Does Canon have its own version of the creative lighting system?


3 Answers 3


Yes. Canon also has a near-infrared proprietary optical system for wireless flash. It doesn't have a snazzy marketing name like CLS, but is often referred to as "Canon wireless eTTL" or "Canon optical slaving". Like CLS, it can communicate most of the full hotshoe protocol, such as eTTL-II and high-speed sync (HSS). It also allows for control of the remote flash through the camera's flash control menu, if the camera is Digic IV or later and has the menu and the flash is an EX MkII or EX-RT unit. Post-2012 Canon bodies have a flash control panel that shortcuts all the settings, without as much menu diving.

Canon speedlite units that can be used as masters in this optical system are:

  • 550EX
  • 580EX / 580EX II
  • 600EX-RT / 600EX II-RT
  • 90EX
  • ST-E2 (master only; no flash head)
  • MR-14EX / MT-24EX

Canon units that can be used as slaves in this optical system are:

  • 270EX II
  • 320EX
  • 420EX
  • 430EX / 430EX II / 430EX III-RT
  • 550EX
  • 580EX / 580EX II
  • 600EX-RT / 600EX II-RT

There are, however, some differences from CLS. There is no equivalent of the SU-4 "dumb" optical slave mode. And unlike CLS, wireless 2nd-curtain sync is not possible with the Canon system. And Canon not only has an optical-based system, but also a radio-based one. The "RT" system, however, consists of only four units at this time (600EX II-RT, 600EX-RT, 430EX III-RT, and ST-E3-RT) and there are no built-in radio masters in any camera body.

Canon camera bodies that have optical masters in the pop-up flash are:

  • 600D and later xxxD models
  • 60D and later XXD models
  • 7D and later 7D models

However, the pop-up flash masters are not capable of HSS or communicating wireless HSS to slave flashes.

This optical system can allow up to three groups (A:B:C), depending on the gear (e.g., a 550EX can only master groups A:B with ratios), and power control is either by ratios, or by ratios or manual power level settings.

In 2012, when Canon's "RT" system arrived, a number of enhancements were made to the camera/flash communication. Obviously, you also need a 2012 or later body as well as Canon's RT flashes to use these additional features that are NOT part of the optical system:

  • 4-digit ID code, which with channel settings, allows for thousands of discrete channels
  • Remote shutter control over the camera from the flash.
  • Groups D and E.
  • Gr mode (i.e., groups can now independently be set to MULTI, eTTL-II, or M modes as well as turned on and off)
  • Radio communication (enhanced range and no line-of-sight requirements).
  • \$\begingroup\$ Interestingly enough, third party radio triggers such as the YN622 system do allow one to use 2nd curtain sync with off camera flashes such as the 430EX II. But the sync mode has to be selected using the YN622C-TX transmitter mounted on the hot shoe, rather than camera's flash control menu (where 2nd curtain sync is greyed out). Once the YN622C-TX has been used to select 2nd curtain sync, the selection is displayed properly in the camera's flash control menu! \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark Yes. I know. That's why I emphasized it was the Canon system that didn't do it, because expectations from the 3rd party give rise to the expectation the OEM system of course must. The fact that Nikon's CLS allows for 2nd-curtain sync does as well. I should also point out that Yongnuo's YN-600EX-RT can't do wireless 2nd-curtain sync over RT. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 19:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Canon flash optical system does not use an infrared light to trigger the slaves. It uses a white light that is found under the main light tube in the flash housing. The infrared colored cover at the front of flashes is not infrared but a normal red light used as a helper for focus lock. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 18:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhilPeterson Exactly why I wrote "near-infrared", not infrared. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 22:27

Yes the Canon version is called E-TTL flash and you have similar functions as provided with the Nikon CLS system.

You will need to use the appropriate compatible Speedlite flashes (Canon and 3rd party models exist).

If your camera is an EOS 600D, EOS 650D, EOS 700D, EOS 60D, EOS 70D, EOS 7D or EOS 7D Mark II the built-in / pop-up flash can be set to control other off-camera flashes using an optical wireless system. For other models a master device will need to be connected to the camera.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ E-TTL is just the flash metering system, it is not what the wireless system is called. AFAIK it doesn't have a proper name, just referred to as "Canon wireless", and it supports both E-TTL and manual modes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Robin
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 17:22

Technically speaking, the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) incorporates all of the Nikon flash system that can be controlled from the camera. It includes hot shoe mounted and hardwired flash units as well as optically controlled units. The wireless portion of the CLS system is officially referred to as AWL (Advanced Wireless Lighting). Unfortunately, many people say CLS when they are specifically referring to only the AWL portion of the total CLS system. They seem to think that the total meaning of CLS is only the AWL portion of the CLS system.

Canon has a similar system. Both wired and wireless flashes can be controlled from the camera's menu for models going back to at least 2008. Models introduced in 2012 or later have more functionality from the camera based menu than models introduced before 2012. Canon just hasn't come up with a specific name for their system like Nikon has.

Like Nikon's AWL, the wireless portion of Canon's flash system prior to 2012 uses optical pulses for communication between the camera and the remote flashes. Canon flashes with "EX" in the model name are compatible with the optical system. In 2012 Canon introduced a radio system. Canon flashes with "RT" in the model name are compatible with the Canon radio system. The 600EX-RT and 600EX-RT II units can also function as EX masters/slaves (The 430EX III RT is a slave only in the EX optical system, but is both a master and slave in the RT radio system).

More recently Nikon has also introduced a radio flash (the SB-5000). But only the recently introduced D5 and D500 models can communicate directly with an off camera SB-5000 via radio using the optional WR-R10/WR-A10 plugged into a port on the front of the camera. If an SB-5000 is placed on the hot shoe of most recent Nikon cameras it can be used to communicate with other remote SB-5000 units via radio.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.