Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite and ST-E3-RT Transmitter: Yep, It's Radios

Photo © Syl Arena

I'm on the road with spotty 'net (and also a Nikon guy, so there's that). But Syl Arena has been playing around with the just-announced Canon flash and radio transmitter. Here's the five-word version of Syl's review:

"Canonistas, hold your heads high."

Well, then. Looks like Canon has uncorked a very sophisticated and robust flash system for discerning photographers who like their photos well-lit, if not quite in focus. (Kidding! Mostly!)

Check out Syl's evolving coverage of the new system.


[UPDATE: Official price for the Canon 600EX-RT speedlite was set at: 1 Paul Buff 640WS Einstein + 8" hi-output reflector + 2-grid set + 64" soft silver PLM + 64" diffusion fabric.]



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Blogger Jerald Jackson said...

Please oh next! :)

March 02, 2012 8:33 AM  
Blogger Spotpuff said...

For $630 for the flash and who knows how much for the transmitter (it's not in the camera yet) I think I'll stick with cactus + generic flashes for now.

March 02, 2012 9:40 AM  
Blogger Sterling said...

Nikon will eventually but who knows how long you will have to wait, this might make them speed up their process though.

March 02, 2012 9:45 AM  
Blogger Richard Davis said...

Hah! Focus is overrated! As is flash sync speed.

(You probably guessed from the above that I use a 5D mark II).

Have you ever been inspired to place a model in a fridge or some other weird setting? loved the opera singer in the shower you showed on the Flashbus tour!

March 02, 2012 9:54 AM  
Blogger John Maciel (Johan Blitzen or JohnnyFlash to camera geek buddies) said...

Looks like Canon's been doing some blog reading! David, you HAVE to be a LITTLE interested in putting some through their paces, no?

March 02, 2012 11:53 AM  
Blogger Kevin Halliburton said...

LOL - Three points, nothing-but-net on the cost breakdown update but I'm totally cool with it if Nikon wants to take note and follow suite.

March 02, 2012 12:27 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

30m range... fail.

March 02, 2012 12:34 PM  
Blogger Clement said...

March the 1st 2012, the End of History. Just as Marx predicted it!

Humanity can now live peacefully, never worried to tear off velcro 8ft high to adjust power.
Canon Radio - 1
Nikon bar-coded gels - 0

March 02, 2012 12:42 PM  
Blogger RexGRP said...

I winced at the price tag until I thought about the cost of a 580 flash plus RadioPopper PX.
Yes, it's a lot of money, and I may not be able to afford it, but you get a new and improved speedlight, built in radio, AND many more than 3 groups.

Just think how it will simplify Joe McNally's life when Nikon introduces built in radio control.

March 02, 2012 12:51 PM  
Blogger Wing Tang Wong said...

It is interesting. Definitely what alot of people have been asking for. Backwards compatibility with cameras and optical flashes is a good thing, though not being able to do both at the same time can be a stickler.

Going with 2.4Ghz means you can take it to countries that allows for the unlicensed spectrum usage... ie, no more Euro version and US version.

The intelligent 2 way communication is amazing, from the review.

The only thing is, at $600, what are you getting that couldn't be done with other things?

Is it an investment or is it an expensive unit?

For $600, one could get two LP160(s) and a pair of pocket wizards.

If going the Ebay/Overseas route: YN-4xx/5xx and similar YN triggers/etc, you can easily get 4 flashes and matching RF triggers.

Granted: no remote power control or intelligence. no hss options. no high sync speeds. etc.

It's a powerful piece of kit, but it is also an expensive piece of kit. What the extra $$$ pays for is convenience: no RF cable/unit/batteries to worry about. All in your flash.

That's a true innovation and improvement. Wonder how pocketwizard will respond?

March 02, 2012 1:29 PM  
Blogger Patrick Eden said...

LOL David, many a true word spoken in jest. ;-)

March 02, 2012 1:34 PM  
Blogger TimH said...

Let's see $3600 for the MKIII, $650a pop for each speed lite - I'll be sticking with the MK II 580EX's and radio poppers for a while - agood while!

