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Godox AD200: An Amazing Flash—
If You Tweak it a Little

The Godox AD200 has been much written about (and fawned over) for good reason: it's a legit 200ws flash in a near-speedlight form factor that has a lot going for it.

At $299, as packaged, it's a near-miss. But at $366 (including two specific accessories) it's a home run.

Earlier this week, I spent an afternoon shooting headshots of BFA student actors at UMBC, a nearby university with a great theatre program. Doing the heavy lifting on my key light was a Godox AD200, which is a 200 watt-second flash that is about the size of a locked-open full-sized speedlight, only heavier.

This is an amazing form factor for a 200 watt-second flash. A speedlight is generally about 60ws of power, meaning that Godox has crammed more than three speedlights' worth of power into this thing. It must be virtually all big capacitors on the inside.

It includes a capable rechargeable battery, too. It'll knock off 500 full-power pops in a single charge. Which means a couple thousand pops at the equivalent power rating of a speedlight on full power. For people shots, lighting in close, I am working way down the power scale. So for me it is essentially a bottomless pit of available flashpower.

Godox offers a lot of tech bells and whistles, too. It is compatible with their system remotes and other flashes. So it integrates seamlessly with other Godox gear across multiple brands of cameras. It has TTL and HSS capability. (Which does not interest me, but lots of people like and use it.)

Like the Paul Buff Einstein, it also can be set to display the flash's t.1 times at various power settings. This can be very helpful. Kudos to Godox for including this spec instead of the flattering-but-useless t.5 times. (To understand why, see more here.)

As we can see above, the full power pop does not quite fit into 1/250th of a second. So there is no use in trying to squeeze full power pops into the sun at your camera's max sync speed, if it goes to 1/250th. Drop the flash down 1/3 of a stop from full power for a clean 1/400th t.1 time in that case. And the t.1 times very quickly get much shorter from there.

NOTE: For those who love high speed sync (HSS), please understand that as you walk up the shutter speed scale an increasing amount of your flashes' pop falls on the closed portion of the shutter curtain. So that t.1 time deficiency is not effectively reclaimed via HSS.

Either way, a t.1 time of 1/220 is respectable at full power in such a small package.

Two Flashes In One

As seen in the cased shot up top, the AD200 ships with a bare bulb adapter. This is fantastic, and to be commended. In addition to making possible some cool lighting techniques, it also makes the flash much better for use in soft boxes.

Let me show you why.

On the left is a picture with the "normal" (fresnel) head of the AD200 shoved into a soft box. Not very even, is it?

In fact, that's a pretty nasty hot spot in the center. As you can see, your soft box is now effectively a much smaller light source with a rapid fall-off to the full-sized box. The box in this case is internally double baffled; even that won't fix the fresnel as an internal light source.

Fortunately, with the bare bulb, you get much more even coverage as seen in the photo on the right. This translates into a much nicer look on your subject from the soft box, with smoother highlight-to-shadow transfers and better specular highlights.

For the record, I exposed this duo to set the aggregate exposure of the box at a light gray so you could more easily see the gradients and problems caused by a fresnel head in a soft box. (And the resulting solution by using the bare bulb head.)

Speaking of the fresnel head, let's take a look at that beam pattern, shall we? I'll just pop it on a white exterior wall so we can see how even it is...

Oh. My. God.

Honestly, that's pretty bad. It looks more like a Michael Bay lens flare than a proper beam pattern. Based on this test shot against a white wall, with the exposure dropped so you can better judge the beam pattern and gradient, I would say the appropriate time to use the fresnel head would be ... approximately never.

Fortunately, there is a fix for that, and it'll only cost you $8. Godox sells a pebbled reflector (MPEX | Amazon) for the bare bulb head that is flat out lovely. Here it is:

For the record, those splotches are out-of-focus pock marks on the wall. Not even my sensor dust looks that bad. But here is the beam pattern:

That is about ten kajillion times better. Beautiful coverage, even falloff, nothing not to like. For $8, you turn your AD200 into a real flash. (And is it me or is the color way cleaner than the standard head? Both were shot on the same daylight white balance.)

