Review: Shooting with the Godox V860
About 2-3 years ago I came across a brand called Godox producing cheap photography accessories, china made with a weak supplier network in Europe. They did not seem too trustworthy nor were they very cheap but one thing had me hooked:
Their speed-lights are powered by Li-ion batteries, recycle in 1.5 seconds and the trigger system supports HSS. That sounded more like Profoto or Elinchrome specs to me and something that would have been a DREAM to have in 2007/2008 when I was still mainly shooting skater's with DIY-built-strobes and DIY-battery packs that broke down every 10minutes.
I bought a Godox V860C with the FT-16s (thats the trigger) and was amazed how well this under 200$ package works; decided to give it a proper test. It works. Always!
Speed and Power
External battery packs can enhance the recycle time and power of traditional AAA powered speed-lights such as the EX 580II (last Canon one I used) but it means carrying the battery pack somewhere around your belt or shoulder, extra weight, extra cost...its a compromise. I have not managed to empty the battery of the V860 in one day. It manages over 500 full power pops, recycles faster than anything else (putting barebulb-strobes aside) and stays small. Ended up selling all Canon speedlights.
Off-Camera: Clamps, triggers and power controls
Godox has a brilliant speedlight-clamp which allows you to easily throw the flash ontop of a light stand (in under 20seconds). It also takes Bowens light formers which is a BIG plus! At events its a game changer. Put a foldable-softbox or umbrella in-front and you got some kick-ass light quality, setup in under 1min in a small package that can go in your photo backpack / carry on luggage for flights. Smaller than a Ranger Quadra or Profoto B2 could ever be.
Although a bigger setup with diffusion panels, lights on the car dimming the background would have been my preffered option, the time wasn't there. For these quick-fixes where only on-camera-flash would have been used, the Godox is golden. It gives the chance to deliver higher quality results in the same timeframe as an on-cam setups.
Additionally the power controls are sweet. Want more light? Turn it up right ontop of your cam. Elinchrome started it with the Ranger Quadra where you could comfortably control the settings from the trigger on-top of your camera a few years ago and I am glad to see this system in speed-lights. In fact I started using my lights for events where flash photography is allowed differently. Put the flash anywhere in the room where it seems appropriate and adjust the power according to where your subject is located in the room within seconds. Comparing to other photographers at the same event, their light will look much flatter at all times wheres you can get a nice smooth look while being just as mobile as they are. Find final results of an event I covered under "commisioned->YHS". Flash was used in pretty much every photo, sometimes as main, sometimes only as weak fill light. Here are some outtakes from the event as BTS:
Nobody is perfect and neither are the Godox-speedlights. To take advantage of the HSS you have to buy an additional trigger that can not control the power which means you have to carry around 2 if you plan on using them with HSS. Getting hold of spare parts is a nightmare so if something breaks you will have to buy a new one. Not a lot of people know about them so if you work with other photographers occasionally and share your kit during large events they will be a little lost. Could be an advantage as well though. The battery seems to have a problem. Mine just broke out of nowhere when I lend it to a buddy of mine and since then does not charge anymore, replacement costs about 50$ but this is the first time I heard about it breaking so might just be me getting unlucky.
Speed-lights tend to have a very blue-ish colour which can make skin-tones ugly and the Godox is no exception. Mixing it with other lights (e.g. Elinchrome Quadra) shows just HOW blue it is. For shooting in a controlled environment I will always prefer a bare-bulb flash, I doubt on an edited file I could tell the difference but there's just something about the bare-bulb lights in an octabox that makes it beautiful. In addition speed-lights can't keep up with the power of a Ranger Quadra or Profoto B1, its another level and would be unfair to compare but has to be kept in mind when buying: for shooting inside they are perfect, outside not so much! Duh!
Godox just released a version II of the V860c which you can see here. It works with Sony-cameras (just got an a6300 for shooting videos... will stick with Canon for photo gear) however I am content with the Version 1. No need for off-camera TTL or more power, happy with what I got. I don't say this often: This is a good flash-system and I highly recommend it for anybody that needs a smaller and faster alternative than their bare-bulb strobes!