Speaking of, Radio Poppers must be freaking out about now!

March 02, 2012 1:52 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

too little too late? Lets see.......

1st Fail: The STE3 does not have a focus assist light which is a terrible omission as all my Canon cameras (1dmk2, 5dmk2, 40d) can't focus for toffee in low light conditions, without a focus assist light.

2nd Fail is the 30m range

3rd Fail is the price.

4th Fail need to buy completely new flashes.

I think i'll just use my existing EX flashes and get the Phottix Odin trigger at less than the cost of a new flash and be done with it.

Common sense aside Canon will sell a shed load of these.

March 02, 2012 1:57 PM  
Blogger Seth Jennings said...

Great tech! Wrong price :-/

March 02, 2012 4:29 PM  
Blogger Benjamin Geiger said...

I'm not particularly interested in the 600EX, for a few reasons:

1. I already have a 430EX and 550EX (slightly wonky but it works).

2. My body (60D) has a built-in ETTL transmitter (optical). It ain't perfect but it does what I need.

3. For the difference in price, I can buy a pair of Poverty Wizards.

What I'm really interested in is the GP-E2 GPS tagger. What are the odds that Canon will release firmware updates for older or lower-end bodies (say, the 60D) to support it?

March 02, 2012 4:38 PM  
Blogger David Coleman said...

So, it costs as much as an AB800 + Lithium battery? uh....yeah.....

March 02, 2012 4:52 PM  
Blogger The Italy Crew said...

All I wanted from the 5D Mark III was to control my current 480's and 580's wirelessly like the Nikon - I own PW's and love them, but would love the convenience of not having to use them in some instances. I didn't want to have to spend over $1,000 and make my current gear obsolete with only the range of 100'. In 100' I can walk over and change the power on my flash, I don't need to do it on my camera. If I didn't have so much invested in Canon glass and bodies I'd be switching to Nikon.

March 02, 2012 5:13 PM  
Blogger s.e. miller said...

Way too expensive. It's too bad because it would make my life easier as a working 'photojournalist' to have a couple of the 600's and the transmitter, but obviously Canon has not looked at their competition. I won't be buying.

March 02, 2012 7:09 PM  
Blogger brian beck said...

While this appears to be a nice set up, I already have a great system in place with the Pocket Wizard flex units, I can fire a canon flash in full ETTL, high speed sync, and fire any other flash that I wish, as well as go full manual. for the price I still think that Pocket Wizard has the better system.

March 02, 2012 7:34 PM  
Blogger gemphoto said...

OMG, It is about time Canon went with radio transmitters for their flashes!

Wow but at that price, I will still be stuck with cheap wireless ebay triggers for my studio flashes.

March 02, 2012 9:09 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Thanks for the heads-up on the spammer. In Middle East and accessing Flickr proper is spotty even w/my VPN. Much appreciated tho.

March 02, 2012 9:29 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Can you imagine. Still using nothing by RF and TTL cables. It must be terribly liberating for Syl. Wow!

March 02, 2012 9:51 PM  
Blogger iluxa said...

Hehehe no way not buying these. Cactus V5 units worked great for me but I preordered 3 PW Plus III units to replace those. BUT, it didn't cost me as much as this setup would cost me. I'd have to sell all my flashes and PW units, add about $1,700 more to replace my current setup? No way. I'd add another piece of L prime glass to my current setup.

March 03, 2012 6:11 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I have this feeling that Phottix is probably releasing a similar system. And what should really keep all the third party speedlight producers from constructing a similar setup? The Odin already does the same thing with current Canon TTL-units.

The current prices of flashguns is ludicrous. I'm wondering what the profit margins on these are.

March 03, 2012 10:51 AM  
Blogger KH said...

Unrelated to your post. I just wanted to say that I discovered your blog by accident a couple of days ago and have spent a few years learning (and remembering) tons of great tips, techniques and recipes. Thanks!

March 03, 2012 11:45 AM  
Blogger cream of beats said...

