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csebasti wrote: So if you connect the flash to the camera using a PC cord, you have to use manual settings on the flash, correct? Since the PC cord is only firing the flash, not feeding any settings to the camera?
Ernie Aubert wrote: I'm not sure of this, but I think "PC cord" is a different connection protocol from the OC-E3. A flash connected by OC-E3 is controlled exactly the same as if it were mounted directly in the hot-shoe.
Both of you are correct.
A PC cord (Prontor-Compur) is a simple two-wire cord that only sends the sync signal. The Canon OC-E3 (and other similar cords) is a full ETTL-capable cable that carries all the bidirectional information to and from the camera and the flash for full control, just as if the flash were on the camera's hot shoe.
csebasti wrote: ...I'm trying to decide between the 430EX II and the 580EX II (or possibly third party). Mainly the only added benefit I personally would get out of the 580 would be higher power. I would not use the other features. ...Would the 430 be underpowered if bounced off higher ceilings? ...Also, would flash accessories are good to have?
The 430EX II should be fine as your first flash. It has enough power for what you want to do.
Although you say you wouldn't use the added features of the 580EX, that may change, and the Master capability could come in handy when (not if) you decide to try your hand at multi-light lighting. The 580EX would make a good additional purchase at that time, but it can wait.
In addition to the 430EX II, I would get a Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce cap for it. In typical rooms that will send some of the Speedlite's light directly to your subject, but redirect most of it to bounce off the walls and ceiling to add soft, diffuse light to your scene; perfect for "environmental portraits" at home.
I second (third?) the suggestions for the books Speedliter's Handbook and On-camera Flash. I wouldn't buy any more gear other than Speedlite and the Sto-Fen (and maybe the OC-E3 Off-camera ETTL cord) until you've read both. That will guide you to buying what will be useful, and steer you away from some of the over-hyped junk that's out there.