Testing the Intelligence of the Canon Speedlite 470EX-AI


AI flash is finally here! Though in this case it refers to Auto Intelligent instead of the simultaneously exciting and scary thought of artificial intelligence that has caused the fall of humanity in more than one fictional universe. Anyway… today we are referring to Canon’s latest flash, the Speedlite 470EX-AI, which becomes the first on-camera option to have a fully automatic bounce function. Beyond being a fun party trick, the creating of this tech makes the ideal of flash photography more accessible to all—and it works impressively well.

The trick with this flash is that the head will automatically measure the distance to the ceiling and walls and then determine, along with TTL data, where to position the head for optimal quality. Basically, it allows anyone to pick up a flash and use it effectively. Many detractors will point out that it takes the creativity and control out of the hands of photographers and, while this may be true, to an extent, I believe that making photography more accessible to beginners is beneficial to all. It can also function as an educational tool because it effectively shows photographers how to work with bounce flash.

One thing that does concern me about this tech is the added complications it might add. Sure, if it works well it should result in less time fiddling with the settings on the flash, saving time, and in my time with it, the performance was quite good. Ideally, you will be using this in rooms with walls and ceilings that are placed close enough that the flash can measure distance quickly and then use those measurements effectively. If you aren’t, like if you are outside, the flash will default to the straight forward position, which makes sense if there are no surfaces from which to bounce light.

Outdoors, the flash could bounce light from the wall, but when we moved into the open, it reset to straight ahead, as expected.

Two Auto Intelligent modes are available, one full-auto mode that will do all the work for you by measuring the distances and then choosing the appropriate setting, and a semi-auto mode that allows users to set the angle manually and then have it reposition to that saved setting. The full-auto mode is fun to watch and useful if you are just starting out or want to gauge the room. I preferred the semi-auto mode, since I am comfortable with using speedlites and could choose my own angle and then freely move between portrait and landscape orientation.

Even without the AI Bounce function, this is a respectable and decently compact flash unit. It features a guide number of 154' (47 m) at ISO 100 and the 105mm position, a zoom head that covers the standard 24-105mm range along with a wide-angle panel that works with 14mm optics, and can function as an optical TTL slave. A unique aspect is that is features click-less tilt and rotation, from 0-120° and 360°, respectively. This lets you place it precisely where you need and allows the motor to do its thing with relative ease.

Indoors in mixed lighting, the flash performed well and created a nice, even light.

Light quality is what you would expect from a Canon Speedlite, in that it is reliable and works very well when set to E-TTL in conjunction with a current Canon camera. The flash also comes with a bounce dome diffuser, which should help get slightly softer lighting in your shots. It really is a handy flash unit for general photography and can serve well for event work. If you can spend the extra cash and want something that will help you get started with flash photography, the Speedlite 470EX-AI is an outstanding choice.

What are your thoughts on Canon’s AI tech? Are you looking to get into flash? Let us know in the Comments section, below!

Items discussed in article


I'm looking to purchase a flash to be used as a fill in flash outdoors for hummingbird photos at this moment. I would eventually like to use this for indoor portraits as well. I own an Canon R6 and Eos R and have never used a flash. What would you recommend? I've looked at both canon speedlites 430 and 470.

You may want to consider using the Canon 430EX III RT since it has a built in Canon RT receiver which can be triggered by a Canon ST-E3-RT Transmitter placed on your EOS R series cameras. Below are some links to those items for reference.


I just purchased this flash early June (not from BH.)  I have only used it once on camera for an event.  I went to pull it out today to play with off camera flash - and found out that I can't.  Is it true that you really need another specific flash on your camera to trigger this one??  Had the salesperson told me that I wouldn't be able to use Pocket Wizards with it, I would never have bought it.  Frustrated.  

I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Unfortunately, to fire a 470EX-AI off camera, it will require either another of the same flash on the camera in optical triggering mode while in line of sight or a radio trigger which doesn't require line of sight.  You can definitely use the flash with Pocket Wizard units, but you will need to have one on the camera and one off camera with the flash attached to it. Those units would be the PocketWizard FlexTT6 Transceiver for Canon, B&H # WIFLEXTT6C.  At least with the Flex TT6, there is also a shoe on top which is going to allow you to mount another flash on the camera if you need to.


I just wish Canon would make a flash that works as well as a Vivitar 283. I gave up on Nikon in 1992 but I have to say their flash system was super. Canon....not so hot. 

I can't get full auto to work with my Rebel T6, is it my camera or do I have a faulty unit? The screen shows an diagram of a camera with a crossed circle at the bottom. Otherwise it works fine.

Hi Roy,

Unfortunately, the Rebel T6 is not compatible with the full-auto function of the Speedlite 470EX-AI. It only supports semi-auto and other normal flash functionality. At the moment there is no word from Canon as to whether additional support will be made available in the future.

If you are referring to the Auto Intelligence Bounce (AI Bounce) feature, AI.B Full-Auto is not compatible for use with the Canon EOS Digital Rebel T6 DSLR camera.  AI.B Semi-Auto would be compatible for use with the Canon EOS Digital Rebel T6 DSLR camera, according to the Compatibility Chart on Canon USA's website.  You may view more about the AI.B Semi-Auto Shooting features by viewing the instruction manual for the Canon 470EX-AI Speedlite Flash on pages 56-60.


Thank you. I confirmed that when i downloaded the full manual for the flash unit. i may come to B&H for an upgrade one day! Maybe a 77D? will see. so far the flash works fine otherwise.