Genuinely new developments in photography are becoming few and far between, but Canon has definitely come up with one in its Speedlite 470EX-AI accessory flash unit… which has automatic bounce flash control. This takes all the guesswork out of achieving better-looking flash pictures.

It’s all done with proximity sensors which determine where is the best surface for bounce flash – in relation to the subject distance – and the motorised flash head is then automatically moved into the required position. Canon is calling it “AI Bounce” (as in Artificial Intelligence) and it only takes a second or two at the most. Once the optimum head position is established, should you then move or re-orientate the camera, the flash will automatically reset itself to maintain the correct bounce angle. There’s a semi-auto mode which enables you to set the bounce angle yourself, but the 470EX-AI will then automatically adjust if you change the camera’s orientation which obviously saves a lot of time.

Photo: Canon

The motorised flash head also has a zooming function which covers the angles-of-view from 24mm to 105mm (in the full-35mm format) and there’s a wide-angle diffuser which gives a 14mm-equivalent spread. The head’s adjustment range is 180 degrees both left and right, plus 120 degrees upwards.

As the model number suggests, the guide number is 47 (ISO 100/metres) so the new Speedlite has plenty of range, especially if used at a higher sensitivity setting. It has a wireless optical receiver allowing for remote operation from up to ten metres away, but no RF triggering which seems a bit of an oversight on a flash unit of this calibre. Furthermore, it’s powered by a set of four conventional AA batteries rather than a rechargeable battery pack as is becoming more common on higher-end accessories flashes. Canon says this is deliberate as AA batteries are generally easier to find if replacements are needed in a hurry. With NiMH batteries, the recharging time to full power is 3.5 seconds while with lithium-type cells it’s 5.5 seconds.

Other features of the 470EX-AI include a large dot-matrix LCD information panel (with built-in illumination), high-speed sync (via a pulsed output), a total of 19 custom functions and a master control wheel for more efficient control.

The Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI will be available in Australia from early June and you can expect to pay around $700. For more information visit http://www.canon.com.au