I got two presents in the mail today: a new flash and my first paycheck as a photographer. It's as if the karmic forces of photography were perfectly aligned today. If only all my orders from Amazon arrived with checks.
I've never had an external flash before. The flash recycling sound that most external flashes make gives me a headache and most of my photography has been shot at 200mm in daylight -- not the best use case. I had to consider a new addition to my gear once I decided to start shooting mountain biking. Dirt doesn't reflect as much light as pavement and you're also able to shoot a lot close to the riders. Both of these re-establish the flash as an important piece of gear.
Luckily, Canon recently announced the Canon 580 EX II, which is the virtually silent successor to the 580EX. It recycles faster, is smaller, and has better weather-sealing. It also adds a PC socket, which, according to Strobist, should make my life ever-so-slightly easier by not requiring any adapters for the Pocket Wizards that SportsShooter and Strobist are making me crave next.
I briefly had the 580EX (pre-II) by accident and already the 580EX II is feeling like a better piece of hardware. The build quality and hot shoe lock are much improved and I can't detect a hint of flash recycling noise.
I'm looking forward to giving it a test run, though there's definitely a lot more buttons to press now. As if I didn't have enough trouble getting dialed in, but I know I'm going to have fun with it.