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I am going to buy a wireless flash for my Canon 650D camera. I've got two lenses, the Canon 18–55mm kit lens and Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. I am not a newbie photographer and know how to use my camera well. My main intent of buying a flash is for food photography in which I am very interested. Of course I might be able to use wireless flash for taking more beautiful portrait, indoor and outdoor photos as well when I become more pro at using it. Now I have to choose either 320EX or 430EX. I've read this review which compares the two models but still need your advice to decide which one to buy.

2 features make the 320EX unique: its built-in video light, and the camera remote control

I don't think I need the built-in video light very much. I also do not know how handy would be a "camera remote control" on the flash. 320EX has this remote control, while 430EX does not. The review says that 430EX is suitable for “strobist” photography of which I'm not much aware. The 430EX has more power, esp. with tele zooms. I do not have any tele zoom lens and do not think will have such lens in near future, so I don't think I need more powerful flash light. 430EX has a built-in LCD screen and again I don't know how necessary it is. 320EX is only a little cheaper than 430EX, so the price is not a factor for me. Any advice on helping me to decide which one to choose would be greatly appreciated!

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4 Answers 4

If I read all your facts correct (thinks you need and don´t need) there is no real difference for you and 320EX remote control feature is only one which interests you (maybe). So seems to be that you would be happy with this 320EX.

BUT if you want do shoot off camera and/or with light modifiers (gels, softbox, … can reduce the effecive power significant) the more in power (guide number 43 instead of 32) can be an import think, but in the end this depends on what you want to shoot.

AND

As a traditional flash, it lacks the focus-assist beam, the manual power mode, and the automatic zoom head (source)

... this facts would make me very skeptical about the 320EX. Manual power mode is very commen if you shout of camera and without focus-assist beam ... hmm.

For myself I own two 430EX ll and I’m very happy with it.

Some good reviews/posts:

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Of note about the focus assist beam, the review was a little off. The LED light can be configured for focus assist, but it is a bit obnoxious when you do so. –  AJ Henderson Aug 6 at 13:56
    
@AJ Henderson: Thanks for the additional information about the focus assist ... "obnoxious" ;-) –  Micha Aug 6 at 18:37

Based on your description, I'd go with the 430EX II if the price difference is minimal. The main selling point of the 320EX is the video light, if you don't need the LED light on the front, the only reason to get it over the more powerful and capable 430EX II would be cost, but you indicated that the cost is pretty close where you were looking.

The "remote control" features on the 320EX are also very basic. It can do a 2 second or 10 second timer shutter remotely by pressing a button on the side of the flash, but I almost never use that feature. It's a nice to have for the rare occasion where you might use it, but it is very rare to actually use and a dedicated remote is a) cheap and b) far easier and more natural to use.

The 430EX II has substantially more power. Either one could probably handle your current needs, but the 430EX II will serve you further as your experience level grows.

Unless the cost difference is more than $60, the 430EX II should win hands down unless you need the video light. I do like my 320EX and I still do use it as a secondary flash in tandem with my 600EX-RT, but I'm looking to replace it with better flashes when I get the chance, primarily due to the lack of power and small feature set. Do make sure it is actually a 430EX II though and not an older 430EX, which you will still occasionally see shadier dealers trying to sell and make people think they are getting a good deal on a II when they miss the fact that II isn't in the listing.

(Note, I have no direct experience with the 430EX II. I jumped straight from my 320EX (which I got primarily for the video light) to the 600EX-RT.)

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Just FYI, Strobist refers to David Hobby's Strobist blog, where most of us learned how to do off-camera flash.

If you really want to use this flash off-camera, consider that optical slaving to your 650D's pop-up flash has some limitations. They may not come into play with food photography, but if you end up shooting outdoors on location in bright sunlight, the optical signaling that Canon's wireless eTTL scheme uses may have much stricter line-of-sight requirements and less range than when used indoors in lower light, since there won't be bounce surfaces around to "relay" the signal, and sunlight can overpower the signaling at smaller distances. Realize also that your pop-up flash cannot swivel, so placement of the 320EX so it can "see" the master signal can become an issue (i.e., placing lights behind the camera, or behind opaque objects that can block the light can keep the signal from reaching the flash).

So, you may want to use radio triggers. And if you want to use cheap manual-only radio triggers, then you really really REALLY want a 430EXII instead of a 320EX, because you can only set the power-level on the 320EX via the camera menu. And a cheap manual-only radio triggers won't communicate the menu settings to the flash. To use cheap manual-only radio triggers requires that your flash have the capability of having its power level manually set on the flash itself. The 320EX does not have this capability; the 430EXII does.

In addition, cheap radio triggers can also double as shutter releases.

One of the appeals of the Strobist way of doing off-camera flash is that a multiple light set up with cheap manual-only flashes and manual-only radio triggers can cost roughly the same as a single OEM TTL speedlight. (E.g., a YN-560III is about $75, and a YN-560-TX about $50, so for the price of a 320EX, you could have a two-light off-camera flash setup with cheap--in every sense of the word--Yongnuo gear).

More power with a flash is like having more max. aperture on a lens--the more you have, the more flexible the flash becomes in a variety of lighting situations. Speedlights are already power-limited and the low-end of the totem pole when it comes to studio lighting. Getting one that you know is underpowered is limiting yourself even farther. Again, for food photography, where you're working at close distances, you might not find this, but if you start wanting to do full-length or group portraits, you'll discover what those power limitations mean.

One more possibility. With food/product photography, you may actually want to consider using LED panels, rather than flashes. Continuous lighting with LEDs is underpowered for many applications, but for food photography, it can make it a lot easier to see the light as you set up the shot.

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I have the exact same kit as you (T4i/650; 50mm 1.8, 18-55mm). I also have the 430EX II. I would purchase the 430 EX II as it gives you more capability and power. I primarily focus on family pictures and portraits for family and friends, and the 430 EX II with swivel head, etc., is perfect for my needs. I may upgrade to a more powerful flash in the future if I need one, but right now, the 430 serves my needs well. Best use is as fill light when outdoors, and off-camera with a softbox or umbrella. You can also swivel the head for bounce flash. It also works with the pop-up flash on the 650 - the pop-up flash can trigger the off-camera 430 EX II.

I also have a Canon 6D body and I've taken nice portraits with the 430 EX II on both cameras - off camera with the 650 pop-up flash, and off camera with radio triggers on the 6D.

Can't go wrong with the 430. But with product photography, you might want to also think about a ring light (for even shadowless pics) or a softbox.

For samples, I've attached 2 photos taken with the 430 EX II off-camera, through softbox (both with 6D body).photo 1

photo 2

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