Are the days of the normal hot shoe flash/speed-light numbered?

18 October 2018

By Elkan Butler – Connect on Facebook and Instagram.

Whenever we as photographers need more light/fill flash on our subject, what do most of us do? We add an additional light source as have been common practice since 1887. Over the years, there have been major advancements in the evolution of what was first a chemical process to highly specialised compact flash units we now know today. As photography evolved and this technology became even more affordable, pro and hobbyist photographers alike started pushing the boundaries of the conventional speedlight by adding wireless triggers, playing around with off-camera flash (OCF) and adding creative colour effects. But, this had its limitations with triggers firing inconsistently, not having adequate range, or only firing via line of sight.

So, the past couple of months I faced a difficult decision regarding the upgrade of my lighting system. Finding something that would easily integrate with my current setup and allow me to add various types of modifiers was important. I also needed a powerful portable solution to eliminate ambient light, yet light up my subject in-studio and on-location. And it needed a range of at least 100m.

Decisions, decisions

During my search, I noticed Godox and their extensive line up of products, from standard speedlights to LED panels for video. You know those people who tend to rely on tried-and-trusted brands? I’m one of them. So, I held onto my Nikon speedlights while looking at some of the major brands for my location lighting needs… It took me a couple of months to look at other photographer’s work and evaluate their Godox user experience and quality of lighting.

Taking the plunge

And so, on a good day, I took the plunge and went to my trusted contact at Outdoorphoto, asking thousands of questions, looking at the Godox flash units – their quality, look and feel, functionality and more. I needed to be sure. My thought process was this: I wanted to invest in gear without spending so much that it would hurt should it not work out. But, also if it did work out, I needed to be able to expand and build on that.

I ended up getting the Godox XProN Wireless Flash Trigger (the “command centre” is what I like to call it). It’s an impressive-looking unit. Next, I was faced on how I could improve the reach and functionality of my Nikon speedlights – Alroy from Outdoorphoto showed me the trigger units, and so I bought two Godox X1R TTL Receivers for Nikon (also available for Canon and Sony). Godox works on the 2.4 GHz band, which gives it its incredible dependability and range. (I’m eager to test this unit on Fujifilm’s new X-T3!)

Godox AD200 available at Outdoorphoto
Godox AD200 available at Outdoorphoto

Hooking up the units

I got to my studio, hooked up the units (quick and easy learning curve) and started shooting using (like all photographers) my family and pets as test subjects. Even staff members were subjected to free photoshoots. Well, that’s what we call it! I was seriously impressed with the results and the new-found use of my speedlight!

Noting that speedlights are amazing and effective tools, but not powerful enough for all situations, I decided to look at alternatives to add some more power to my setup. So, once again I was faced with the same questions… I had my heart set on big power – 600 W – and after a lot of research (even asking the opinion of a few American photographers), I invested in a pair of AD200‘s and an AD600.

To test the battery life even further, I took the AD200s along on another long shoot – charging the one (to be safe), but keeping the other one with the original charge of the previous day’s shoot. And low and behold… it lasted another two shoots… incredible! My only concern with that is that one day, I’ll forget to charge them…

Once again out on a shoot on Friday that just passed, I set up my AD200s outside with reflectors: one with a bare bulb and reflector, and another using the fresnel head and an umbrella. The wind took the unit with the bare bulb down, it landed on the LCD screen but, after inspection, I found only a few scratch marks, no cracks, PLUS the bulb did not break!

Impressive battery life

I can’t believe that it took me so long to purchase the Godox AD200. I truly feel that every photographer who either wants to add some light, or build a complex lighting setup needs to purchase the AD200, or a couple of them as I did complemented by Godox’s vast array of accessories and modifiers. Godox is certainly my new favourite brand name.

As for the normal hot shoe speedlight, well… I use mine as a creative addition at most shoots. I’ll never trade in my Nikon speedlights, but it will never again be my go-to light for outdoor and event photography (but, never say never, as you never know!)

I paired my AD200’s with Godox S-Type Brackets, which is such an incredibly affordable tool. It has a Bowens mount plus an umbrella holder which meant that adding modifiers was a breeze. The AD200 came with two heads, a standard Fresnel head plus a bare bulb head. WOW! And it all came neatly packed in a handy hard-shell carry case. It uses a Lithium-Ion battery and comes supplied with a charger as well. What impressed me more was that you could purchase the AD-B2, attach two AD200’s at the back, and insert two bare bulbs on the front to get 400 W of firing power.

I first used my AD200 for a portfolio shoot at the Palazzo Hotel at Montecasino and was seriously impressed with its performance. My shoot was six hours long and neither flash quit. They handled everything I threw at them flawlessly, firing every single time. The colour consistency was also fair and the wireless range is incredible. I could set them up anywhere I wanted.

Godox test light
Elkan Butler using the AD200 for wedding photography
Elkan Butler using the Godox AD200 for well-lit photography
Elkan Butler using the AD200 for wedding photography
Elkan Butler using the AD200 for wedding photography
Elkan Butler using the AD200 for wedding photography
Elkan Butler using the AD200 for wedding photography

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The Outdoorphoto Team

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