The Canon Speedlite 320EX might be just the right size for you, not too big and not too small. The 320EX is Canon's mid-size flash gun.
Is the Speedlite 320EX the right one for you? It's more robust than the 270EX II, but smaller and easier to handle than the full-sized 580EX II.
Here are the Canon Speedlites and their respective guide numbers (in feet) below. You can see that the Canon 320EX has a little bit more than 1/2 the power of Canon's flagship flash gun, the 580EX II.
430 EX II
As you go up in Canon's naming system, the capacity goes up as the numbers go up. Not surprisingly, the price goes up too. The pint-sized 270EX II takes only two AA batteries, while the 320EX, the 430EX II, and the 580EX II all take 4 AA batteries.
Canon introduced the Canon Speedlite 320EX and 270EX II early in 2011. The 320EX is Canon's first flash to have a small LED on its front surface. You can use for shooting HD video.
In some instances you can even light close by objects for still photographs. The 320EX can also be triggered to fire remotely from controls on many of the properly equipped Canon cameras.
Canon Camera designed the Speedlite 320EX to be both compact and powerful and is marketed toward owners of mid-range cameras. These flashguns are compatible E-TTL II (Evaluative Through-The-Lens 2nd generation) system.
They all will give you more control over lighting and are valuable particularly when photographing people. They have bounce capabilities and can be used in multiple speedlite set-ups.
You might be wondering what's all the hype about with the 320EX flash. The unique feature that sets the Speedlite 320EX apart is the Video Light Function. When used with Auto Light mode on a DSLR like Canon Rebel T3 (1100D) or Canon T3i (600D), the LED automatically comes on when shooting Video in low light situations.
The white LED light makes the 320EX very unique. It's great for dark situations where your subject is close to the camera. Although it's not going to give you any long distance or produce "professional" video lighting, it's really handy in some specific situations.
Here is a photo comparison that illustrates why you really should own one of the Canon Speedlites. You can keep on taking crappy looking photos like the one on the left below. Or you can improve your lighting dramatically with a Speedlite.
Strong back lighting without using fill flash on the left. In the middle photo, a speedlite was mounted on the hot-shoe of my Canon Powershot G11 and aimed directly at the subject.
In the photo on the right I aimed my Canon speedlite flash straight up and held a large white card above the flash tilted forward toward my subject.
This photo of the left side of the Canon 320EX shows the two-position zoom, the tilt-swivel button, and the shoe mount release button.
You can change the speedlite's coverage and guide number manually by sliding the flash head in or out, from normal to tele settings.
This changes the guide number from 79 to 105. You can also swivel and tilt the 320EX to bounce the light off the most convenient surface, whether it's a wall or a ceiling or some other light surface. This softens the shadows and is often more desirable that aiming your flash directly at your subject.
This video by Pete Steele is outstanding at showing you exactly what the good and the bad is about this flash.
The Canon Speedlite 320EX takes 4 AA batteries. The Shoe-mount release button allows you a quick dismount. This flash is still fairly lightweight, can fit in a pocket, has a quick recharge cycle and is EASY to use.
The LED is not super bright, so it's really only effective for close objects. As I've said before, it is important not to get too caught up in the technical specifications of cameras, lenses and accessories.
Remember it's the practical features that you are going to have preferences for that match your own photography techniques.
I am hopeful that you find these thoughts on Canon camera accessories useful and that you remember to enjoy your photography whether you buy a Canon speedlite 320EX, another Canon flash or worst-yet scenario ( just joking ;-) ) a non-Canon flash.
Keep shooting your Canon!
Back to Canon Speedlite updated line-up of flash units
"The Canon Speedlite 320EX nestles in between the 270EX II and the 430EX II. It's nice simple change from the complexity of using the 580EX II."
"The controls are simple and are tactile and there is no distracting LCD screen."
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