Coming from the Canon EOS system I was spoilt with the amount of Canon & 3rd party brand accessories available to work seamlessly with your Canon DSLR. The Sony E-mount being a newer system, accessories are still in the pipeline and/or not available.At this time for Sony mirrorless camera users waiting has been quite normal for many accessories, lenses and firmware updates.
Professional portable portable flash options are one of the areas that the Sony system is lacking, potentially putting off some professional photographers from getting in to the system.
In the studio I use Elinchrom D-lite 4 IT strobe lighting, this works really well with Elinchrom Skyport Trigger on the Sony A7Rii, but isn’t so great for location work due to the 240V mains adaptor needed to power each unit. So without a petrol generator or long extension lead these are not the lights for outdoor location lighting.
Shooting fashion and portrait photography I quite often find myself shooting on location, in ‘not so ideal/flattering’ conditions. In the past with my Canon 5Dmk2 I used a combination of off-camera flash (Canon 580ExII), wirelessly triggered using Calumet Wireless Radio Triggers and/or reflectors.
This wasn’t a perfect solution, the Canon speedlight not having really enough power for prolonged use of the in built High Speed Sync (HSS) and the AA battery power quite quickly used its batteries. The reflector requires an assistant to hold and quite often causes glare in the models eyes causing squinting. Nevertheless it worked for the amount of use I needed it for.
When switching to Sony E-mount system I was looking for a more powerful flash unit that would also offer high speed sync and longer battery life. Sony offer speedlights similar power to the Canon 580ExII I was used to, but I wanted to steer away from portable speedlights into a more substantial strobe light and battery pack combo.
Companies such as Elinchrom (Ranger Quadra), Profoto (B1) and other market leading companies all offer great ‘on-location’ portable solutions to lighting. Many of these make brand specific ‘smart’ radio triggers that work directly with your camera brand, allowing triggering and power adjustment directly from the top of the camera. Unfortunately none I found offered a Sony version of the triggering systems. Most only just for Canon and Nikon.
Researching online I found a few ways around this using different combinations of 3rd party brand items, for example using; The Jimbei HD-600w strobe light unit, pairing this with Sony specific Pixel King radio triggers. This did seem like a viable option, but the Pixel King triggers were discontinued. I also would have been unable to control the light directly from on top of the camera.
Doing quite a bit of online shopping for my photography gear on Amazon.co.uk I always spot the brand Godox making good affordable lighting products, but I haven’t ever owned any myself. I saw a review for the Godox AD600BM on youtube and was immediately blown away but the specs and price.
- Power: 600W
- Guide No. (m ISO 100): 87
- Flash Duration: 1/220 to 1/10000 seconds
- Power Output: 9 steps：1/256-1/1
- Sync Modes: High-speed sync (up to 1/8000 seconds), first-curtain sync, and second-curtain sync
- Delay Flash: 0.01-30 seconds
- Built in cooling fan
- Bowens accessory mount
- ‘Ready’ Bleep
- LED Modelling light (10W)
- Power Supply: Lithium battery pack (11.1V/8700mAh)
- Channels: 2.4G, 32: 1-32
- Built in 2.4G Radio receiver for Godox X1T-S (Sony) trigger (Godox X1T-C trigger (Canon) or Godox X1T-N trigger (Nikon))
- Full Power Flashes: 500 approx.
- Recycle Time: Approx. 0.01-2.5s
- Battery Indicator
- Color Temperature: 5600±200k
- Net Weight: 2.66Kg
The Godox AD600BM is a 600W portable strobe unit with built in radio reciver for Sony, Canon or Nikon. This can all be remotely controlled from the top of the camera with the Godox X1T-S trigger (Sony). The strobe is also available with a TTL function. I purchased the non TTL version of the AD600, saving approx £150. Using it combined with my Sony A7Rii has been a brilliant seamless process, with no set up required.
- Everything in one unit.- This is possibly the best selling point for me, I really don’t want to be carrying around a whole separate bag just for lighting gear. The AD600 having the removable large lithium battery built in to the unit itself give it great portability. No need to additional battery packs dangling down from the flash head. Pair this with a Godox ‘pop-up’ umbrella soft box and you get a easy to use/set up portable 1 light setup which you can set up, move around and take down in minutes.
- Battery Life – I quite regularly use this for 400-500 shots on a days shoot and I still have life left in the one charge. Having a battery indicator on the battery is also a nice feature to have to show when you are running low on power.
- Bowens accessory mount – This allows any Bowens style lighting modifiers to be attached to the front of the Godox AD600 without the need for adaptors.
- HSS (High Speed Sync) works great. Fantastic for portraits with depth, and out of focus backgrounds in bright sunny days.
- Spare Parts/Accessories – Components such as spare batteries, bulbs, triggers are all reasonably priced and easily sourced. A spare battery costs £135, a remote head extension costs £51 and a AC Power adapter costs £75.
- Powerful – Having a guide number of 87, you can shoot at higher powers for longer than smaller, lower powered speedlights. Also with much faster recycling times.
- Built in LED modelling light is a very nice addition to the unit. It isn’t the most powerful of LEDs but does help focusing if used in darker conditions.
- Easy to set up with reliable, well built trigger system. I’ve never had an issue with mis-fires or connection problems so far.
- Good Price, although all the competitor strobes are all slightly different, all essentially the same, the Godox Ad600BM is £380 on Amazon (on 18th Jan 2017). Profoto and Elinchrom are £1000+ for a similar setup.
- The unit is very heavy (well balanced though). Not a major issue and to be expected considering the large lithium battery is on the back of the unit. As long as you are aware of the weight, use sandbags and a heavy duty lighting C-stand its not too much of an issue.
- Only Godox or Bowens accessory mounts available. Again not a major issue as Bowens mounted accessories are easily available, more of a personal annoyance as I use Elinchrom lighting, all my softboxes/accessories are Elinchrom mount. To get round this I found a Bowens to Elinchrom adapter which allows my Elinchrom mount accessories to be mounted to the Bowens mount.
- The remote trigger is quite large on top of the camera and also has to be purchased separately to the strobe. I would have been nice to have a smaller remote trigger that was included in the box. On top of my Sony A7Rii it takes over the top of the camera, slightly intruding over the mode dial. Again not a huge issue.
In conclusion, if you are a Sony A7 user and on the market for a powerful, portable lighting solution, the Godox AD600BM for the money is the best way to go currently. Its all you need in one package, with the Pro’s significantly outweighting the Con’s. It’s a no-brainer.
Even for non Sony users this would be a great solution to on location professional lighting.
(All product images were sourced from respective brand Amazon.co.uk product listing)