Canon's Next Flash Is Trying to Be Idiot-Proof

By Alex Cranz on at

Using a flash is what separates photographers from people who got a good camera deal on Black Friday. Flash photography can be hard. There’s light theory and mathematics at play. Use a flash incorrectly and the images you’re making are often uglier than if you’d never used a flash at all. Canon’s hoping its new 470EX-AI flash unit changes that.

The 470EX-AI automatically scans for the subject and the ceiling in a room, measures the distance, and then bounces the flash off of the ceiling. This should, theoretically, give your images a softer and more appealing light than if you’d just pointed the flash at your subject—as most people who don’t understand flash photography are inclined to do.

In a recent briefing Canon made it very clear that 470EX-AI isn’t a flash intended for professionals. Its for people who know enough to know they need a flash, but maybe don’t know enough to properly use it.

It does all the measuring using a laser located next to the flash’s bulb, which means it should work no matter how dim the room, but won’t work if you block the laser with something like a flash diffuser or your hand.

There’s a handy blue light that tells you when you’re in AI mode. Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

You can switch between no AI, full auto, and semi-auto mode. Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

This obviously isn’t the perfect super smart flash, but it is the first full size flash to try and automatically bounce the light, and that’s pretty cool. It’s also just slick enough that it should grow with a budding photographer. There’s a second, semi-auto mode that lets you choose the angle of the flash, it then maintains that angle no matter how you position the camera. So if you set it to bounce off a wall at 45-degrees and the tilt the camera or try and shoot in portrait it will automatically seek out that original angle.

And should you go full-on pro and start using multiple flashes it has an optical receiver mode so it can work with other flashes you might have in the room.

The Canon Speedlight 470EX-AI is expected to be available in April 2018 and retail for $400 ( £320). That’s at least £100 more expensive than the dumber Speedlight 430EX III-RT and not that much less than the more powerful Canon Speedlight 600EX II-RT. So you’re definitely paying a premium to not bother to learn how to bounce your flash.