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The new Canon Speedlite 580EX is that latest in Canon's evolution of high end, shoe mount, speedites. From the 430EZ to the 540EZ, 550EX and now the 580EX, power output and features have increased.

The new 580EX is, of course, E-TTL (and E-TTL II) compatible, and it has a guide number of 58/191 (meters/feet) at ISO 100 and 105mm focal length. It's both smaller and lighter than the 550EX which it replaces.

One major new feature for digital shooters is that the flash now knows the sensor size of the EOS 20D (and EOS 1D Mk II with firmware update), and zooms the flash head to give full coverage over only the area seen by the sensor. The 550EX did not do this, and so, for example, "wasted" energy illuminating the 24x36mm frame outside that covered by the 22x15mm sensor in the 220D.

The 580EX also communicates with the 20D and 1D Mark II to ensure better white balance. If the battery charge starts to run low, white balance is adjusted to compensate for changes in flash characteristics.

The wide angle diffuser on the 580EX now gives full flash coverage for 14mm lenses (full frame), which means that it will provide full coverage for the EF-S 10-22 lens on a 20D or 300D (equivalent to a 16mm lens on full frame).

The 580ex is expected to be available in October at a street price of around $480.

The following is the text of the Canon Press Release concerning the 580EX Speedlite:

LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y., Aug 19, 2004 - The long awaited evolution in Canon's Speedlite family of EOS system flashes is here. The Speedlite 580EX flash takes its place as Canon's new flagship Speedlite, replacing the popular Speedlite 550EX model. A more powerful flash with a maximum guide number of 58/191 at ISO 100 in meters/feet (at 105mm focal length), faster recycling, more consistent color and enhanced controls are among the improvements that all photographers, especially those who shoot digital, will find useful.

"We designed the Speedlite 580EX flash from the ground up specifically to maximize digital photography," said Yukiaki Hashimoto, senior vice president and general manager of the consumer imaging group at Canon U.S.A., Inc., a subsidiary of Canon Inc. (NYSE: CAJ). " This new flash takes the best features from existing models and adds functionality that enhances digital photography. We now offer a Speedlite that yields great performance with a more comfortable and easy to use interface, in a smaller and lighter package than its predecessors."

E-TTL II Compatibility
The Speedlite 580EX flash is compatible with Canon's E-TTL II (Evaluative Through The Lens) auto exposure technology. When combined with a compatible Canon camera, E-TTL II utilizes subject distance and other information that automatically modifies flash power, resulting in accurate flash exposure regardless of subject size, reflectance, or photographic composition. This is great news for photographers that shoot high contrast or reflective subjects, like those encountered in wedding photography. Photographers can now capture every detail from the black of tuxedoes to the white of wide smiles and wedding dresses.

Digitally Optimized
The Speedlite 580EX flash is compatible with all film and digital EOS cameras as well as G-series and Pro-1 PowerShot digital cameras. The flash includes two features especially for digital photography. EOS 20D and EOS-1D Mark II** digital SLR users will especially appreciate the Speedlite 580EX flash's ability to auto-compensate for the size of the CMOS sensor, and zoom the flash head automatically to match the effective focal length conversion. This feature allows the Speedlite 580EX flash to maximize the efficiency of its light distribution and produce more flashes from a set of batteries. When used with the EOS 20D or 1D Mark II** digital SLR cameras, the flash and camera communicate to make fine adjustments to auto white balance by electronically monitoring the charge level of the batteries and the duration of each flash burst, resulting in consistently accurate color for every shot.

Speed, Power and Flexibility
Smaller, lighter, faster and more powerful than its predecessor, the Speedlite 550EX flash, Canon has further enhanced the new model by reducing the full-power recycling time by about 25 percent, while increasing the maximum Guide Number power rating by about 50 percent. These improvements are possible because of flash head optimization, circuit resistance reductions and changes in circuit design.

The new flash unit provides photographers with intuitive controls. Mimicking the style found on Canon's line of popular EOS Digital SLRs, the 580EX model's new control dial, SET button and a high-speed sync / shutter curtain synchronization button put all major functions at the fingertips of the photographer.

The Speedlite 580EX Flash features an AF-assist beam, which is now better matched to the different focusing point arrangements of various EOS SLRs, compared to earlier models. The unit includes a swiveling flash head that turns a full 180 degrees in both directions, while a single release lock controls tilt and swivel adjustments. A wide-angle diffuser found on the Speedlite 580EX flash covers focal lengths as short as 14mm. The flash also features a new catchlight reflector for optimal lighting quality during bounce-flash photography. The Speedlite 580EX flash features a total of 14 Custom Functions that provide maximum control over various flash functions such as recycling with external power and auto-zooming to match sensor size.

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