I’ve been having trouble with my Cactus speedlights lately. After two and a half years four of the five lights started acting up, failing to fire, failing to charge, or firing when I didn’t want them to. It cost me more than $400 AUD (including the shipping) to get them repaired, and one of them still doesn’t work right. So I was looking for alternatives.

Godox, not a name I’d ever associated with quality, recently released the AD-200 ‘Pocket Flash’ lights. They’re about the same size as a speedlight, but don’t have a movable head or a hotshoe. They’re solid, heavy, use a lithium battery, put out twice as much power as a speedlight, charge in less than half the time, and can do 500 full-power pops on a charge. Plus they have swappable heads – one speedlight style and one bare bulb style. They have two 1/4-inch tripod sockets, one each on the broad and narrow side (and the bulb head has its own). And a built-in radio receiver too.

They’re super great.

My radio trigger is still in customs, so I’ve been playing with the lights by themselves, but they seem totally brilliant. The build quality is surprisingly good, and I don’t mean that to say that it wasn’t shoddy, I mean it’s actually very good. Every switch feels right, the swappable heads have a very robust mounting mechanism. There’s no part of this that feels ‘cheap Chinese’.

Well, OK yeah, the manual is average at best. Plenty of not-quite-English, poorly explained functionality, and at least one function – masking – that’s not explained at all. But between the book and the Pocket Flash’s user interface, I worked everything out in about five minutes, so the book can go back in the box.

They come in a cool semi-hard carry case loaded with high density foam cut to shape. The light stand mount is probably the best one I’ve ever seen, with quality construction and even little lock/unlock markings on the twisty bits.

They’re not super cheap, at $300 USD each, but for this sort of power and flexibility they’re a fucking bargain. Compare to Nikon’s SB-5000 speedlight at $600… Not a chance.

More to come when I get the trigger. =)

As a quick test, vs a Cactus RF-60 and another Godox AD-200. On the left, the Godox with the speedlight head. It mounts very close to the centre of the umbrella so has even light distribution compared to the way-up-high Cactus in its standard hotshoe mount. This problem could obviously be solved with a different sort of mount. The difference in brightness, not so much. Both lights are set to 1/16, and the Cactus is noticeably darker.

And compared to the bare bulb of the second AD-200 on the right, the speedlight head of the AD-200 is a little bit darker as well. Wherever possible I’ll be using the bare bulb, but the speedlight head is less exposed and can easily use gels, so that has its uses as well for sure.

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