a complete photography kit for events and portraits
As a location photographer, I always lug equipment to people’s home, offices or a venue. Even a small family portrait warrants 2-3 equipment bags, if not more. When looking to upgrade my tools I needed them to be mobile and reliable, however, I also needed it to be quick to setup. One thing I wanted most of all, no cables. It can get rather interesting when kids run around and touch every cable you take out of the bag. They are known to break and it’s just one more thing you might forget behind. Forgetting a small cord means a lot of weight carried for nothing.
So my new motto was NO MORE CABLES. It means , battery and radio receiver both have to be contained in the unit and it had to be a small unit.
The amount of stuff I carry for a “small” job (taken with G3)
The Godox system
I was introduced to Godox over two years ago and purchased three of their flashes. I loved the fact that their batteries last forever (really, they do). Working especially with kids, I needed the flashes to perform in a quick manner. They needed to deliver power quickly as I press the shutter in short bursts to capture the right expression. They worked great. However, although being small and mobile is a great advantage it is also a disadvantage. Lack of power and lack of important features (like HSS and TTL) meant I had to resort many times to my more bulky and cumbersome equipment.
Godox speedlights. Great battery life and excellent radio system
The small flash that can
Two weeks ago I purchased the new Godox AD200, a mini studio light the size of a regular flash but with almost three times the power. The AD200 has many great features, it has a large capacity battery, a built in radio receiver, TTL & HSS capability and two different flash heads, the standard Fresnel and the Bare bulb. Now I have a light system that I can take with me for a small family portrait session as well as a wedding.
The AD200 comes in a neat case and includes the bare bulb
Godox S-bracket is another one of Godox great designs (The AD200 with bare bulb)
The AD200 interface is clean, easy to operate and the buttons are very precise
What I like about the Godox AD200
Built quality is superb. The unit is well built, the battery slides in smoothly and it is flush to the unit. The 1/4″ metal mounting screw holes are an excellent add-on if you are in a bind and need to just mount it on a stand. The buttons are precise and the interface is clean and easy to operate.
The interface is clean and intuitive. There are a couple of things one has to learn but after that things are simple. The buttons are precise and responsive.
Quality and quantity of light. The flash is around 2.5 times the strength of a Nikon SB-910, that’s equivalent to almost three Nikon units. Some say that the LED light strips on the Fresnel head causes the light pattern to be uneven but I did not find it to be any different from the Nikon units. If anything, the light is a bit warmer and gives a more pleasing look to photos.
Battery life is superb. I did a wedding and used the AD200 for family portraits. We shot almost 200 family portraits on 1/2 power and the battery indicator showed no sign of diminishing.
TTL and HSS. To be honest, I never thought I needed those features in a flash. I always used flashes as a source of light that I manipulated to my needs. However, as my work progresses I found myself needing it. These features are usually reserved to much more expensive units. Godox did well to include them in the AD200. Testing the HSS accuracy I was pleased to see great light quality with no banding. The TTL is accurate with the Fresnal and the bare bulb.
Capable capacitor. Some flashes give great power but need time to recharge after each discharge. When doing portrait sessions and especially with children, in an attempt to capture the right expressions, I sometimes take photos in short bursts. This can put a lot of stress on flashes and even large studio lights. That result in some photos being dark due to the flash not keeping up. Another weak point is the radio signal, when shooting bursts, the radio trigger or the receiver cannot communicate fast enough. I tried the AD200 on 1/4 power doing bursts of 9 photos at a time, the results were amazing, all were exposed exactly the same. The AD200 not only kept up with the power but was able to communicate the radio signals accurately.
Fits Norman accessories. When using the bare bulb flash one can mount any standard Norman reflectors or modifiers. So if you have those already, great, you can keep them.
Radio compatibility. Being part of the Godox system the AD200 communicates with any 2.4gh Godox radio or flash. It also works with the Adorama Flashpoint and the Cheetah systems. The Godox radio range is impressive, much better than Pocket Wizard. I was able to trigger the flashes inside my home while the flashes were in my neighbor’s home 60 meters (200 feet) away.
The AD200 with standard Norman reflector
Things need improving
Screen. The screen is clean and intuitive however, take the falsh outside and nothing is visible. Not even when shielding with my hands. Godox should take cues from book readers like the Kindle and use that screen technology for their flashes. This way, bright or dark, indoors or outdoors, we can see the screen clearly.
Minimum power. At 1/128 power the flashes reaches its lowest power, however, it is still 2.5 times stronger than regular speedlight. I would like to see the flash able to go even lower than 1/128 power. Sometimes all we want is a tiny bit of light while using high ISO to record ambient light, it is difficult with the AD200. At 1000 ISO f/1.8 the AD200 being behind a soft box and at 1/128 power was still too strong. A firmware might solve it.
Better LED light. The AD200 has two strips of LED light built into the Fresnel flash. They are meant to be modeling lights but are not at all efficient for that. Adorama came out with a LED head that can be mounted on the AD200 for video or photography. However, at 3.6 Watt, it is very weak. Godox should come out with their own LED head but with more power.
Packaging. The flash unit comes packed in a sturdy and padded case, it is great for storage however, not the most practical when carrying the flash. All Godox speedlights include soft padded case for carrying. They should 1) include a soft case to carry the flash in and 2) a protective tube for the bare bulb. Add another $10 to the flash’s cost if you have to.
In my opinion Godox is not only the best alternative to the much more expensive brand names, it is the best lighting system out there, period. In fact, I consider Godox a brand name. In many ways it is better than Nikon, Canon or Profoto and it comes at a fraction of the price. There is this belief that if you are a pro you have to buy the “industry standard” equipment, but what if the “industry standard” is either ridiculously overpriced and sometimes does not even deliver?
I have been using Godox for two years now and absolutely love their products. Is is perfect? Nothing is but they sure try to get there. The AD200n is a great example of a company blazing their own trail and coming up with a brilliant product (and affordable!!) that we did not even know we needed. From mobility and built quality all the way to excellent radio range and output quality, the AD200 is a winner product for pro photographers.
If you want to see how extensive their line is, visit Flashhavoc blog post, you will be impressed
How the AD200 performs
Other amazing and affordable products
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