Canon Speedlite 270EX Review

May 16, 2009

Canon Speedlite 270EX

I just received a new Canon Speedlite 270EX from B&H Photo.  The 270EX is Canon’s newest Speedlite meant to replace the 220EX but for me it is a tiny replacement for the 380EX flash I have been using successfully for years (and years). 

I had seen the specs and photos of the new 270EX but the images do not make it clear how tiny the 270EX is compared to its big brothers. This flash will permanently be in my Crumpler (laptop and camera bag combo) that goes everywhere with me. The 380EX was just too big and awkward and did not fit easily in the Crumpler so it stayed home unless I had plans that involved a flash. Here is a comparison shot of  the 270EX and my old 380EX.

Canon Speedlite 270EX vs. 380EX

The key benefits for me are:

  • small size
  • tilt head for bounce flash
  • two AA batteries vs. four in the 380EX/430EX/580EX
  • $160 (US)

The key deficiencies for me are:

  • tilts up and down only (does not swivel side to side)
  • only control on flash is power switch
  • will only go as wide as 28mm (24mm for 380EX)
  • does not have nifty red auto focus assist beam like the 380EX/430EX/580EX
  • no wireless control

I’ve never considered the old low-end 220EX because it’s lack of a tilt/swivel head precluded its use as a bounce flash so it didn’t really offer anything over the built-in flash on the camera. Moving to the 430EX or 580EX was always a tempting upgrade but I could not justify it for the handful of shots I “might” improve over the 380EX. The 380EX, like the 270EX, only tilts up and down so it does not allow portrait orientation shots using bounce flash. I normally carry a “Off Camera Shoe Cord” for macro so if I really want a very specific bounce flash angle I can get it with a bit of extra effort. The same will hold true for the 270EX, the up/down tilt makes bounce flash easy but I can use the flash cord to do trickier shots. 

Two batteries vs. four batteries is awesome. It may not make a big difference to some, but when I am on a scuba trip I put a lot of up front planning into my AA charging situation. My two underwater strobes take 4 AA batteries each (used to be 8) and I go through two sets on a busy diving day, my underwater flashlights take 6 AA batteries each (carry two on each dive), and my Lenmar smart chargers only charge 4 batteries at a time so I travel with multiple chargers. Less batteries/chargers is always welcome.

The only on flash control I lose with the 380EX is the HS sync switch. This mode is very useful for people shots outdoors where you want shallow depth of field and a twinkle in the subject’s eyes. The shutter speed outdoors is usually faster than the maximum flash sync speed (1/200 or so). High speed sync is available on the 270EX but it is only accessible through the camera’s menu system. You have an option of 1st curtain sync, 2nd curtain sync, and high speed sync. The 2nd curtain sync option is something the 380EX does not support either. 

The 270EX offers quite a bit of manual control, all set through the camera menu. You can set flash exposure compensation and even set the output level manually.

The 270EX requires that you manually extend the flash head to its outer stop for 50mm or longer lenses while the normal retracted state is wide enough for 28mm equivalent lenses but no wider. The 380EX/430EX/580EX have an internal mechanism that detects the lens and adjusts the flash accordingly and get support lenses as wide as 24mm. 

The 270EX does not have a dedicated AF assist beam like the 380EX/430EX/580EX but it does fire a strobe for up to 1 second to assist focus. The same strobe mode fires when you depress the depth-of-field preview button and acts as a modelling light. If you disable the flash firing in the camera menu, the flash will still work to assist auto focus when needed but the flash will not fire. 

Overall the 270EX is a compact and inexpensive replacement for my 380EX. For portability and travelling it is a no-brainer. For the type of shooting I normally do I see it as THE ideal flash rather than an inexpensive compromise.

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6 Responses to “Canon Speedlite 270EX Review”

  1. Allen Says:

    very useful comment, thanks”_

  2. James Says:

    Fantastic information. Just ordered one for myself. :)

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Hello, I would really appreciate seeing some pictures using this flash…could you send me some?

  4. John Says:

    Very informative, practically. I love the picture for comparing the 380ex with this one. It is very helpful for me to compare the size between the two flashes.

  5. Simon Says:

    Try to get the “PIXEL’S KNIGHT TR-332 WIRELESS E-TTL II FLASH TRIGGER FOR CANON” and set it free :)

  6. Anonymous Says:

    what r the GN of both?


Comments are closed.