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Digital Camera Battery cable for 580EX now in production  
Thursday, December 9, 2004 | by Rob Galbraith

Digital Camera Battery has completed a new cable designed to power the Canon Speedlite 580EX with one of the company's line of high-capacity DC battery packs.

Dubbed the DCBZ-580, the cable will physically attach only to the 580EX, owing to the location of its high-voltage (HV) input port relative to other Canon flash units like the 550EX and 540EZ.

Most older Canon strobes house the HV port on the side of the hot shoe; the 580EX has its HV port on the side of the flash body instead. So, even though the HV connector itself is identical, as are the input power requirements, the changed location of the port meant that one of Digital Camera Battery's previous standard DCBZ cables for the 550EX, which includes a funky finned-design box containing the high-voltage step-up circuitry, is an awkward fit on the 580EX. It does work, but it looks odd and there is a greater risk of the cable/box combo being pulled out of the flash accidentally.

Enter the DCBZ-580 for the 580EX. The step-up circuitry is contained in a sleeker, trimmer and smooth-sided box that nestles snugly against the side of the flash (though there is room along one edge for some airflow between the two). We've been using the DCBZ-580 cable with the 580EX for a couple of days now. It seems both functional and nicely integrated with Canon's latest Speedlite offering.

Canon 580EX with DCBZ-580 cable attached

In addition to a new industrial design, the DCBZ-580's step-up circuitry has been tuned for slightly faster recycling times. The finned-box cable recycles a 580EX set to full power in about 2.1 seconds. This time drops to about 1.7 seconds with the new DCBZ-580 cable in our testing.

Now-discontinued finned-box DCBZ cable for 550EX (left); DCBZ-580 for 580EX (right)

Cables, cables, cables

Going forward, Digital Camera Battery is offering three different HV cables for Canon Speedlites, all pumping out 320 volts and all featuring a robust HV port connector that's red in colour:

  • DCBZ-580. For the 580EX only, as described above. The U.S. list price for this cable is US$129.

  • DCBZ. For Canon's 430EZ, 480G, 540EZ, 550EX and 580EX Speedlites. This is now the standard Canon HV cable, effectively replacing the finned-box model (which shipped only for a relatively short time, but may still be in stock at some retailers). The step-up circuitry is contained in a small box in the cable, separate from the flash connector (making it roughly the same in appearance as the original DBCZ cable, the one that preceded the finned-box version). The circuitry inside the small box in the new DCBZ cable is the same as the finned-box version, so flash recycling times are expected to be the same (and in a very quick test of the two cable designs here that appears to be true). That also means that the DCBZ-580 recycles the 580EX a bit quicker than either variant of the DCBZ. The U.S. list price for this cable is US$99.

  • DCBZ-P. For the same Speedlites as the DCBZ, the only difference in the P (which stands for Professional) version of this cable is that flash recycling times are substantially faster than the standard DCBZ (and somewhat faster than the DCBZ-580 too). We don't have the Canon Speedlite version of this cable to benchmark; the P cable for Nikon Speedlights, however, trims the full power recycle time by about 40% relative to the standard Nikon cable in our testing. The inline box is about double the length of the standard cable's inline box. The U.S. list price for this cable is US$198.

Note: all three Canon HV cables are marked as being 330 volts on the connector that inserts into the Digital Camera Battery. But, says Digital Camera Battery's Tim Dodge, the actual output is 320 volts. Though early HV cables from Digital Camera Battery did output 330 volts, Dodge determined that this could be too much voltage flowing into the capacitors of older flash units, or flash units that had been sitting idle for several months. Lowering the output to 320 volts, then, was made to preserve aging or little-used flashes. The combination of 320 volts into the flash and AA NiMH batteries in the flash's battery compartment, says Dodge, means there is no slowdown in flash recycling time relative to much older 330 volt cables, though there is a slightly greater drain on the AA's. All three cables ship with four 2100mAH AA NiMH batteries made by Sanyo (a AA NiMH charger is not included and must be purchased separately).

If you have only 580EX's in your bag next to your Digital Camera Battery, the DCBZ-580 seems like the obvious choice, owing to its slightly-faster recycling time than the DCBZ cable and sleek design. In fact, the trio of this Speedlite, the DCBZ-580 and the Digital Camera Battery is a potent combination of flash performance for the Canon digital SLR photographer.

DCBZ-580 (left); DCBZ (right)

If you have a mix of Canon Speedlites including the 580EX, the decision as to which cable or cables to purchase for the Digital Camera Battery isn't quite as simple, since you'll have to weigh flash compatibility, recycling time and cost a little more carefully.

The DCBZ-580 is now in production but isn't yet on store shelves, though it can be ordered directly from Digital Camera Battery's online sales web site (Tim Dodge Sales) for US$129 now for near-term delivery. Digital Camera Battery's Tim Dodge says that retailers should have the new cable in stock after Christmas, though he indicated that his company can expedite shipping to a retailer if needed to suit a particular customer requirement. A list of Digital Camera Battery retailers is here.  Note that the Digital Camera Battery web site (which is separate from the sales web site) has not been updated with information on the DCBZ-580 as of this writing.

Lithium Polymer in 2005

The company is also planning to release Lithium Polymer versions of the Digital Camera Battery in the first quarter of 2005. The new batteries will be available in 80 watt and 160 watt capacities.

Their main advantage over the current NiMH models will be twice as much capacity in a given size of battery: the 80 watt Lithium Polymer model will be nearly identical in size to the current 40 watt NiMH model, while the 160 watt Lithium Polymer model will be nearly identical in size to the current 80 watt NiMH model.

The Lithium Polymer versions will accept the same cables and power the same range of devices as the current NiMH models; flash recycling times are expected to be the same too. The Lithium Polymer Digital Camera Battery models will incorporate one other welcome improvement beyond a big leap in capacity: each model will have a six-stage battery life indicator, providing more meaningful information about charge status than the current three-stage indicator on NiMH models.

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