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I am currently picking out a flash (speedlite) for Canon XSI. There is a number of third party flashes available from manufacturers other than Canon. They all claim to be Canon compatible but I have my doubts. I don't think any of those flash units work as great as ones made by Canon. I would like to know your opinion on the subject based on your expertise; what brands, models of third party speedlites work the best with Canon?

The most important features for me, that the flash must support are auto mode, zooming and e-ttl. For comparison it should be close in features to Speedlite 430EX II

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Sigma flashes will do as claimed, so I think you're safe there. The only downside, from my experience, is that the interface for them is less then stellar. However, other than that, the flashes are very good.

Another, which is a cut above Sigma, is Metz. If Metz has claimed support for Canon, the flash will do what is advertised for it, the company has a long history and produces good gear.

So, caveat time, I don't shoot Canon, I shoot Pentax. However, I have a Sigma flash and a Metz ring flash and both work great for me. So, I am extrapolating the experience there, but given that, I have little reason to doubt either. Pentax is a lesser known quantity versus Nikon or Canon, so if they got P-TTL working, I'd imagine that the similar from the big two were less of a problem.

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Known quality of a system does not necesarrily mean its TTL protocols can be easily and reliably reverse-engineered. However, I'd be surprised if Sigma or Metz sold you a flash and it wouldn't work w/ Canon XSi. What can happen though is that you will buy a Canon master flash five years from now and it will work with 430EX II flawlessly, but your off-brand flash unit will need some kind of firmware upgrade. –  che Dec 21 '10 at 5:24
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This is a point in favor of Metz over Sigma, by the way, because most Metz models can be upgraded by the end user via a USB interface. –  mattdm Dec 21 '10 at 5:59
    
The "good" brands of third-party TTL flashes are generally excellent, but they're not where you'd go looking if you want to save a buck or two. Particularly in the case of Metz and Quantum, they usually offer power and features that the camera-brand flashes don't, and you will pay for the quality and functionality you get. –  user2719 Dec 21 '10 at 22:59
    
@Stan - I was a bit surprised at how reasonable Metz was, the ring flash I bought was less expensive than the Pentax option. –  John Cavan Dec 22 '10 at 0:46
    
And in the US, we're paying inflated prices for Metz. In the EU, they're even more so. (Dunno about up there in Canada!) –  mattdm Jan 12 '11 at 14:57
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