Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT is worth the price

The 600-EX-RT Speedlite was placed out-of-sight behind Arnold on the right to provide the much needed separation of my subjects in black tshirts from the dark interior of the tunnel. Buy a Hip-o tshirt.
The 600-EX-RT Speedlite was placed out-of-sight behind Arnold on the right to provide the much needed separation of my subjects in black tshirts from the dark interior of the tunnel. Buy a Hip-o tshirt.

Happy New Year everyone.

I started the new year with a new addition to my lighting toolkit–the next generation radio controlled Canon Speedlite–the 600EX-RT and its companion transmitter ST-E3-RT.

The price tag is pretty hefty, $890, the 600 EX-RT costing $570 and the ST-E3-RT $320.

Compare that to the price of a top-of-the-line Radio Popper radio slaved Speedlite $879 or mid-range radio slave Cybersync radio slaves—$655

Interestingly before Canon’s new Speedlite 600Ex-RT hit the markets, Radio Poppers kits of transmitter and receiver were priced at $250 a piece!

 Canon 600EX-RT  Radio Poppers  Cybersync
 $570  $189 (transmitter)  $60 (transmitter)
 $320 (Canon ST-E3-RT)  $189 (receiver)  $70 (receiver)
 $890  $500 (580EXII Speedlite) $500 (580EXII Speedlite)
 $879  $630

**Hotshoe adapter to connect to Cybersync radio receiver needed for older Speedlites–$25 **

Is the Price Difference Worth it?

After about a month of testing, I would say that the difference of $235 is worth it for me.

Please note, I said, for me. It comes down to what kinds of subjects you shoot and how quickly you have to work.

Canon’s literature suggests that unless you own their newer DSLRs manufactured in 2011, you won’t be getting the full benefit of this new system.

But of course!

Even if you don’t own a newer DSLR, like me, I have the Canon 40D and 5DMark 2, I found the new combo elegant, clutter-free setup so much more convenient.

I never need to worry about 2 sets of batteries any longer.

All I need to think about is the batteries for the Speedlite and its new transmitter which use AAs.

I’m very tempted to pick up a 2nd 600EX-RT Speedlite right now, that’s how much I love it.

Some History

Canon’s previous Speedlite triggering system the STE-2 was based on line-of-sight infra-red system.

Longtime Canon Speedlite users who light or use their portable flashes off-camera with its companion Canon’s STE-2 optical or infra-red-based triggering system have complained for years.

That system when it worked was great in its simplicity.

The trouble was how the system needed the Speedlite acting as the slave to always be in line-of sight of the transmitter which sits on your hotshoe.

Good luck too if you were shooting in bright sunlight and outdoors.

That effectively meant you would have success indoors 80% of the time, maybe.

On the job, I can’t afford to be troubleshooting and wondering why my Speedlite is mis-firing.

Not only is that terribly unnerving, it doesn’t look good.

I don’t plan to abandon my Cybersync radio slaves. They work perfectly fine. They’ll be my backups, no doubt.

But I will always carry the hardwire cord to be safe.

I paid about $570 for my Speedlite and $320 for the ST-E3-RT transmitter.

Expect Nikon’s to cost 10% more.

First Impression

My very early tests show Canon’s latest radio-based Speedlite triggering system works dependably but as with most gear, I have to use it more to understand its shortcomings.

I started using the 600EX-RT on assignments recently.

It fired each and every time like they’re supposed to, just like my Cybersync radio slaves when they are hooked up to my Speedlites.

Not having to deal with a hot shoe adapter and plugging in a receiver makes life a lot easier especially when I have quickly setup and light.

There are just too many parts to connect and disconnect when dealing with Pocket Wizards or Cybersyncs when using Canon Speedlites.

Then there’s the hassle how to secure the receiver to the Speedlite.

Leaving the receiver dangling is not an option since readio slaves are very delicate and don’t do well when dropped.

One feature I absolutely love is the ability to manually set the flash output of slaved 600-EX-RT Speedlite from the ST-E3-RT transmitter.

As we know, despite the technology  iTTL (Nikon) or E-TTL isn’t foolproof, so having that ability to cut the power output without touching the off-camera slaved Speedlite from full power to 7 stops–1/128th is godsend.

Just find your hammer, take aim on your piggybank and  swing away, Canon shooters.

Nikon fanboys, for the time being, let us gloat, but don’t fret.

When you guys get your version, it’s going to better and it will have the technology and features I wish this one has.

Peter Phun Photography

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2 thoughts on “Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT is worth the price”

  1. Hi Sabe,
    Happy New Year. The new Speedlite makes lighting so much more fun. Note even though I only have one 600EX-RT and its companion transmitter, it is so much faster to setup and take down.

    I will be posting more pictures soon especially ones from those I’ve shot on assignment. (Real world in the field)

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with those Chinese Yongnuo strobes. High Shutter Speed sync is nice but it drains batteries and if you don’t have an external battery pack, it is agonizingly slow because you have to wait for the flash to recycle to full capacity.

    If you have pictures online you taken with your setup, do share the URL with me via email or here. I’d love to see what you do.

    When I teach my Small Flash Lighting workshop, I teach my students to shoot their strobes on manual power. It’s easier for them to grasp the concepts instead of iTTL or E-TTL. Thanks so much for commenting. BTW, you can now add a picture to your comment. If you look below, you can see a choice, “Choose FIle”

  2. Hey Peter…
    Good article, and congratulations on your new gear…and I love the backlight on the group shot. It separates the group very effectively.

    I use the 580EXii for my primary light and have picked up a Youngnuo 560 II ($75 new). It is manual without high speed sinc but has the same power output as the canon with a fairly decent build quality. When not using a corded set up I have been using the Yongnuo 603 triggers (about $15 each) andd each will act as a transmitter or receiver. They can’t be dialed in from the camera but for a completely non-ETTL setup it works very well. I have used the 580 on an ETTL setting, but I haven’t used that system very much and don’t have enough experience with it to get interesting lighting. I usually have a lot of time and only my own interests to contend with,hence the slower pace.

    I will be interested to hear more about your setup as it becomes more familiar to you…thanks again.

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