The Canon Speedlite 90EX ($149.99 direct) is the smallest and least expensive strobe in Canon’s Speedlite lineup. Even though it was released along with the compact EOS M it is compatible with Canon’s full EOS camera line, including the full-frame EOS 6D.
The Speedlite 90EX is about 2 by 1.7 by 2.6 inches (HWD) in size and weighs a mere 1.8 ounces. It’s powered by two AAA batteries. We tested the flash on both the EOS M and the 6D. The recycle time using alkaline cells is about 3.6 seconds, making it more appropriate for casual snapshots than for event coverage. The quality of light is excellent when shooting in Scene Intelligent Auto mode. Shots were well exposed, without blown highlights, and the character of ambient lighting was not lost in the shot. Switching to Program mode was not as kind. The flash output in that mode was harsh to the point where it overpowered the ambience of images. Fine tuning in manual mode garnered better results, but for casual shooters it’s best to leave the camera in full automatic mode.
The flash doesn’t have any sort of bounce capability, which is another way to soften output. If that’s something you’d like out of a strobe, consider stepping up to the Speedlite 270 EX II. It’s only $20 more, although it’s a bit bigger and heavier at 2.6 by 2.6 by 3 inches and 5.5 ounces. It will still pair nicely with the EOS M, and its 72-foot Guide Number at ISO 100 indicates that it can output more than twice the light as the 90EX; it’s rated at 30 feet at ISO 100. The Guide Number is a standardized method of measuring flash output.
If you’re looking for a compact flash for your Canon camera system, you won’t find one much smaller than the Speedlite 90EX. It pairs very nicely with the EOS M, and if you leave the camera in automatic mode the resulting photos are quite pleasant. Stepping up to the 270 EX II is a good idea if you want a bit more versatility, including bounce capability. It’s a little bit bigger, but should still pair nicely with the EOS M and other Canon SLRs.
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