Rudy Winston
Rudy Winston

Rudy Winston has over 17 years experience with Canon USA's Pro Products team, and has been responsible during that time for training Canon's staff on new products, creating presentations for customers and dealers, numerous writing projects, and providing technical assistance to professional and amateur photographers.

Flash and the EOS 7D Mark II

September 15, 2014

Let’s start with the basics:  there’s no loss of functionality when it comes to flash, compared to any previous EOS digital SLR camera, with the EOS 7D Mark II.  Any EX-series flash unit can be used with it, for E-TTL automatic flash, as well as either traditional optical-type Wireless flash, or Radio Transmission Wireless E-TTL via the Speedlite 600EX-RT and its companion Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT.  So if you already own E-TTL-compatible speedlite gear, you can go right ahead and use it with the EOS 7D Mark II.

Consistency and accuracy: superior E-TTL flash exposure

Here’s an area where the 7D Mark II makes a huge advance over all previous EOS cameras, other than the EOS-1D X (which has approximately 100,000 pixel RGB metering).  EOS 7D Mark II uses a brand-new 150,000-pixel RGB plus IR metering sensor, and we expect this high-resolution color metering system to provide superb, consistent flash exposure, whether using a single flash on-camera, or any number of off-camera speedlites via Wireless E-TTL.

The approximately 150,000 pixel metering sensor reads and detects not only pre-flash brightness levels, but can also detect color (and make exposure adjustments when different colors are detected), as well as faces.  When one or more human faces are detected, flash metering concentrates upon faces (instead of clothes or surrounding bright areas in the scene), and getting the flash exposure for dominant faces in the scene correct.  It’s a far more sophisticated method of E-TTL flash metering than in most previous EOS SLRs, and automatic flash exposure performance should make the EOS 7D Mark II a go-to camera for event photographers and others who frequently rely on flash.

1/250th flash sync speed

No change here from the previous EOS 7D, but full flash sync up to 1/250th of a second is a comforting feature for the advanced user who may frequently shoot fill-in flash outdoors, or in other situations where fast sync speeds are desirable.  Of course, the EOS 7D Mark II is also capable of Hi-Speed Sync with any accessory EX-series speedlite, up to its fastest 1/8000th second shutter speed.  Both the standard 1/250th flash sync and Hi-Speed Sync up to 1/8000th are also available in Wireless E-TTL — with both optical and Canon radio-based methods. (Note that Hi-speed sync is only available with accessory EX-series Speedlites, not with the built-in flash.)

Instant access to Flash Control Menu

EOS 7D Mark II has the same Flash Control Menu for both its built-in flash as well as a compatible connected accessory speedlite* (or the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT) as recent EOS models.  However, it can now be instantly accessed:  just press the Built-in Flash Activation button, on the left side of the lens mount.  With an accessory speedlite (or ST-E3-RT) mounted, you’ll immediately have the entire Flash Control Menu appear.

What’s really cool — and it’s the first time this has been possible with a Canon EOS camera — is that whatever was the last flash-related item you adjusted on this menu remains highlighted and immediately accessible with that single push on the Flash button.  For anyone using Wireless E-TTL, this is especially valuable — an adjustment for flash ratios, for instance, can be quickly followed-up, using the camera’s menu, and no longer requires drilling through several Menu windows again to get back to that ratio scale to refine an adjustment you just made moments before.

*Compatible Speedlites for Flash Control Menu on recent EOS cameras, including EOS 7D Mark II: Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT, Speedlites 600EX-RT, 580EX II, 430EX II, 320EX, 270EX II, 90EX, and Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX II

Instant access to Flash Exposure Compensation

As good as Canon expects the color-based E-TTL flash metering to be, there will obviously be times where any critical user wants to intentionally vary flash exposure using Flash Exposure Compensation.  EOS 7D Mark II makes this a pleasure, with a couple of interesting options that allow it to be done on-camera — without even pulling the camera away from your eye.  And, this applies to overall flash exposure whether you’ve got just one flash on-camera, or are working with multiple flashes off-camera with Wireless E-TTL.

