Canon Rumors, you follow them right? has published a blog post: 580EX II Faulty by Design. Pocket Wizard is having many problems with the Canon 7D and the 580EXII. So they commissioned an “independent” study that found faults with the 580EXII flash design, especially when using the High Speed Synchronization.

Their conclusions are:

It appears that some combination of elements comes together to create the risk and increased probability of an IGBT failure within the 580EX II.

  • Sealed flash tube assembly (internal zoom carriage assembly)
  • Misalignment of the flash tube within the reflector such that arcing is more probable
  • Reduced optical feedback via the fiber optic sense cable in the flash head
  • Dryer air where ozone can be generated more easily
  • Electrical discharge through the reflector at a moment when the IGBT is turned off

By reviewing heavily used 430EXII flashes (Canon’s newest) and seeing no signs at all of arcing within the reflector or on the flash tube, we have theorized that possible 580EX II design issues were corrected by identifying the same problems discussed in this document and changing the design to minimize the potential for damage on the newer 430EX II flash.

  1. Almost all the problems seem to happen when a Canon 7D is involved.
  2. The problems seem to be happening with the Pocket Wizard, the Canon 7D and mostly when using the High Speed Synchronization.
  3. Why don’t we hear about similar problems when using the 580EXII in regular wireless (line of sight) mode? I’ve checked various forums, I only saw 2 entries of people complaining about busting their 580EXII.
  4. Why don’t we hear about similar problems when using the 580EXII with Radio Popper (the competition to the Pocket Wizard)?
  5. Why don’t we hear about similar problems when using the 580EXII with Canon 5DMkII or the Canon 1DsMkIII?

The big difference between the Pocket Wizard design and the Radio Popper design is that Pocket Wizard tried to reverse engineer what Canon is using to communicate between the camera and the flash. Radio Popper doesn’t care about the Canon protocols, it reads the electrical signals coming out of the camera and send them across to the flash. It’s a much simpler method.

By the way, Metz didn’t bother with any of it, it just bought a license from Canon for their Canon compatible flashes.

  1. All the Canon/Nikon flashes have a sealed head and are designed to shut down when the flash head is too hot especially in Continuous mode.
  2. Mine are doing fine (as I knock on wood, not to gloat or attract bad luck, superstition is a funny thing…)