Monday, June 8, 2009

Canon's 270 EX

Wet Metal
Originally uploaded by Dalantech.
Back in the early summer of 07 I was out at Lago d'Averno (my favorite dragonfly hunting ground) shooting in +30C degree heat (high 80s to low 90s F for the metric impaired) with a Canon 20D, a 100mm macro lens + tubes, and an MT-24EX all supported on a BushHawk shoulder mount. A lot of weight to put on a camera strap, especially one that I wasn't checking on a regular basis to make sure it was still secure. I stopped to wipe the sweat from my face and let the rig dangle by the strap and as my luck would have it gravity got the best of my rig -it landed flat against the side of the BushHawk with an ugly thud...

When I first picked up my gear and brushed the dust off of it the MT-24EX didn't work. The force of the impact drove the batteries so hard against the internal contacts in the battery compartment they were flattened and no longer touching the batteries. The hot shoe on the 20D also took a lot of damage and eventually failed a few months later.

When I got home I bent the battery contacts out and managed to get the MT-24EX working again, but since that fall two years ago I knew that I was using that flash on borrowed time. About two weeks ago the "A" flash head started to intermittently fail, but because the light looked good when it did work I knew the controller was going bad. Weather due to the gravity test two years ago or shooting in wet early morning conditions this year I don't know, but the end result was the same -I couldn't rely on it anymore.

Since it failed I've been experimenting with mounting a Canon 270EX on the MT-24EX's flash mount, but with limited success. The image included with this post is a test shot, and it's pretty dark. Since I took that shot I've redesigned the flash mount so I could get a lower angle between the flash and the subject, but it's just not the same as having a dual light source. If I put the 270EX on a flash bracket, with a bigger diffuser, then the light would be a lot more even and the shadows less severe. But I don't think it's going to work mounted right at the end of my MPE-65mm -I can't make the diffuser larger without bumping the subject with it at high magnification.

So at this point my options are pretty limited: Either use the MR-14EX that's been collecting dust since I picked up the MT-24EX, use a 580EX II on a flash flash bracket (not practical for my style of shooting), or buy a new MT-24EX. That last option presents a problem: Canon has updated every flash in their lineup except the macro flashes. I've got no proof, but it just makes sense that they're going to come out with a new macro flash. I'd hate to shell out +600 USD just to see Canon announce a new unit sometime between now and next fall...

So I'm going to see what I can do with the MR-14EX, and as long as the natural light is good shoot more natural light closeups. Although I don't get as much feedback on my closeup photography as I do the high mag shots I like shooting closeups in natural light more than shooting macro.

Time to break out the gaffers tape, channel Martha Stewart, and see what I can do to reduce those half moon specular highlights that haunt the MR-14EX :)

For those of you wondering about the performance of the 270EX it's actually pretty good as far as the flash recycle time goes: Almost instantaneous all the way out to 5x and F10. The E-TTL metering with it is also a lot more accurate than the MT-24EX. So I can't discount it completely as a potential light source for macro -I just can't get it to work in the way that I want to use it...