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Since the Digital Rebel does not allow for FEC onboard the camera body, I needed a flash that would cater to this need, and that's exactly what the 550EX did.
The power is excellent - it has great reach when using it for distance shots or fill flash. Up close sometimes it's a bit overpowered, but you can always override this or stop your camera down a bit. Remember, when stopping down, you must stop down in terms of aperture or flash power, NOT shutter speed. The amount of light that enters the camera during a specified period is faster than any shutter speed that the camera can produce.
All in all, it's a pretty good unit. I use NiMH and NiCd rechargable AA batteries in it, and it seems that strangely enough the NiMH batteries produce faster recycle times and greater longevity on one charge.
It isn't exactly a cheaper flash, but it is afterall regarded as one of Canon's highest-end models. At $325 it starts to noticibly make the wallet slimmer, but is worth almost everything paid for it.
There are alternatives to the Canon Speedlites made by different brands, Sigma and Metz being the only two that make models that actually start to rival the quality of the 550EX. For a comparision, see this entry:
»Digital Imaging User Reviews »Canon 550EX vs. Sigma EF-500 Super Flash Unit