Well with the recent release of new photographic equipment from various manufacturers, Spring 2012 seems to be the most exciting season for Photographers. With the new Canon 1Dx on its way, as well as the 5D Mark III and the D800 and Nikon D4 released in March, photography enthusiasts looking for a trade in or a new camera body will have a lot to look forward to.
Along with the new line of camera bodies, their are also a few accessories that have been released that many people will be very excited to get their hands on like the new Pocket Wizard Plus III, and the Canon 600EX RT speedlite.
Now like a lot of my reviews, its never about how good these improvements are but whether I believe the switch is worth the money. So here's my analysis on the following new items...
Canon 600 EX RT Speedlite
Pocket Wizard Plus III
Canon 24-70mm L F2.8 USM II
Canon 600EX RT
*Size wise, the new 600EX RT is slightly longer by about an inch.
*LCD screen is significantly larger with a more easier to read green background.
The menu system has been fully re-worked. It is easier to read and understand (especially the more complex wireless menus). There is no more remembering or looking up the magic numbers of the Custom Functions. Granted, with the latter cameras, it was possible to change custom functions using in-camera menus, but trying to do it on the 580EX II flash itself was a real mind game. Both Speedlite 600EX and 600EX-RT are more intuitive to operate.
*Buttons are translucent providing easier access in low lighting conditions.
One of the minor issues we always had with the 580EX II flash is the fact that the controls are not backlit. Even after using the flash for years, we still find it uncomfortable not being able to see the buttons under very dim lighting conditions. Well, with the new Speedlite 600EX, it is not a problem anymore. All buttons are backlit, except for the select button on the dial, which we believe is perfectly fine.*The 600EX RT comes with a filter adapter
*The 600EX RT now has a built in radio transmitter
Zoom Range and Power
The 580EX II flash head is capable of zooming from 24mm to 105mm. The new head design extends the range of Speedlite 600EX on both ends: 20mm to 200mm. (With the built-in wide angle panel, both flashes cover 14mm angle.)
Canon specifies Guide Numbers for their flashes at the maximum flash zoom setting. Therefore, 600EX is listed with the Guide Number of 60, whereas 580EX II is at 58. This may lead users to believe that the new flash is more powerful. In reality, if you compare the Guide Numbers at identical zoom positions, the power output of both flashes is very similar, if not identical. So, there is no extra kick to be expected from the new Speedlite 600EX or 600EX-RT.
Buy it if this is your first speedlite purchase. If you own a 580 EX II, then maybe this is a pass. The improvements although nice, but not enough for me to fork out $5100HKD (approximate retail price). I myself is a monolight guy and I really don't see myself using all the new fancy functions. I had two 580 EX IIs and I really never experienced issues with them (nothing that other speedlights didn't have as well, like slow refresh, limited lightshaping options, etc...). In terms of the new built in radio transmitters, are they compatible with Pocket Wizards??? No? then it's garbage. Long have I left the 3 Canon Speedlite lighting setup (due to many different problematic issues), so if the wireless transmitter only works between speedlite to speedlite then I don't see how that is a big bonus for photographers. Let's face it, if you can afford 3 600 EX RTs, I think you may own Pocket Wizards as well. So my conclusion is, well if you have the kind of money to splash, go for it. I don't see how this purchase will improve your photography significantly. Event Photographers may benefit more from these improvements, but even with that said I would still think twice before trading in the 580s for the new 600EX RTs.
Pocket Wizard Plus III
Although, there isn't a great significant of change ot the PWIIIs, I definitely think it's now a much better buy than the PWIIs. Firstly, the reduced price. YES!!! REDUCED PRICE. You can now get one here in Hong Kong for roughly 1000HKD, compared to 1400HKD. This is a significant price drop and I can assure you that has plently to do with the recent lawsuit Pocket Wizard has filed against Phottix for copyright infringement.
In terms of channels, the PWIIIs is now an improved 32 channel wireless transmitter, compare that to the 4 Channel PWIIs, need I say more?
I haven't held the actual product on hand, but I can tell the built quality looks a lot more improved and the LCD screen makes the interface a lot cleaner and also user friendly in low light conditions. I would recommend this purchase for new user and existing PW Plus II users (since it is PW Plus II compatible).
Canon 24-70L 2.8 USM II
According to Canon, the updated lens will feature a new combination of lens elements and coatings which supposedly will result in improved color reproduction while avoiding ghosting and image distortion. It also sports a zoom-lock switch and has seen its aperture’s old 8-blade mechanism replaced with a 9-blade mechanism which Canon claims will deliver “incredible bokeh”. It is expected to see a launch in April for $2,299USD.
Conclusion, to be honest if these improvements were made to another lens, I would not give this review a "BUY", but it is the 24-70mm L, my favorite lens and also favorite to many fashion photographers. What I didn't like about the present 24-70 is the probably the slow speed of the lens itself (in AF mode), and it could be sharper. I am hoping the new lens will be as sharp as the 70-300L, if so I would definitely trade it in even with the significant price difference.