Shooting people on a dance floor last week-end I faced the limits of my flash’s recycling speed. Bouncing against high ceilings with nearly no ambient light, even when shooting 1/60s f/2.8 at ISO 1600 the power of the Canon Speedlight 580EX was more than welcome. A couple of high-power discharges or even a single one were enough to keep the flash from firing for the next frame. As a result I produced many black frames.

I was mostly using recent 2400 mAH NiMH batteries which lasted reasonably long and were not the cause of this issue. The problem certainly lied in the recycle speed of the flash itself. Indeed Jamison Boyer had exactly the same experience just a week before me.

The solution is an external power pack feeding the flash’s high voltage input. This means either a Quantum Turbo or a Canon CP-E3. The Quantum Turbo is said to fully recycle a 580EX in less than 1.5 seconds whereas the CP-E3 does it in less than two seconds. But the CP-E3 weights 0.42 kg including batteries whereas the Quantum Turbo weights 1.1 kg. And considering the lower price of the Quantum Turbo the opinions tend to favor the compromise embodied by the CP-E3.

In his good introduction about high voltage batteries in general and Quantum hardware in particular, the heavily equipped Ralph Paonessa mentions the Quantum Turbo Compact that is in the same bulk and weight class as the CP-E3. But the Quantum Turbo Compact costs three times as much as the CP-E3 so there is no contest.

Some folks at Sportsshooter also mention the Lumedyne Tinycycler but it does not seem very common.

For the time being I don’t have the luxury of an external high voltage power pack. As Lord Rutherford once declared : “gentlemen, we have no money, therefore we must think”. My workaround is to shoot with both eyes open. In addition to improving situational awareness it allows to keep the outside eye on the flash readyness light and only shoot when it is lit up. Not quite as comfortable as an endless fast supply of power but that will have to do for now…