Is there still no alternative to the Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2?

Dear Lazyweb,

Auto-focus in the dark on the 5Dmk2 sucks. The only reasonable way to fix it is with a device that does AF-assist linked to the camera's focus points (meaning, "blinks a red grid when focusing").

Flashes like the 580EX do this, but they're huge and since I don't actually use the flash, I don't like lugging around something that doubles the size of my camera.

I have a Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2, which would be perfect if not for it's completely retarded choice of battery technology. It uses 2CR5 batteries, which have horrible battery life, and for which no functional rechargeable version exists (I've tried several, they just don't work). So in reality, I can't use this thing because the fucking battery is always dead whenever I need it.

I bought a Speedlite 270EX II because it runs on AA batteries, only to discover that it's useless because it doesn't understand focus points: it does focus-assist by firing a blinding white light that lights up the whole room. If you used this device at a show, you might as well say "please stab me in the face".

Is there really nothing small that does focus-point-aware AF-assist that doesn't use stupid batteries?

I've asked this before, but time has passed and maybe there's a better answer.

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13 Responses:

  1. John Adams says:

    The yonguo looks pretty good

  2. John Adams says:

    I hated my ettl cable, so these might be worth buying

  3. John de Jong says:

    I use an SB-400 with my Nikon camera, which seems like a comparable flash to the 270. I get around the blinding awfulness by using a Sto-Fen Omnibounce. It really softens the flash, to the point where I don't know why they aren't made by the camera manufacturers themselves. Here's the 270 one: http://www.amazon.com/Stofen-Omni-Bounce-Canon-Speedlite-Diffuser/dp/B002EF5HDO/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

  4. David says:

    Not what you want to hear: I don't remember using my ST-E2 since switching to a 7D (selecting only the central focus point when in hard conditions). The 5D2's autofocus is notoriously sucky for its time. So, I guess, rent a 5D3 and a 7D and see if any is better than what you have?

  5. bdb says:

    Yongnuo YN-622c wireless triggers are awesome. Cheap, RF wireless, reliable, do E-TTL metering w/ AF assist, and use AAs (NiMH rechargeables work great). A pair is about $90 on Amazon and ships via prime. Highly recommended.

  6. Joshka says:

    The Yongnuo version of the ST-E2, uses AA, though may not have the best AF assist (mixed reviews).

    220EX? http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=1201.0 earlier model of the 270EX

    DIY: http://adrian.onsen.ca/tag/af-assist/

  7. Ian Young says:

    [ENOHELP]: set your lens to manual focus. Set the distance to 1.5m. Stand 1.5m from your target. Problem solved.

  8. Richard Perrin says:

    Not an answer to the question posed, but:
    Is this solvable with a 4xAAA holder, some dremelling, glue or double-sided tape and a bit of soldering? Or would the result be too awkward?

  9. cetan says:

    As far as I know, the last Speedlight that has an actual focus-assist that is not "pulsing flashes of light" is the 220EX. It is smaller than a 430EX II or (god help you) a 550EX but it will certainly stick up higher than the ST-E2.

    Potential problems:
    1) It's discontinued so you'll have to buy one off ebay or similar.

    2) AF points. Because Canon can changes the focus point locations in the camera bodies over time, the 220EX may not throw a grid pattern AF assist out that lines up nicely with all of 5D Mark II's AF focus points.

    Because I don't have any direct experience with the 5D Mark II/220EX combo, I'm not saying it's the answer (begin cursing now). I would expect if you used center focus point only on the 5D Mark II, it should pick up the pattern fine. My experience with the 220EX is limited to a couple different Rebel series DSLR's. I didn't experience any problem with AF. Slogging through the dpreview forums produces some hits on using the 220EX with your camera, but not direct comments (that I've found so far) about how the AF assist lines up with the focus points.

    • cetan says:

      [[As far as I know, the last Speedlight that has an actual focus-assist that is not "pulsing flashes of light" is the 220EX]]

      Sorry, this should say: The last small Speedlight