Photo Gear

Canon’s new Speedlite flash is powered by AI and it’s mind-blowingly good

Flash photography is an art and a skill. It’s the difference between a bad portrait and a great portrait. How you bounce the flash could be the difference between a subject having blown highlights and harsh shadows, or one that’s natural and flattering. Let’s hope it’s the latter.

So, here’s where Canon’s amazing Speedlite 470EX-AI flash comes into play. It looks like any other Speedlite from the get go, but guess what? As denoted by the “AI” in its product name, the flash has artificial intelligence built-in.

Say what?

I know it sounds crazy, but that’s why this thing is cool. Because it works.

I see this a lot at events. Photojournalists with their 5D Mark-somethings, and flash (with reflector) in tow. You’ll get flashes bouncing off a wall or ceiling, and when you’re unlucky, it points at you when you’re in the middle of the photo opp trying your best to get that shot on your iPhone.

But like I said earlier. It takes skill, experience, plenty of trial and error. It can get tricky when the environment is unfamiliar or weird. Black wall and ceilings? Tricky back light? Yeah, figuring it out can be a pain.

Here’s where the Speedlite 470EX-AI does its magic. Invoke AI.B (auto-intelligent bounce) mode by hitting the AI.B button on the flash. It will then calculate the distance between the camera, ceiling/wall and the subject. Once it’s done calculating (this happens in seconds), the flash will adjust itself automatically – swivelling, rotating – until it finds the ideal angle for the perfect bounce of light.

Naturally if you move the camera or switch orientation, the flash will re-measure and realign itself again.

It has a built-in motor, and watching it work is spellbinding.

The flash is compatible with E-TTL and E-TTL II by the way, so it’s really fully automatic.

Canon Speedlight 470EX-AI
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Credit: Canon USA

However, pro photographers will find it useful too. It can operate semi-automatically, and photographers are able to store flash positions in memory to be reused later.

It comes with an optical receiver in case you want to remote trigger, but unfortunately lacks a radio transmitter.

Let’s be clear. The 470EX-AI isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t without shortcomings.

Canon Speedlight 470EX-AI
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Credit: Canon USA

But it’s a pleasant surprise coming from Canon, who’re often accused of being laggards. Without a doubt, this is a great idea, and I hope we see even more cool stuff coming out from the Canon camp soon.

Specs at a glance

Guide Number (ISO100, in meters/ft.):47/154
Zoom range:24-105mm
Flash coverage angle:14mm* to 105mm (*with wide panel use)
Bounce function:Auto/semi-auto/manual/ slave
Bounce angle:


120 degree upward, 180 degree horizontally (left and right)
Wireless flash function:Optical transmission (Receiver)
Power source:4 x AA size alkaline / Ni-MH batteries

Pricing and availability

The Speedlite 470EX-AI retails for MYR1,838 (RRP).

If you’re interested, you can also buy the new EOS M50, EOS 1500D and EOS 3000D cameras.

For more information, visit Canon Malaysia.

By Vernon

Vernon is the founder and chief editor of A graphic designer by profession, he has a deep love for technology, cars, gadgets, food, and travel. He tweets too much and is also known as a caffeine bacterium ("life's too short for bad coffee"). Bleeds Blue (go Chelsea FC!) and considers BMW, Porsche, Alfa Romeo cars to have in the garage--for true petrolheads, that is.

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