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Flashes, AF Assist and focusing in the dark

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Hillsilly:
Lately, I've been trying to take wildlife photos in the dark using a radio trigger to power some non-ex flashes.  I'm generally shooting subjects about 20m away.  It's too dark for my camera to auto focus so I'm manual focusing or pre-focusing on a particular spot.  But I'm not getting many keepers.  My eye sight isn't the best and I just can't focus accurately or fast enough.

What can I do?

My first thought is to pick up some Canon flashes.  I understand that the AF Assist of the ST-E2 isn't very powerful and the 580EXii is better and has more features as a master controller anyway.  Therefore, I'm thinking I should pick up a 580EXii (or maybe a Metz 58 AF-2) to use the AF assist, and use this to control a couple of slaves.  Does this sound sensible?  I've heard that the AF assist on a 580EXii might extend to about 20m.  Does that sound right?

Realistically, I'm not going to pick up two or three 600EX RTs.  But given that the price difference between the 580EX and the 600EX isnt that big, should I just go for one 600EX and use this as the master controller now and future proof my system?  I assume 430EX-RTs aren't that far away?

The ST-E3 lacks AF assist.  Am I right in thinking that it won't trigger the AF assist on a 600EX (and even if it could, the lines / grid wouldn't necessarily match my AF points anyway)?

Am I missing something?  Is there a simpler or better way to obtain improved night time AF performance?

neuroanatomist:

--- Quote from: Hillsilly on May 16, 2012, 04:56:49 AM ---I've heard that the AF assist on a 580EXii might extend to about 20m.  Does that sound right?

--- End quote ---

Canon specifies the AF assist lamp is effective out to 10 m for the central region, and 5 m for the edges (for flashes from the 430 through 600). 



--- Quote from: Hillsilly on May 16, 2012, 04:56:49 AM ---Am I right in thinking that it won't trigger the AF assist on a 600EX...
--- End quote ---

Does an on-camera master flash/ST-E2 trigger the AF assist lamp of a slave flash?

Chris Burch:
I'm fairly certain you won't get an autofocus assist beam out of any of the Canon flashes unless the flash is actually attached to the camera (or an OC-3 cable).

CowGummy:
What body and lens combo are you using to take these shots?

ksuweh:
You could always get a cheap laser pointer & either manual focus or auto-focus on the laser dot. It's super accurate!

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