It's nice and all, but manually adjusting the flash power levels doesn't bother me enough to spend that much money on a new trigger system.

March 03, 2012 8:28 PM  
Blogger Taylor said...

So any cameras but the 5DMKIII & 1DX will not be able to use HSS with RF? And they will be restricted to one stop SLOWER on the sync speed? And the guide number is the same as the 580EX? So unless you own a 5DIII or 1DX why would you buy these?

March 04, 2012 1:26 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm no mathematician but the math on this doesn't seem that hard. How is $630 too much? How much is a 580II plus Radio Popper? Now the ST-E3-RT is a little pricey—I was really hoping control would be built into the 5D III—but what you end up with is a system that is more convenient and more versatile than anything else out there. High speed sync, two way communication, five flash groups... If you don't need any of this then it isn't for you. But if you do, it is available (finally).

Yes, it would be nice if this were free. It would be equally nice if the value of the dollar wasn't continually plummeting. But that isn't the reality. Canon should be applauded for giving people what they've been asking for since the first Pocket Wizard went on sale. They got this one right.

March 04, 2012 3:23 AM  
Blogger ArchConPhoto - Jason Ryman said...

Very exciting new tech. I just hope the price comes down soon :(

March 04, 2012 8:05 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

But will the price of the 580EX11 come down now? That would be a worthwhile spin off for those of us satisfied with the triggers we have now.

March 04, 2012 10:40 AM  
Blogger Laraine Weschler said...

Wow, I can't believe all the downers. This is the one thing I always wanted and didn't understand why it didn't already exist. This is amazing step forward, and while I might not run out and buy one right now, I hope this is the first generation of even better (and cheaper) flash/transmitters to come. The less junk I have to carry around, the better. Plus, the price isn't too bad considering the price of a 580+transmitter.

March 04, 2012 10:54 AM  
Blogger Taylor said...

Syl clarified that he has been able to use HSS with his 5DMKII! That is great news. His first impressions seem good, so I will have to give these a try. I have been less-then-impressed with my FlexTT5 units, so this may be the ticket for me.

March 04, 2012 1:25 PM  
Blogger Nikolai Schreier said...

I think it is really surprising that it took so long for the RT stuff to emerge as a product. When you consider how expensive multiple system flashes are, the EX (optical) technology is just ... erm, underwhelming.
And one or two camera generations from now, there will hopefully be cameras with integrated transmitters.

And fifty years from now, our grandchildren will ask why there ever was such a curious thing as a shoe mount :-)

March 04, 2012 2:04 PM  
Blogger j_dot said...

Radio built into the flash is very exciting. Initially I was upset about the pricing of the new flash, but considering that I paid $350 for my last 580 II -used- and then another $200 for the PW - the new price isn't all that unreasonable.

Not to mention the new LCD, control menu, and the improved zoom range :)

I would like to see Canon sell either the 600EX without the radio, or a sub $100 attachment to use with their existing flashes.

DH - have a great time in Dubai - lets see you in a shootout video this year - you McNally and Heisler ;)

March 04, 2012 10:56 PM  
Blogger gretsch said...

$1100 for a single flash and controller?? They must be joking. How is it worth even nearly that? The price increase over a 580 = 2xPW2, and you can buy another 4(!) PW for the price of the transmitter.

Anyone who buys this, please call me. I have some virgin unicorn tears in a sealed vial. Guaranteed to improve your photography! :)

March 05, 2012 1:59 AM  
Blogger Brian Carey said...

I think Canon should have included a box a kleenex with this flash. I mean you don't want your Nikon friends dripping all over your gear! ;-)

March 05, 2012 6:41 AM  
Blogger ronanpalliser said...

If you US guys thought the pricing made you question the value of this, spare a thought for UK and Irish Canon photographers (I'm Irish, but a Nikon guy).

The RRP over here for the Canon 600 EX RT is €810, which is $1070 at today's exchange rate. Yes, that's a four figure flash in your world.

