After 5 weeks of waiting my Chinese verison of the ST-E2 flash transmitter with infrared focusing grid finally arrived from Hong Kong. Yongnuo just released it before christmas and there was no other way to get it.
Why did I buy it you ask (and why not the Canon version)?
Yes my 7D already has such a flash transmitter built in, and I will buy PocketWizards this year, but what I really wanted was the focus grid that comes with it. So far you would see me with a flash on top of the camera without actually using the flash itself – just for the IR focusing. With today’s high ISO and a wide aperture prime there is no reason to use a flash indoors (unless it’s a group picture or in literal darkness). The problems the auto focus will give you (hunting, inaccurate), or the practially none existing one in bars is the real headache. And of course I don’t want to run around with a flash all the time (heavier/bigger loadout vs. sleeker profile).
The reason why I went with the Yongnuo over the Canon version was not the price (though a 120€ difference is quite noticeable), but the fact that you can run it with two AA batteries instead of the more specific 2CR5 for the Canon – I always have backup AAs with me. It has a wider range for both the grid and flash trigger, it can swivel, and common to both: they enable high speed sync, which the 7D can’t.
I will give it a try now and should there be any weird issues update the article, but I highly doubt it from what I red from others before ordering it. If you have any questions just leave them in the comments below, I will try to answer them to the best of my abilites (and yes the picture is too dark :)).
UPDATE: I spent 15 minutes casually testing the low light focus grid, flash transmitter and its hyper sync, no fancy charts or direct comparison tests.
The focusing worked great in dim and no light conditions, apparently only one light is used compared to the multiple ones in the 430EXII. It made a cheaper impression at first, and though I could not detect any flaws, I will have to try it out in real world situtions vs. my bedroom to be certain about it.
On the transmitter side of things no issues are to be noted, again I only tested it indoors in a rather normal room, there were no misfires at all. I did not check groups, just one flash at various distances and angles to the camera.
Hyper sync worked up to 1/8000, no curtain shading visible in the picture, the flash reflection on the door was still rather bright so this seems to work within specs (obviously you can’t expect miracles from this flash once you will shoot with 1/8000 in bright daylight).