A Speedlite, or Speedlight, depending on your spelling preferences, is an essential piece of kit for both studio and runaround photographers. Each camera manufacturer has their own set of Speedlites, which seamlessly work with their own systems.
On the Canon side of things, the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT brings radio transmission to the party, which means if you own two or more of these things, they can be remotely triggered without the need for additional kit.
This point alone has been a saving grace for most Canon users, who in the past, using the likes of the 580EX II, would have needed external triggers for off-camera lighting.
The older flash models are still very capable, but now you don’t need to buy into expensive remote triggers. The latest models are designed with new camera models in mind, with the same levels of professional features.
As a long-time user of the Canon 580EX II, I can attest to the build quality of Canon flash units and the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT is no different. The 600EX-RT weighs slightly more than the older versions, with a locking metal foot that locks seamlessly to a hot shoe or light stand.
Rubber seals have been fitted to all the major compartments, which means the flash is fully weatherproofed for all conditions. The common catch light card has also been included, along with a wide-angle diffuser.
The zoom range has been increased to 200mm from 105mm, which will benefit those with telephoto lenses. Plus, the infra-red front housing is still there for full TTL control with older flash units. The menu screen has also been enlarged, with the addition of a dedicated wireless button, large mode button, and lock setting on the on/off switch.
Other pertinent specifications include manual power adjustments from 1/1 to 1/128 in third of a stop increments, flash exposure compensation, and a stated 100-700 flashes, depending on the output levels. The flash can also be used in the traditional full TTL mode or with high-speed sync or second curtain sync with just a few taps of the menu buttons.
Setting up remote triggering is really straightforward, with a simple press of the wireless button. Each flash unit can be set as either a master or a slave, with the options to group units together. Five groups can be individually controlled with either E-TTL or manual settings, with older camera units being able to control up to three groups. With a 30m control distance, this is a quick way of working for studio-type shots or portrait work.
As I mostly work in scenarios where there is precious little time to deliberate over lighting like weddings and events, TTL on this flash works seamlessly both on and off-camera.
There’s enough flash output for close-up portraits and I’ve not had a problem yet with bounce flash filling in a scene from lack of power. It’s very easy to dial in a little exposure compensation either way on-camera and when the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT is mounted on a flash stand, it takes seconds to set up the right amount of power and spread of light.
The recycled time on the 600EX-RT is definitely faster than on the 580EX II or the 430 EX II, which means more keeper images when rattling off a succession of shots. The menu system is also easier to read and adapt to, being larger than on previous models and seemingly simpler to use. This unit is definitely versatile and works time after time without a hitch.
Is It Better Than Third-Party?
The big elephant in the room when it comes to modern Speedlites is the proliferation of third-party units. On the surface, these cheap third-party units offer all the functionality of camera brand versions but at very budget-friendly price points.
One of the more professional-level versions is the Godox V1, which has some tasty features such as a removable Lithium-ion battery, a wireless receiver that works with Godox systems, and you’re even treated to a built-in modeling lamp.
The round head on the Godox V1 provides a nice spread of light, with very good power output. Godox is a very cost-effective solution for general purposes. However, just like the rest of the third-party Speedlites, the Godox isn’t built to the same standards as the Canon version, which means it may not be up to the rigors of daily shooting.
|Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT||Godox V1|
|Guide Number||197’/ 60.5m at ISO 100||197’/ 60.5m at ISO 100|
|Auto Zoom Head||Yes||Yes|
|Power Range||1/1 to 1/128||1/1 to 1/128|
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Checks All the Boxes
As a long-time Canon flash user, it’s hard to ignore the amount of facilities the Godox V1 provides. But build quality is also a huge factor in any Speedlite.
In my own particular case, my Canon Speedlites have been dropped onto all manner of surfaces, had drinks spilled on them, and been smeared with all manner of wedding cake ingredients. After all this punishment, the unit still works as intended. For this feature alone, the extra cost of the 600EX-RT is very much worth it.
The 600EX-RT also checks all the boxes for everything you need in a compact Speedlite. The unit is very quick to set up and refresh, with plenty of power for close-up subjects or for an even spread of light with an Octobox.
The wireless system is extremely straightforward, with multiple combinations of uses and a huge amount of channels to select from. The combination of versatility and ease of use make the 600EX-RT a one-stop shop as a professional-level solution with the obvious build quality to take the knocks and bumps of everyday use.
Compared with other Speedlites on the market, the 600EX-RT seems initially expensive. But cost will be low down on your list when you receive seamless workings, while other units may misfire. The unit also comes with a bunch of easily attachable flash gels and a diffuser to cope with different lighting temperatures and for softening the light output.
In other words, if you need a rock-solid and dependable Speedlite which will stand the rigors of time, the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT is the latest dependable bet from Canon.