The Canon Speedlite EL-1 flash was announced late last year, and like many of you, I saw the price tag and thought that I would save some money and keep using my old Canon 600EX-RT flashes. Let’s face it, at $1099 each, these things are not cheap. But about a month ago, I decided to pull the trigger and purchase two of these flashes. Even though I typically use 6 flashes when shooting events, I had a very specific use for these two new flash heads. But that would be getting ahead of myself, so let me tell you a little about these newer flashes.
The first thing I noticed when unpacking the Speedlite EL-1 is that it is noticeably larger than the previous Canon flash heads. I believe that a big part of this is the fan which is integrated inside the Speedlite EL-1. Yes, there is a fan in these to help keep them cool, even when being used heavily.
Here is the older Canon 600EX-RT flash laying side-by-side with the Speedlite EL-1. You can see some of the size difference in this photo, but this view does not do it justice.
Here is a head-on view, and you can really see the difference in the size of the flash head. As you would expect from seeing this, the Speedlite EL-1 can pump out a lot more light than the 600 series flashes.
Heck, the flash head is almost as big as the base of the unit. But even though this new flash has increased power and light, it is still not why I wanted the two units.
I purchased the two new Canon Speedlite EL-1 flashes for the faster recycle time! With the new cooling system and large battery pack, this new flash can recharge itself much faster than the older flashes and fire almost endlessly without overheating.
As many of you know, I photograph a lot of events and rely heavily on remote flashes at receptions. I usually have two flashes with the MagMod MagSphere diffuser (one for each camera) and two remote speedlites set up on 12-foot light stands in the venue. My hope was that these new flashes could stay up on the light stands and keep up with my rapid-fire shooting (using two cameras and flashes) for the whole night. I can easily change batteries for the on-camera flashes, but not so much for the remotes.
As opposed to the Canon 600EX-RT flashes, which use AA batteries, the Canon Speedlite EL-1 uses the new LP-EL battery pack. And let me tell you, this battery can hold enough charge to last me for an entire 5-hour party (at a manual setting of between 1/32 and 1/128 power) and still have plenty of battery life left over. I also love that I can charge these batteries using the same charger as my Canon cameras that use LP-E6 batteries.
I used this flash for my last event and look at the battery indicator. It still has plenty of juice left over.
The El-1 has a much better LCD display and a new user interface. After working with the Canon 600EX-RT flashes for so many years, I am still getting used to the interface on the Speedlite EL-1.
The good news is that these new flashes can fire off more shots, and faster than the older 600 series flashes, which gives me more high-quality images for my clients.
I am still using the Canon 600EX-RT flashes on my camera, both as a flash and a trigger for the remotes. And you may be wondering why I am doing that instead of using all Speedlite EL-1 flashes. There are four reasons I am shooting this way (for now):
1. I like the smaller size of the Canon 600EX-RT flash on the camera.
2. My MagMod diffusers fit much better on the smaller flash heads.
3. I can change out AA batteries quickly since the flashes are always with me. Having a second set of AA ready to swap out halfway through the party works well.
4. It saves me a lot of money.
I can tell you that my take-rate is much higher with these two new speedlites working as my remote flashes. As I fire off my 2000 images during the party, I have way fewer shots where the remote flashes did not go off.
Do I get nervous having $1099 flashes up on 12′ light stands with kids running around? Yeah, I do. But so far, so good. I hope I did not just jinx myself.
About the Author
Jeff Cable is a world-renowned, seven-time Olympic photographer having covered Beijing, Vancouver, London, Sochi, and Rio. He is one of the most sought-after presenters and educators in the photography space. You can find out more about Jeff on his website, follow his adventures on his blog, or reach out to him through Facebook. This article was also published here and shared with permission.