Whole treatises can be written about the complicated interactions between light and photography. It is a world not enough appreciated by novice or hobbyist shooters, who may be used to relying on natural light to illuminate their sensors. But once you begin constructing your own lighting environments, you start to understand that flash photography is an art in and of itself. We can’t begin to account for the myriad purposes of flashes in this guide, but we can point you in the right direction. Here is a guide to some of the best flashes by camera type and level of expertise.
Best Overall: Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT
As you can tell from the hefty price tag, this flash isn’t for beginners. (See Best Flash for Beginners below if you’re just starting out.) But for photographers who need the very best when it comes to flash, the Speedlite 600EX II-RT delivers. It tops Canon’s E-TTL / E-TTL II compatible flash lineup with a powerful 197ft/60m guide number and, compared to the Speedlite 600EX-RT, ups continuous flash performance by 1.1-1.5x, or 2x if used with the compact battery pack option.
It offers 20mm to 200mm coverage and comes complete with built-in radio and optical transmission functionality for better range. It can control up to five groups of compatible flash units by communicating on 2.4 GHz frequencies, which means it doesn’t have the same directional constraints as traditional wireless optical transmitters. The head can rotate 180 degress left and right, angle 90 degrees up and 7 degrees down to capture tougher angles. It’s truly an amazing flash, and one Amazon reviewer went as far as admitting, “I’m not sure how I lived without it.”