Let’s start with the price. The Canon EL-5 will cost $400 when it launches next March. The Canon EL-1 sells for $900 with an ongoing $200 instant savings. That’s a massive price difference. There are, of course, tradeoffs. However, the EL-5 includes the same rechargeable lithium-ion battery, identical high-speed charging circuits and similar user interface with an LCD and joystick as the Canon EL-1.
A major difference between the two flashes is that the EL-1 has a built-in fan that enables longer operation. Without a built-in fan, the EL-5 can’t quite match the EL-1’s continuous flash spec of 335 flashes. However, the EL-5 promises approximately 95 consecutive full-power flashes. If you’re shooting at lower power, the EL-5 can emit up to 350 flashes on a single charge.
The Canon EL-5’s recycle time for the full-power flash is 1.2s. For reference, the EL-1’s recycle time is listed at 0.9s. When firing at full power, the EL-5’s guide number is 60m (197ft) at 200mm (ISO 100), the same as the more expensive EL-1. The EL-5 is like an EL-1 junior, although there’s no difference regarding maximum power – they’re both 76Ws flashes. Achieving the same power output for less than half the price is impressive.
By eschewing the internal active cooling, which does limit the EL-5’s speed performance, the EL-5 also sheds some weight. The EL-1 weighs 572g (20oz), whereas the new EL-5 is 491g (17.3oz). Those weights are without the LP-EL battery pack. Including the battery adds about 116g (4oz) to both flashes since they use the same battery.
The EL-5 includes an LED modeling lamp, as mentioned, and is dust and weather resistant with sealing throughout, including around buttons and the battery compartment. The LED also aids with autofocus acquisition in dim environments. The flash includes custom flash modes, and certain flash functions can be assigned to the control ring on RF lenses.
Like the EL-1, the new EL-5 uses Canon’s new Multi-function shoe connection. While this allows for extended functionality, it limits compatibility with Canon’s R-series mirrorless cameras. The flash is currently compatible with only the Canon EOS R3, R7, R10 and the new R6 Mark II. When the flash launches in March, compatible cameras will require a free firmware update.