Those who are into portraiture, would swear by the lighting possibilities that flashguns offer. This could be the reason why flashguns are comparatively expensive for the type of utility they off er. Canon offers three types of flashguns. The top-of-the-line ones such as the 580EX can burn a hole in your pocket, and the low-end ones could prove ineff ective in many situations. The Speedlite 320EX bridges the gap, occupying the middle ground.
Design and Build Quality
The Canon 320 EX is finished in good quality polycarbonate. It has a compact design with a manual zoom head that can be fixed at two positions. It features a built-in LED and has vertical and horizontal bounce capabilities. It accepts four AA batteries.
The Canon 320 EX has a built-in LED, which can be used to provide continuous light that can illuminate nearby subjects in dim light. It can also be used while shooting videos, as a modelling lamp or as an AF assist beam with Live View. It provides up to four hours of continuous lighting with fully-charged AA batteries. The flash has vertical and horizontal bounce capability to provide even lighting when the bouncing surface is not too far from the flash head. It also provides a Flash release function by which you can trigger the camera wirelessly from the flash with a 2-second delay. It also provides Wireless Slave function with EOS D-SLRs having integrated Speedlite transmitt ers, supporting three groups and four channels simultaneously. Th is allows the fl ash to be positioned off – camera for creative lighting eff ects. The manually extendable flash head lets you switch fl ash coverage between Normal (24mm equivalent on EF lenses, maximum Guide No.24m at ISO 100) and Tele (50mm equivalent on EF lenses, maximum Guide No.32m at ISO 100) modes. Th e fl ashgun provides an eff ective coverage of approximately 4m at the centre and approximately 3.5m at the peripheries. Th e LED provides an effective coverage of approximately 4 m. Canon claims a recycling time of 2.0 seconds between two successive flashes.
The flashgun supports E-TTL II and E-TTL functions with compatible Type-A EOS cameras (EOS 5D Mark II and later. Available via firmware update for: EOS- 1Ds Mark III, EOS-1D Mark III, EOS 40D, EOS 50D, and EOS Rebel XS). The custom functions supported by the 320EX include Auto power off , Quick flash with continuous shot, Slave auto power off timer (60 minutes/10 minutes), and Slave auto power off cancel (within 8 hours/ within 1 hour). Th e custom functions have to be set from within the camera’s ‘External Speedlite Control’ menu. The Speedlite is equipped with a power-saving function that turns off the power aft er 90 seconds if no operation is performed. Th e 320EX has dimensions of 70.0 x 115.0 x 78.4mm and weighs 275g.
The Speedlite 320EX is compact and hence comfortable to carry around. Since it has bounce capability, it can provide even illumination in most situations. The flash does not have a built-in reflector normally provided with big flashguns, but this is a design limitation and can be easily overcome by attaching a white card to the flash head. Though there is a Manual position provided for the mode button, Manual mode has to be set from within the camera menu.
The 320EX performed well in our tests. For the test, we mounted the flash on a Canon 6D body. The flash coverage was satisfactory for most situations where the distance was within the specified range. The flash recycled fast in TTL mode and at low power, but in Manual mode at full power, it took approximately 3 sec to recharge with fully charged NiMH batteries. The Quick Flash with Continuous mode proved very useful at short distances, keeping up with the 4.5 frames per second continuous speed of the 6D.
Bounce capability was satisfactory, though you cannot expect the same performance that a large flash (such as 580EX II) provides. There was no visible cast in the images except in cases where the light was bounced off a surface having non-neutral colour.
Value for Money
The 320EX retails at an MRP of Rs.18,595. This is fair value for money considering that the larger 580 EX II costs about Rs.25,000.
If you are looking for an affordable, yet effective flashgun for portraiture, the 320EX provides an ideal solution with advanced features. But do not expect to cover events such as stage shows with this flash. For the performance expected of this type of a flashgun, the 320EX is a very good option.