How many of you would buy into this proprietary system at the price per flash I wonder? I'm thinking none. In fact, I wonder if Canon should even bother selling to the UK and Irish markets at that price.( Don't know about the rest of Europe, but I reckon pricing will be similar for them).

Seems a strange pricing strategy to me....

March 05, 2012 7:40 AM  
Blogger Carlos Lopez said...

there is aleady another device from Fottix: the Phottix Odin

here is a review

and video

so no need actually to get the new transmitter

March 05, 2012 2:17 PM  
Blogger DesignFitzPhotography said...

Saw them for 710 in conn's actually. Still big bucks but ok as long term investment. .

March 05, 2012 3:43 PM  
Blogger MD said...

600EX-RT and ST-E3-RT combo looks promising. Though this is a disadvantage for photographers that
combine canon speedlights with non canon flashes and strobe lights.
I have 580EXs and 430EXs with Flex TT5s and Elinchrom Ranger RXs with PowerST4s controlled by AC3 Zone Controller. It's a bulky and time consuming setup but I can do more with these compared to what the 600EX-RT and ST-E3-RT have to offer, at least for now.
I would consider buying the 600EX-RT if a flextt5 or a minitt1 can control it. which will never happen in this lifetime. lol

March 06, 2012 3:07 AM  
Blogger szpeter said...

the price is outrageous no question... but that is now the new pricing strategy of canon. They increasing lens, camera and now accesories prices.

Some suggested which I think would be a great idea: Canon should consider of putting out a radio receiver which can work with the ST-E3 and have a shoe mount accepting the 580EXII and the 430. The receiver would transform the 580 to a 600. This would generate some ST-E3 sales as a side effect as the old flashes could be kept and worked with the 600EX.

BTW the name 600 is misleading for those who follow both Nikon and Canon gear announcements. Initially I thought that the 600 is a low power flash (Canon version of SB-600) and replacing the 430EX :D.

March 06, 2012 8:27 AM  
Blogger Rick Kent said...

I pre-ordered two 600's from B&H but decided to cancel since the set up I already have is so much better for what I do which is shooting runners multiple times as they go by... usually going up a hill on a trail... or cyclists as they climb a tough hill. I use the Einstien's at 1/8-1/32 power with a generator or lithium battery(s) so recycle time is fast Fast FAST. I'm real excited about this new speedlite solution by canon and I for sure will end up getting two of em w/the transmitter but for now I don't have the need for them yet especially since the transmitter isn't available. I even called CPS and no word on release date (soon I'm sure!).

March 06, 2012 9:28 AM  
Blogger DWDALLAM said...

An interesting offer, and on the up side, it's sleek and reduces the amount of equipment carried.

The problem is that unlike the Flex system from PW, it's not upgradable through firmware. And now that the 600 non radio is going to be released, there won't be anymore radio interference problems (I had my 580EX IIs coated at LPA (PS), so I don't have that problem anyway.)

The Flex system although not as sleek as the new all in one Canon system will always be upgradable to any camera, offers rear curtain sync, and you can use it to actually control studio strobes along with the flash guns, plus you can use HSS with yuor studio strobes (I shot my Alien Bees 1600 at 1/8000th no black framing.)

The problem here is that people don;t realize that if yuo buy the new 600 flash, and let's say the price for the non radio version is about the same as the 580EXII (500.00), buying the FLEX system along with the flash is going to cost you 700+, just for the flash and the TT5 transceiver.

So price wise, it's pretty much a wash. You can do more with the Flex system, but using the Canon system, your all in one and pretty much guaranteed to work every time all the time.

March 16, 2012 6:19 PM  
Blogger Adam S said...

Why I left canon for Nikon. No radio or any kind of transmitter built in to the new overpriced 5d mark II, overpriced radio transmitter at 500 dollars, overpriced speedlites, canon reps at trade shows can't answer questions.....I have a lot more reasons but this speedlites system is the main reason because of the price. Totally not worth it.

March 30, 2012 3:19 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

****Canon got some new tricks and I hope it will pushes the Professional Photographers to the next level***

-Pricing is it too much?
Factor in 580 ex II + PW II or a TT5 it is close to the 600 ex rt unit but again no extra wire or stripping the PW. Fast set up.

