Join Levi Sim for an in-depth discussion in this video Comparing Speedlites to strobes, part of Flash Photography: Canon Speedlites.
- [Photography Expert] Flashes are strobes. We can use flash and strobe interchangeably and be correct, however, there are also studio strobes out there, and saying "speedlight" specifies this little guy and not those larger models. Studio strobes come in two primary styles: monoblocks and powerpacks with heads. This one is a head that connects to powerpack, whereas a monoblock combines the powerpack and the head into one unit.
This is a speedlight and it always looks like this, and it's always about this big, and it always has a battery compartment built right in. Although you can buy an additional battery pack. All flashes of this style and size can be called speedlights, no matter what manufacturer makes them. My great uncle, who was a photographer in the Korean War, would've called this a flashgun and that term is still used in some places today. I use speedlights and studio strobes in my photography and I frequently use them together.
They both make light, but as with all things in photography there are certain compromises with each of these, and I'll mention five of the big ones. First is size. Studio strobes are always bigger than speedlights, which means they're a little bit harder to transport and they may be harder to position out of a frame when I'm making a photograph, but that size is also the basis of the other compromises. Number two is power. Big studio strobes are always more powerful than speedlights.
They plug into the wall, or have very large battery packs, whereas speedlights run off AA batteries the most available batteries in the world. In flash terms, power equals brightness and/or reduced cycle time. Brightness means f-stops, so that means I can light a large family outdoors on a sunny day at f/8 with a studio strobe and it just isn't possible to do that with a speedlight. Number three is modifiers.
Modifiers are anything we attach to our lights to alter their size and shape and make a better quality of light coming out of the flash. Studio strobes are bigger and so they can hold and fill larger modifiers, like my favorite: a seven foot umbrella. However, these modifiers are usually also massive and they're built like tanks. Speedlights have enjoyed a huge surge of excellent modifiers lately that are generally cheaper and easier to carry around, but they're also smaller.
Anytime we use a modifier we also reduce the brightness of the flash. Number four is cost, studio strobes and speedlights vary greatly in price. You might be surprised, however, to find that for less than the price of this smallest speedlight you can buy a studio strobe that is much more powerful. Of course, you can also spend 1000s of dollars on a single studio strobe head and there are cheaper speedlight sized options but they lack this final feature.
Number five is intelligence. Speedlights made by your camera company can communicate with your camera to automatically make the flash the right brightness or even offer built in remote controls. Some studio strobes are able to communicate with cameras directly, but these strobe systems are very costly. Both studio strobes and speedlights make light for your pictures but it may be a little less intimidating to start with speedlights. I did, and I'm really glad that I did.
I think having this mobile light that I could quickly set up anywhere really helped me learn to use strobes more easily. The intelligent controls made it easier to learn to use the flash and that made it easier for me to switch to full manual control later on which I can also apply to larger studio strobes, so I think these speedlights are a great place to start and you're really going to enjoy using them.
You'll also find out how to set up your Canon camera itself to make the most of the speedlight—one of the most liberating photography tools you can buy. Levi Sim helps you master the controls, including the camera and flash modes, flash modifiers, and accessories, and creative options offered by a speedlight: soft light, hard light, and bounced light. By the end of this course, you'll be able to make great light in any situation with your speedlight. If you don't have one yet, you'll understand just what model is best for your needs and what features you'll use the most.
- Why use a speedlight?
- Powering a speedlight
- Choosing the right camera mode
- Choosing the right flash modes
- Using flash modifiers
- Creating soft and hard light
- Accessing Commander mode
- Positioning the flash off camera
- Using an iTTL extension cord
- Extending battery life
- Controlling ambient light
- Using speedlights with third-party radio triggers