And Godox, are you listening? You create some sophisticated fresnels for your speedlight flashes. Put a good one on this flash, too. It doesn't even have to zoom, so it should be easy to optically design this to be a beautiful pattern.

Make it about a 35mm throw on a full-frame camera. That'll nicely fill an umbrella without much overspray. And speaking of that, there is no need to make the beam rectangular, either. Much less the stretched-out hyperspace effect from a sci-fi movie that you now have.

We are not going to use this flash atop our cameras. So you can make the beam a much more useful 1:1 ratio.

Please, please do this in the next version. Because the current standard head is rendered near useless with the current fresnel.

Pretty Plus Wide

If you want a wider throw from the bare-bulb reflector head, Godox includes that solution in the $8 fix as well. There are two diffusion plates that snap into the front of the head that will widen the spread. Each one will also cost you about a half stop of light. The first photo is straight reflector, the second with both plates:

In that way you can think of this as a poor man's zoom reflector. Putting both plates in will cost you about a stop (at least that is the adjustment I used between the two images above to even them out.)

The takeway: to buy this flash and not spend the $8 for the bare bulb reflector and diffusion plates is penny wise and pound foolish.

Back to Soft Boxes

UPDATE: This section has been edited to reflect the fact that bulb-head fitted AD200s will (barely) fit into a modded S-bracket.

You can mod a Bowens mount S-bracket (the de facto speedlight soft box mount) to fit an AD200. It's very easy:

If you have the current version of the S-bracket, and have modded it as above, you can even (very carefully) slide an AD200 with a bare-tube head in from the back. It'll fit on some, but not all, boxes.

So a better solution is the second thing I would suggest purchasing to elevate this from a pretty good flash into a very good flash: it's called the AD-B2 soft box adapter, and it looks like this:

It'll run you $59 (MPEX | Amazon) but it is very much worth it if you plan to regularly use this thing in a box. As you can see, it also gives you the ability to mount two AD200s into a single soft box.

It also includes a surprinsingly bright LED that is powered by the flash's battery and makes for a legitimate modeling light indoors in a soft box.

For those reasons, I think the AD-B2 is money well-spent.

Let's Talk Color

The spec on this flash as far as color consistency is +-200K. That's pretty hefty. That's a 400K range, which is something you can easily see if you examine it by shooting two photos on the Kelvin white balance at 400K apart.

So you'll want to test at different power settings to see if you can handle the drift, or if you'll want to correct it. If you tend to use the flash in the middle of the range (i.e., not bouncing between 1/1 and 1/128th) it probably will be fine. And I doubt many people are going to be using this for color-critical catalog work.

But if it matters, you'll want to test and gel. Actually, most of you will be gelling this flash anyway unless I wasted my time writing Lighting 103. Right?

Fortunately, gelling is easy with the bare bulb. Just cut and tape some little gel condoms and slide them right onto the glass housing for the bulb.

Caveat: if you are pushing lots of power through, or using a deep colored gel that absorbs light (and heat) then you are advised to affix the gel further away from the tube. But for normal stuff, the condom approach is fine.

UPDATE: A "Pro" version of the Godox AD200 has been announced that includes a "Stable color mode" that will tighten the the color variance to ±100°K. There is no word yet on how the color mode will effect t.1 times, but you can probably expect some tradeoff in that area.

The Bottom Line

The Godox AD200 is a super useful flash that has a lot of built-in tech and goes from 200ws down to less than 2ws(!) in a form factor the size of a submarine sandwich. At $299 (MPEX | Amazon) it is a near miss. But at $366 (flash plus reflector plus soft box adapter) it is very versatile, with much better light quality—a no-brainer.

I think I am going to be using this thing a lot.


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