-Do you know most Canon Flashes (not the 480 ex II or 600 ex rt) will not work with the PW more than 20 feet away, you get more misses. I know I have three 580 exII, PW II, PW TT1 and TT5 none work more than 20 feet away. Try it out!

-Do you get pay for photography?
If you are a full time photographer like myself you need the equipments to work, those been there understand!

-Putting All these together
If you don't get pay for the job you will need not to upgrade but if you want the flashes and camera to work with full control (I'm not talking about walking to 100' to set the light dial every time)

-Yes I wish Canon will have a range over 100 feet but again I'm not using a 500mm lenses for a portrait shoot.

I welcome Canon's new approach, now I want to go out and shoot to create something beautiful without thinking my PW will only work within 20 feet if I'm lucky.

Wayne Lam Creative Media Director
Cinematic Videography:

April 12, 2012 2:04 AM  
OpenID 541f1a78-8dbb-11e1-9260-000bcdcb471e said...

Here's how I see it...

I spent $500 a pop for 580EX II's and $230 for PW Flex TT5's or $730+ per strobe. Then we find out that PW Flex doesn't work so well with "newer" Canon Speedlites so we have to use the soft shield or buy older speedlites. I did both! In the end I have a speedlite with 2 hot shoe devices on it so it no longer fits into me Photoflex softboxes. I'm jumbling everything, looking for that little soft shield hot shoe thingy and having to carry 75lbs of batteries for everything.

I already spent the money. $630 is nothing at this point. I already listed all my speedlites and triggers on ebay. I'll make enough to buy 3 600EX-RT and an ST-E3-RT... and that's all I'll have to carry. No more looking for the AC5's, no more trying to force the 580's into my speedring, no more charging 12 full sets of batteries that week before a shoot.

Yes it costs money, but if you are a professional who happens to be a strobist, the simplicity of this system and the lack of clutter makes this a no brainer.

April 23, 2012 11:12 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Zup with Canon being so out of touch with how strobists use speedlites? Sheesh. Can it be that there is not one Canon employee in the Strobist community who has any influence at the mother ship?

My 600's arrived today and I was shocked by what I found. Fancy gizmo to hold a totally non-standard gel. Hello, Canon!?! Rosoc sampler packs for $1.95? The Strobist Collection?

And that gel holder. Too funny. It is almost like someone in the Canon R&D department had a plot to figure out a way to keep us from putting a full wrap of Velcro Industrial strength all the way around the flash head to hold light modifiers.

Why is the obvious and the so hopefully expected sometimes so hard to realize?

May 25, 2012 1:55 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


An update. I had some free time this weekend and fashioned a couple of alternative SCH-E1 gel-holder hacks so that it can be used to hold a gel from the Strobist collection. I showed one that doesn't work so that others won't have to find out the hard way that having a 1.5X3.5 gel at the front of an SCH-E1 doesn't give sufficient filter coverage.


May 28, 2012 7:38 PM  
Blogger Ty Mattheu said...

Had my first opportunity to use these today after using RPs for two years. In a word--awesome. Only one moving part per stand meant I was up and running quick. I got about 500 shots out of the st controller before it pooped out. Worked flawlessly.

Total cost after selling my old gear was $200. And it's worth noting that I paid only 35 bucks more for the flashes then the cost of a SB910.

June 10, 2012 1:26 AM  
Blogger Bolty said...

If you haven't tried the Canon 600EX-RT and the ST-E3 then don't knock it.
I don't shoot professionally anymore but in a word these are the ultimate tools for anyone wanting to do OCF especially if you shoot weddings.
Group mode is amazing to use as you can chnage each group to a particular flash mode or even turn them off. You can also change the focal length of your zoom head to shoot wide, normal or narrow which is espically good when shooting in a chapel. You can also have more than one tog using the OCF setup at the one time... seriuosly this is some of the best kit on the market and I wish it had of been around some time ago.

February 03, 2013 9:34 PM  

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