Want a flash to do the bounce-thinking for you? Meet the new auto-intelligent Canon 470EX-AI speed light


posted Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 11:00 PM EST


Let's face it, for most of us mere mortals using flash can be really complicated. Pros have it down, but what about us enthusiasts and hobbyists? It seems we spend half our lives just learning the camera part, and then have to learn all this new deep technical jargon about flash!

The new Canon 470EX-AI flash was designed to change all that, and bring advanced bounce flash techniques into the hands of the hobbyist photographer, without the need to take a course nor spend years practicing the craft. The tricky science behind determining the correct angle for bounce flash photography really can take years to master, and Canon is hoping this unit will not only level the playing field but also help aspiring hobbyists to even learn bounce techniques from the unit itself.

The Canon 470EX-AI "auto-intelligent" speedlight

Most of you have probably been in this situation: You're at a party or perhaps a friend's wedding, the light is low and you need some flash to assist your exposure. Aiming the flash at your subjects will invariably flatten their faces, and often cast unsightly shadows behind them. You could use bounce flash, but if you're not completely skilled in that area you may feel intimidated, or may simply miss the shot entirely.

This is the exact scenario from which the idea for the 470EX-AI was born. Turn off your brain, turn the flash to auto, and let it pick that perfect bounce angle! Now you're free to concentrate on your subjects and not on which wall you need to be bouncing light from. We had a hard time believing they'd really pulled this off during the press briefing, but as soon as they gave us a demonstration, we were duly impressed, as the video below helps to begin to demonstrate.


There's obviously a lot of cool technology built into this new Speedlight with its ability to properly gauge bounce flash for you, but it boils down to distance and angles. In full auto mode, the flash instantly measures the distance to your subject and to the nearest appropriate bounce medium such as a wall or ceiling, calculates the appropriate angle needed, and then swivels the flash to the correct orientation and you're ready to go to work.


But the unit also has some clever tricks up its sleeve that will likely appeal to seasoned flash photographers as well, such as the ability to "remember" where it was aimed for a bounce in a landscape oriented shot, and reposition itself automatically if you swing the camera into portrait shooting orientation. No need to stop and futz with the flash... just keep firing as the flash swivels with you! This is achieved in a special "semi-auto" mode, where you pre-set the bounce angle and head direction and the flash then keeps the correct angle as you move the camera.

We could talk all day about this clever new piece of equipment, but it's more fun to just show you. Canon let us bring it into our test lab as we turned it into a temporary portrait studio, and our very own Rachael Joyce did the honors photographing yours truly for a mock-portrait-session to show off the 470EX-AI's capabilities. It really is neat to see it in action, as you'll see in the video, shot and created by our Senior Editor William Brawley.


The new speedlight is rated at a maximum guide number of 154ft at ISO 100 and 105mm flash coverage. The normal range while using a 50mm f/1.4 lens is 2.3-77.1ft (.07-23.5m). It has an infrared AF assist mode, optical receiver transmission, and operates on (4) AA batteries (alkaline or Ni-MH). It sports 10 custom functions as well as 9 personal functions as well.

The Canon 470EX-AI is slated to begin shipping in April 2018 for an estimated US$399, and for the available capabilities we saw, that price sounds enticingly attractive.