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I've built a water droplet photography rig, and the last piece of the puzzle is finding the right flash setup. I have a Canon 6D, and I already have a Canon 320EX flash. I need at least one more flash so that I can light the setup well, have multiple flash colors, etc. I'm thinking I'll get a 430EX II.

I have thoroughly scoured the internet for answers, but I can't figure out the best way to trigger the flashes. Due to the nature of water droplet photography, neither flash will be on the hot shoe of the camera, they will both be remotely located, although only a few feet away from the camera.

I know that the flashes can be triggered with an IR signal, or a radio signal, or using a sync cable. I know that some of these options allow the camera to tell the flash what its output power should be, and some of these options don't allow that. But it's hard to tell which one is which. I would prefer to have an option that allows for the automatic adjustment of flash power, because the 320EX doesn't have a manual adjustment on it, and I'll need to have the flashes operating around 1/64 power (or less) to keep the flash duration as short as possible, so that the water droplets aren't blurry. Does the 320EX support having its output power automatically adjusted when it's not sitting directly on the hot shoe?

If I use sync cables, will that transfer the information to control the output power of the flashes? Can I "split" a sync cable so that it can connect to both flashes?

If I use IR, what's the best transmitter (since the 6D doesn't have one built in)? Do both the 320EX and 430EX II support this mode of triggering? Will it transfer the information to control the output power of the flashes?

If I use radio, what are some good transmitter/receivers? Will they transfer the information to control the output power of the flashes? (I do some other work that would benefit from the long range of radio triggering, so this might be the best option.)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, my head is spinning from trying to read through product specs and reviews to discover this information. Thanks!

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If you need to remotely control the power of the 320EX, then you have two choices: Canon's near-infrared wireless system, which would require that you get a 550EX, 580EX, 580EXII, 600EX-RT or ST-E2 to put on the 6D's hotshoe; or you get TTL-capable radio triggers that allow for remote power control through the 6D's hotshoe (e.g., Yongnuo YN-622C triggers). Neither of those flashes you're looking at are compatible with Canon's RT radio triggering system.

The 320EX, however, isn't really ideally suited for off-camera use, because of the power control issue. If you have a flash with a Manual mode and power control from the flash's own LCD menus, then you don't need all this fancy stuff, and can get away with cheap manual triggering, and just setting the power level on the flashes.

You could also contemplate getting two Yongnuo YN-560III or 560IV flashes, and a YN-560-TX transmitter, and you'd have remote power control over both flashes. You wouldn't have high-speed sync or eTTL or any of the other fancy features that Canon's EX speedlites could get you, or Canon reliability, but it would cost a lot less.

  • Thanks, that helped a lot. I ended up going with the Yongnuo YN-622C triggers and a 460EXII flash. I looked at the Yongnuo flashes and they are really inexpensive, but there are some indications of quality issues in some of the reviews I read. – Douglas Reynholm Jul 11 '15 at 14:09
  • @DouglasReynholm Yup, that's the trade-off with going supercheap Yongnuos. Glad you figured out what you need! – inkista Jul 12 '15 at 15:34
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In addition to what @inkista suggests, Canon's tiny and cheap 90EX Speedlite can serve as a master flash. On the 6D, I get full fancy wireless (IR) ETTL control of Canon 430EX and Yongnuo YN-465 EX slave flashes.

  • For the OP's use, a 90EX could work pretty well. I find it to be not very powerful, so most useful indoors. Mine has an annoying tendency to turn itself off regardless of the custom function that's supposed to prevent that. If the small size isn't a big selling point, consider a used 580EX, 580EX II, or ST-E2 instead -- these offer more flexibility, more power, and longer battery life. 3rd party ETTL-compatible radio triggers are probably the best option generally. – Caleb Feb 14 '17 at 19:58

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