Gear Friday – Powering your Speedlites

I’m a strong believer in David Hobby’s “Strobist” techniques and Kirk Tuck’s “minimalist” lighting philosophy as detailed in his best-selling book Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography. Back in the late 70’s I dabbled in this with very little success using Vivitar Thyristor 285 strobes, which strangely enough, some folks still use today.

As a Canon shooter I use Canon’s 580EX II Speedlites for all my product (and now) commercial photography work. Although not as sophisticated as Nikon’s SB900 and CLS (creative lighting system), Canon’s Speedlites work very well in the field with one exception; they suck batteries dry at a furious pace.

I solved this issue by switching to Sanyo’s Eneloop rechargeable batteries as I described in my post earlier this week and by using Canon’s CP-E4 battery pack as shown below. The CP-E4 holds eight AA size batteries and when plugged into the 580EX II Speedlite, it more than doubles the flash capacity and reduces the recycle time considerably.

When using the CP-E4, the four batteries already in the Speedlite are used to control the strobe and the eight external batteries are used to power the strobe. This separation of power seems to work very well and I’ve taken several hundred shots without draining the battery pack. My only complaint about this setup is the cost. Canon charges around $135 (USD) for their CP-E4 battery pack although you can find after-market packs for around half this price.

5 thoughts on “Gear Friday – Powering your Speedlites

    • Andrew,

      Thanks for reading. I don’t meet many folks that have switched from Nikon to Canon. I agree that Nikon’s CLS (creative lighting system) is more robust than Canon’s but I’d put the 580EXII up against the SB800 or even the SB900. Most “Strobists” (myself included) use manual power settings rather than TTL and PocketWizards rather than the IR wireless in most lighting situations.


    • Thanks Mark. I don’t mind the price for the 580EX IIs as much as for the battery pack. $130 bucks for a plastic case that holds eight batteries? Really?


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