do the work of learning how to use it. That said, should the person just need a little more power than the built-in flash AND is just taking pictures of their family etc, then I’d recommend it.
In real world usage at events, it is too slow. At fast events, it is way too slow and at celebrity/news coverage events, when you are sprinting and shooting and shoving against 40 other photographers… as good as dead. For events work, conditions are always changing and variable, you are always on the move and the ceiling/bounce conditions always changes.
5.1David Bruno says
I agree with Anton. I can’t imagine using this at any of the events I shoot.
6dan mihai says
Nice review! how we can disable flash in Canon sistem? one push! or one switch! some time i need one shoot with out flash , see ambient exposure , and before next shoot with flash. in Nikon sistem we can set “preview dof” button to stop flash work = one push. for Canon , may be the C1,C2,C3 custom button? all best for you! dan
6.1Neil vN says
Dan, Canon doesn’t offer a similar quick work-around like that. It is also how I have my Nikon cameras set up to quickly (momentarily) disable flash.