  • Press Flash Exposure Compensation button on top right side of camera
    A distinction between the EOS 7D Mark II and less-expensive models is that there’s a Flash Exposure Compensation button on the top right side of the camera. Press this button once (no need to hold it down), and in the viewfinder, the analog scale now displays any user-set flash exposure compensation level. Just turn the rear Quick Control Dial as you look through the viewfinder, and dial-in whatever change in flash exposure you want — no need to pull your eye from the finder, and look at the top LCD panel (although users are free to do that if they desire)
  • Customize the Multi-Function Button to instantly access Flash Exposure Compensation
    Since the M.Fn button is even closer to the shutter button, you may find it easier to use it instead of the dedicated Flash Exposure Compensation button for quick adjustments. A Custom Controls option allows re-configuring the M.Fn button to a new function: cycle between access to what all the buttons on the top row (directly above the small LCD info panel) would normally do. Now, if you’re shooting flash, just press the M.Fn button until the flash exposure compensation scale appears in the viewfinder, and turn the rear Quick Control Dial to make any adjustment to flash brightness that you want. When it comes time for the next adjustment to flash exposure, just press that same M.Fn button once — the same Flash Exposure Compensation scale appears, and is immediately ready for adjustment. Again, your eye never has to leave the viewfinder.
  • Using the Quick Control Menu, and the rear LCD monitor
    Especially if you’re working on a tripod, or don’t mind pulling the camera away from your eye, another option is to use the Quick Control Menu for Flash Exposure Compensation. Press the “Q” button on the back of the camera, and this menu screen instantly appears on the rear LCD monitor. If Flash Exposure Compensation is already highlighted, just turn either dial — the top Main Dial, or the Quick Control Dial — and you can adjust it right there.

It’s always possible to adjust Flash Exposure Compensation on the Speedlite itself (or the ST-E3-RT Transmitter), too… but this does require taking a moment and pulling your eye from the viewfinder. So the methods above should definitely be considered in any fast-paced flash shooting situation, when working with one or more EOS speedlites.

See flash and ambient compensation in the viewfinder — at same time

First time ever in an EOS camera, other than the top-of-the-line EOS-1D (and 1Ds) series models.  EOS 7D Mark II now has a separate analog scale, running vertically along the right side of the viewfinder, with two separate scales — one for ambient exposure level, and a second for any user-set Flash Exposure Compensation.

Now, as soon as the ready-light from either the built-in flash or an attached EX-series speedlite is detected, a second vertical analog scale appears, displaying any user-applied Flash Exposure Compensation.  Normally at the central “zero” setting, it displays the full ±3 stops range of flash adjustment, in 1/3-stop increments.

The beauty of this really comes into play when blending ambient light and fill flash.  It’s now easy to independently adjust ambient exposure, and see the level of adjustment you’ve applied, and compare it on the spot to E-TTL flash exposure adjustments.  Each is always performed separately from the other in the Canon EOS system, but the EOS 7D Mark II now makes both easy to see — again, without needing to pull your eye from the viewfinder.

Instant access to Flash Exposure Lock

The EOS 7D Mark II also can perform Flash Exposure Lock — a potentially valuable way to combine the speed of automatic flash exposure (E-TTL) with the precision of a spot reading of pre-flash illumination, which is locked in-place for 16 seconds.  (It can be held longer, if you keep your finger pressed half-way on the shutter button.)

Normally, the only step that has to be taken to perform FEL is to press the M.Fn button.  By default, with either the built-in flash active, or an EX-series speedlite attached and turned on, M.Fn fires a single pre-flash, which the camera reads via a spot meter reading at the center of the picture area.  But if you’ve committed the M.Fn button for Flash Exposure Compensation access (as described directly above), EOS 7D Mark II gives you other Custom Control options to perform FEL with a single press of:

  • AF-ON button
  • AE Lock button
  • Depth-of-field Preview button

Customize any of these for FEL operation, via the Custom Controls menu (within the EOS 7D Mark II’s Custom Functions menu), and you’ve instantly converted it to fire that pre-flash and perform Flash Exposure Lock readings.

Remember, as is the case with all previous EOS cameras, Flash Exposure Lock does not require changing your metering pattern to Spot metering… the user-adjustable metering mode strictly impacts how metering of ambient light will be performed.  FEL readings are always done with Spot metering whenever you press the appropriate FEL button, even if the camera is set to a wide-area metering mode like Evaluative or Center-weighted metering.

Bottom line

Much of the goodness of the EOS 7D Mark II is how responsive the camera is, whether we’re talking about lag time at the shutter button or instantly calling up a camera function.  For speedlite users, there are numerous cool new ways to immediately access different flash controls, some of which don’t even require pulling your eye from the viewfinder.

And, we expect the EOS 7D Mark II’s general flash metering performance to be as good as anything in the EOS line — ever.  The new 150,000 pixel RGB metering sensor promises a level of exposure control unprecedented in the EOS line, and that should make this camera a very attractive prospect for those who shoot a lot of speedlite pictures.

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

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