Canon adds a motion control head to its new 470 EX AI speedlight – but why?

Feb 26, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Canon adds a motion control head to its new 470 EX AI speedlight – but why?

Feb 26, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Canon has announced a shiny new speedlight. The Canon 470EX-AI. It contains a new feature that’s apparently supposed to make life easier for those who use on-camera flash, but I’m really not entirely sure why. That feature is a new motorised head which allows the flash to re-orient its head when you “double half press” the shutter button. Call me cynical, but this seems to be a solution looking for a problem.

The above video was posted to Canon Australia’s Facebook page today to coincide with the launch of the new flash unit. And I really just don’t get it. But we’ll get back to that, let’s look at the specs.

  • Guide Number: 47m (ISO100 @ 105mm zoom)
  • Recycle Time: 0.1-3.5 sec (normal), 0.1-2.8 (“Quick flash”)
  • TTL: E-TTL / E-TTL II
  • Bounce Head: 0-120°
  • Swivel Head: 360°
  • Coverage: 14-105mm (full frame)
  • Zoom: 24-105mm (full frame)
  • Exposure compensation: -3 to +3 EV in 1/3rd and 1/2 stop incremenets
  • Power: 4xAA batteriies
  • Dimensions: 74.6 x 130.4 x 105.1mm (2.94 x 5.13 x 4.14″)
  • Weight: 385g (13.6oz)

Not too bad, it’s a little less powerful than the Canon 600EX II-RT, obviously, but it’s also $130 cheaper than the 600EX II-RT. About what we’d expect from a $400 branded speedlight, really. But let’s get back to what’s weird. Apparently, it uses “AI” in order to determine the perfect spot from which to bounce your flash. Double half-press the shutter (I guess it only works if you back-button focus) and it repositions the speedlight head regardless of camera orientation.

I’m sorry, but what?

For a start, since when was it a hassle to reorientate your speedlight as you adjust your camera? And, when was doing it “the old fashioned way” ever as slow as this? Even if it becomes second nature to double tap your shutter button every time you re-orient your camera and then having to tap it again to focus, look how slow it is to move around and reposition.

It’s much quicker and easier to just take a hold of the flash head and turn it while you’re rotating the camera to me. Exactly how much of your $400 is going towards the cost of funding such revolutionary technology I’ve no idea, but I do wonder what sort of price this flash would be without it.

Like I said, to me, it’s a solution looking for a problem. But if you want one, you can pre-order now for $399 and will ship in April.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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17 responses to “Canon adds a motion control head to its new 470 EX AI speedlight – but why?”

  1. Andras Oravecz Avatar
    Andras Oravecz

    Uuuu some new canon tech…let’s write an article saying it’s useless ?

    It’s not just rotating with the camera. It’s ment for beginers in flash photography and it’s main feature is changing the head position and adjusting the power for the best bounce result.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but learning this the old way is not exactly the easiest thing and it takes some time to set up in unfamilliar places.

    1. Fernando Adrian Avatar
      Fernando Adrian

      $400 for a beginers gear? :/

  2. Ignasi Jacob Avatar
    Ignasi Jacob

    Meanwhile, Youngnuo are developing a silent flying TTL flash unit… (Shhht, don’t tell anybody! )

    1. Justin Barr Avatar
      Justin Barr

      And Godox is making everyone else look silly

  3. Dave Bottoms Avatar
    Dave Bottoms

    This is excellent. I’m already making a bucket list of all the things I’m going going to do with my free time now that I’ll no longer have to turn the flash head with my hand. Best invention since the auto-flushing urinal.

  4. Robert Hicks Avatar
    Robert Hicks

    I’m of the opinion that if you’re not skilled enough to adjust bounce yourself you have no business shooting something like a live event where this would matter.

    1. Marc Falzon Avatar
      Marc Falzon

      If you’re not skilled enough to shoot everything with film, you have no business shooting a live event.

  5. Justin Barr Avatar
    Justin Barr

    Because “I just got a new camera and flash that both say Canon and now I’m a professional photographer. Of course I’ll shoot your wedding for $200”

  6. pincherio Avatar
    pincherio

    Canon continues to lead the photographic community in innovation.

  7. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
    Tj Ó Seamállaigh

    hmmm what we need is a rechargeable battery (like those made by yongnuo)

  8. Viggo Næss Avatar
    Viggo Næss

    Looks great to be able to set a position and it will keep that angle when switching angle or orientation so one can just shoot. If you never have forgotten to turn the flash head when switching orientation you’re lying?

  9. Tudor Pantelimonescu Avatar
    Tudor Pantelimonescu

    Kind Of ridiculous if one would ask me… after i send back 430ex III because it DIDNT send the IR beam unless the focus point was in the center, il stick with Canon 600ex and YN 600ex rt :))))))))

  10. Charlotte Fiorito Avatar
    Charlotte Fiorito

    Make me a flash that can match the color temp of ambient and then I’ll get excited.

  11. Michael Chastain Avatar
    Michael Chastain

    As shown I don’t know how useful it is but if you can adjust flash angle remotely for multiple flashes and save presets it might be handy for setting up various lighting configurations before a shoot then you can just advance through the presets. Only useful if you don’t need to actually move the physical position of the flash though.

  12. Suzi-Pratt.com Avatar
    Suzi-Pratt.com

    Instead, how about a flash with a vertical bounce Range of 0° – 90° like Sony makes?

  13. rifki syahputra Avatar
    rifki syahputra

    oh yeah, it’s the robotic age, baby..

  14. MegaNickels Avatar
    MegaNickels

    This would be super handy for wedding and event photogs. Tilting that flash gets old fast