As always with my reviews, the Godox AD200 review is shot from a practical real world point of view. Armed with a free Sunday in Autumn, a Godox AD200 and my own beautiful family to photograph, I headed over to Winkworth Arboretum to put the AD200 through its paces. Here I aim to discuss some of the features of the Godox AD200, along with what it is like to use in practice.
Note, Updated this review in December with some wedding images after having used it in anger at a real wedding.
Godox AD200 Introduction
The Godox Wistro AD200 is a small, portable flash that fills a gap between hotshoe flashguns and more powerful studio flash systems. It has the equivalent power of three flagship hotshoe flashguns, but in one convenient package. In practice it’s not that much larger or heavier than a regular hotshoe flash.
As flash unit it supports all the features you would expect of a hotshoe flash. This includes TTL metering and high-speed sync (HSS). It also supports some you would not, such as interchangeable heads and radio triggering.
This combination of power and function in such a lightweight package makes it an attractive proposition in a number of areas.
Power and Battery Life
The Godox AD200 is a 180 Watt seconds (ws) unit. This is equivalent to the power of three regular flagship hot shoe flashguns, or an Alien Bee’s B400 studio flash.
This is easily enough power to overpower daylight under shade, cloud or during the golden hour. I’ve not yet used it in full sun, but other reports seem to suggest it has enough power for a typical UK day. It’s also adequate power to use with brollies and softboxes.
One the great features is the built in Li-On battery, because it is lightweight and long lasting. A full charge will last 500 full power flashes. Considering that a Nikon SB-800 will drain 4 AA’s in 180 full Ws flashes, it is the equivalent of carrying 32 AA’s!
Unlike AA batteries, it delivers a constant voltage and so the recycle time does not slow down as the battery is discharged. Spare batteries are available and so the AD200 is not created with a built in shelf life. This was something I was initially concerned about as all batteries are consumable. My old SB-800’s have been going 12 years and I didn’t want to have to replace the AD200 just because the battery had died. The availability of spare batteries also allows you carry a spare for particularly demanding shoots.
I recently shot a winter wedding using the Godox AD200 and even after extensive use, the power bar shows it isn’t even half way depleted. It really does have a lot of staying power!
Incidentally, replacement fresnel heads and bulbs are also available and are user replaceable, making them easy and inexpensive to fix if they go wrong.
Godox AD200 Portability
The portability of the Godox AD200 is where it really shines. It is marginally bigger than a hotshoe flash but it is significantly smaller than three! It is also a featherweight in comparison to studio based flash systems with associated battery systems or generators. Weight is something that can’t be overstated because if its too heavy, you will find it unpractical to take with you. 10 years ago I invested in a set of Alien Bee B400’s and lead acid battery system. The weight of the battery and two flash came to 14lb and that’s before power cables, stands and normal camera gear. A single AD200 with battery is just 1.8lb. That is a weight saving of 12lb, or a large bowling ball. On trips out in the country or where you are travelling without a vehicle such as on public transport or a plane, it makes a huge difference.
You can ignore the claim that it is small enough to fit in your pocket. You can easily stash a couple in a professional roller case and still have room for other gear. Being able to go on location with just 1 bag is hugely appealing.
I would argue the Wistro AD200 makes it practical to shoot on location without assistants or a vehicle and not be limited to hotshoe flash. For me this opens up a whole range of possibilities that were simply not possible before, such as shooting family portraits in a local beauty spot using studio lighting.
Versatility of the Godox AD200
The AD200 is a hugely versatile little flash, partly because it is so, well little.
A unique feature is that it also has interchangeable heads. This allows you to change from a bare bulb to a fresnel head. Each has different properties with a bare bulb more common in studio flash and fresnel in hotshoe flashguns.
The bare bulb flash is fantastic for us with beauty dish or wide-angle diffusers. The Fresnel head is ideal when out and about and using brolly based modifiers. The bare bulb head is a little more exposed than the fresnel one due to its nature. When out and about and moving from location to location you therefore need to either put back into its protective case, carry it assembled on the light stand or attach the metal snoot as a protector. It’s not as practical as the fresnel head to just throw directly back into your camera bag.
Another benefit in its favour is being able to use studio style lights without mains power. This is huge for a number of reasons. The obvious one is you can shoot where there is no power. Forests, meadows, a whole world of opportunity opens up. The second is shooting where it’s not practical or safe to lay cables. At weddings, parties or other public events.
The Godox AD200 in Practical Use
The Wistro AD200 is easy to setup and use on location. But its not without its troubles.
My first observation is how consistent it is. Shot to shot the exposure and colour is consistent which give me confidence enough to use in TTL mode. I found with the Yongnuo system exposure would vary wildly.
Unpacking and setting it up for use with their own collapsible beauty dish is simplicity in itself.
Where it falls short is the interface of the X1N-Pro trigger. This is quite possibly one of the least intuitive things I have ever used! In this respects the Youngnuo YN622-N is vastly superior, the interface is much cleaner and more obvious than the Godox trigger.
To some extent the issue with the X1N-Pro trigger’s intuitiveness can be resolved with familiarity. However, other unexplained issues keep occurring. The first seems to be that my trigger will sometimes stop firing when I change flash compensation on the camera. Oddly the test button will still work! I can correct the issue by changing from manual to aperture priority then back again.
Godox AD200 at weddings
The AD200 is a wedding photographers best friend. Able to bring light to a dark room or improve the quality of light outdoors. It’s a great tool to have in the bag. Other systems I have tried have been too cumbersome for wedding. The pace at weddings is uncompromising, you and your gear need to be able to keep up. The AD200 lets you do that and gives you the ability to lift your game.
Photography is all about light. As wedding photographers we don’t choose the models, location or timings. Being able to control the light is a freedom we can now enjoy.
Godox SD-7 Beauty Dish
For the images below I also used the Godox SD-7 foldable beauty dish, with the diffuser cover attached. I have several larger octaboxes and large softboxes but find these are often unpractical in even the lightest breeze. The Godox SD-7 being much smaller does not catch the wind so much. Naturally being smaller the light it puts out at any given distance is relatively harder than a larger Octabox. That is just down to the physical properties of light rather than the design of the Godox SD-7 itself.
Personally, I quite like the quality of the light. The smaller light source, while definitely not as soft as a larger unit produces contrast and shadows a larger softbox is unable to at the same distance. This can work well on the right subject. It produces an edgier portrait with a crisper feel more akin to fashion photography. Outside in daylight it also isn’t so important to have a soft light source as its possible to fill with natural daylight. I suspect a night without a reflective surface nearby its harder edge may be less flattering.
The Godox SD-7 feels solidly put together. It has a robust folding mechanism and inserts into the bare bulb head like a bayonet light fitting. It will easily fit into a large camera roller bag or rucksack because of its small size.
On the whole its a very practical piece of gear carry while out and about outside.
Conclusion on the Godox AD200
Godox have released a gem in the Wistro AD200. It’s powerful enough to use as a studio light, yet small and light enough to take anywhere and its excellent battery has the legs to last a full shoot.
The interchangeable heads offer versatility and allow user replaceable flash bulbs. That is a feature normally only seen on studio based flash.
The whole package is also at a price which makes it very affordable. It is less expensive than a top of the range hotshoe flash and due to its power, far more versatile.
As for me despite issues with the trigger I already know I’m going to expand on my system. It allows me to create the look and feel of a high-end fashion shoot without an entourage of lighting assistants to carry and setup the gear. It’s perfect for my way of working.