I’ve never been a huge user of flash, but sometimes you need it. (Try covering a wedding or significant birthday without flash.) My previous Nikon cameras have had a built-in flash, and while you would only use it as a last resort (the flash isn’t particularly strong, and because it’s part of the pentaprism housing, you’ll get a lot of red eye and the lens hood will tend to cast a shadow), it was useful for triggering Nikon flashes off-camera.
This all came to a halt when I bought my D850. Firstly, the 850 doesn’t have a built-in flash, so it can’t act as a master for my Nikon SB600 flash. Secondly, the SB600 was getting a bit long in the tooth and didn’t work as well as it did with earlier bodies.
Clearly, I would need a new flash.
The obvious choice was the Nikon SB5000, but at a price of more than AUD600, I was keen on a cheaper option - provided it would play nicely with the new D850. I Googled (as you do) and “discovered” Godox, a Chinese manufacturer of flashes which has been making a bit of a name for itself in good value-for-money flash gear. It also had a reputation for having a radio triggering system which works.
I took the plunge and bought a radio trigger which would work with a Nikon (the Xpro-N TTL Wireless Flash Trigger) and a V860iiN flash - which because it can be used on or off-camera is also dedicated to the Nikon. (Godox also makes versions of these for Canon, Sony, Fujifilm and Olympus). The cost? AUD319 for the flash, trigger, a small softbox and an “S-type Speedlite Bracket” which enables the flash to be mounted on a flash stand and has a Bowens’ type mount ring so accessories can be used with it.
I was impressed. The on-camera trigger has a large, clear screen, and lots of buttons to quickly adjust the associated flashes (which can be controlled in a number of groups, I might add). Similarly, the back of the V860 has a large screen, a heap of buttons, a simple, sliding, on-off button (Nikon et al, please note), a rechargeable lithium ion battery which can do an entire wedding with room to spare and glory be … a screen which is green when it’s in commander or stand-alone mode and amber when it’s in slave mode, so you can tell literally at a glance what it’s trying to do.
Everything worked, it was quite well made and was at a price you couldn’t beat. It got me thinking.
I’ve always been interested in portraiture, and although I haven’t done much, I’ve had some success - and I’d like to do more. Now retired, I could devote more time to portraiture and it would be a nice change from snaps of grandkids, trying to capture birds which either hide or fly at supersonic speed (a slight exaggeration, bit you know what I mean), or landscapes where you have a 15 minute window for suitable light. I just needed a portable light system.
Enter Godox - again.
The Godox system includes conventional mains power-based strobes, but also battery powered units in 200 watt-second, 400ws and 600ws sizes. I don’t need the 600ws unit and in any case, it’s not all that cheap, and neither is the 400ws version, but the 200ws flash (called the AD200) looked good. It’s a little bigger than a speedlight, provides roughly three times the power output of the V860ii, has a big, rechargeable battery and it is compatible with the Godox radio trigger system. It ships with two heads - one rather like a conventional speedlight head and a “bare bulb” unit which is suitable for use with softboxes and the like. What’s more, for a little extra you can buy a third type of head which is round and which takes accessories which attach magnetically!
I splashed out and bought the AD200, the extra round head and associated light modifiers, a light stand and a big folding softbox.
Will it produce as much light as my Elinchrom outfit with two 400ws heads? No, but the whole kit weighs a faction of the Elinchrom set, doesn’t need mains power, and can be controlled from the little widget sitting on top of my Nikon.
My next step is to arrange some portraiture sessions. I have two projects in mind, and I’ll report back when I’ve completed my first.
Wish me luck.