I’ve been shooting weddings for just over ten years and during that time I’ve incorporated a myriad of different strobe lights into my workflow.
But throughout every gear upgrade, there has been one constant variable: I’ve always used a combination of speedlights (for versatility) and studio lights (for power).
As wedding photographers, we’re often tasked with shooting portraits in the middle of the day. Speedlights generally aren’t powerful enough to combat the sun.
We also have to shoot in confined spaces that require the ability to move freely and work quickly. Studio lights make you feel like a bull in a china shop in these situations.
So we have to bring both, right? Well, maybe not anymore. Enter the Godox AD200.
Godox AD200 Review | Why All The Hype?
- Fast recycle time
- Excellent battery life
- Built-in radio receiver
- Easy to use
- Solid and durable
- Tends to overheat when shooting rapidly in HSS
- Off camera only (no hotshoe)
The Godox AD200 is slightly larger than a standard speedlight, but at 200 watt seconds, it’s approximately three times more powerful.
Is it going to completely overpower the sun like a 600 w/s light is capable of doing? Of course not. But it will give you a lot more leeway than a speedlight. To me, it’s the happy medium between the two.
Moreover, it has a built-in radio receiver and a lithium-ion battery pack, so it’s super convenient and easy-to-use for photographers who have to work on the fly.
Godox AD200 Review | Wireless Function
Godox’s 2.4GHz built-in radios have been a godsend for me. I struggled for years with misfires from other radio trigger brands (not naming any names here, but the primary culprit starts with a P and rhymes with SocketWizard).
I very rarely experience a misfire with the Godox AD200 system.
…and I really like to push these things to their limits distance-wise, so if they’re consistent for me, they should be consistent for just about anybody.
But the best part is that the receiver is built right into the light, so there’s no need for any peripheral pieces of equipment to set up. This saves a ton of time over the course of a long wedding season.
Godox AD200 Review | Battery Life
Much like a DSLR, the Godox AD200 takes a single rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack. On more than one occasion, I’ve had a double-header wedding weekend in which I forgot to charge the battery after my Friday wedding and yet it did not run out of juice at any point during my Saturday wedding. This was unheard of during my AA days.
Speaking of AA batteries, those suckers took all damn night to charge. Not so with the Godox AD200 batteries – just a couple hours in the charger and you’re good to go for another two weddings.
And as an added bonus, the AD200 has a battery life indicator on the back screen, so you know when the battery is getting low. Back when I used Nikon speedlights, I wouldn’t find out they were out of juice until they stopped firing in the middle of a shoot.
Godox AD200 Review | Recycle Speed
It’s super fast, especially when shooting at 1/16th power or less. I frequently shoot portraits with a lot of motion and random stuff flying through the air, so I like to set my camera to continuous-high mode.
Every time, without fail, my camera buffer fills up before the Godox AD200’s quit firing.
Here’s a quick video clip to illustrate what I’m talking about – the resulting image is shown above.
This fast recycle time also comes in handy while shooting the dance party. Back when I used speedlights for this portion of the wedding day, I had would have to set them to around 1/4th power, so I’d come away with a ton of black frames due to the lights not recycling quickly enough.
But now that I use the Godox AD200’s, I can lower the power and shoot in bursts all night long and (almost) never have to worry about recycle times.
Godox AD200 Review | High Speed Sync
When lighting portraits in midday sun, High Speed Sync (HSS) is key. If you want that nice f/2.8 look, the only way to cut down on an abundance of ambient light is to reduce your shutter speed. I frequently find myself shooting at 1/800th or faster in these situations.
While the Godox AD200 is perfectly capable of handling HSS, it tends to overheat if you’re shooting rapidly in HSS.
Plus, it seems like the time it takes to overheat is directly proportional to the speed of the camera’s shutter. It’s possible that this is just an illusion, but I’ve found that the AD200 will overheat sooner when shooting at, say, 1/1000th, than it will at 1/500th, for example.
This will be a big issue for some, or a minor issue for others. I tend to fall into the latter category. If I find I’m pushing it too hard, I simply back off on the shutter a bit and dial in a smaller aperture. I live in Colorado, so it’s nice to have those mountains in focus anyway.
Godox AD200 Review | TTL & Other Settings
In all my years photographing weddings, I’ve never once shot in TTL (Through-The-Lens metering). But for those interested, the Godox AD200 does have TTL capabilities with a three-stop exposure compensation range in 1/3rd stop increments. It also sports manual mode, of course, and multi mode (stroboscopic).
The AD200 has 32 radio channels and five separate groups, labeled A through E. I frequently shoot with two lights, one on group A and one on group B, so that I can tweak the power of each light independently of one another.
It’s hard to imagine ever needing all five groups, but it’s nice to know that they’re there just in case.
The Fresnel head contains an LED modeling light, but it’s super dim. It comes in handy for ring shots and the like, but doesn’t do much for portraits, especially when you have a modifier attached. I find that the flashlight on my cell phone does a better job in these situations.
Godox AD200 Review | Build Quality & Ergonomics
These lights are solid like a brick. I’ve dropped them/had them tip over on light stands multiple times and they always come away unscathed. That said, I certainly don’t recommend dropping strobe lights, but if you do, the Godox AD200 has your back.
The interface is super intuitive. It’s by far the simplest light to use that I’ve ever owned and one of the few pieces of equipment for which I’ve never once had to reference the instruction manual.
As I mentioned before, the battery and battery charger are an absolute joy to use. No more fumbling with AA’s in the middle of a chaotic reception venue.
That, combined with the built-in radio receiver, makes it a one-step setup in a compact package. Perfect for on-the-go photography.My only gripe is the swivel attachment (more on this in the next section).
Godox is known for stellar build quality at affordable prices – the Godox DP400 III is a more recent example of a solidly built strobe.
Godox AD200 Review | Accessories
I like to subtitle this section “What’s in the box? Come on, what’s in the BOX?!”
(For those who aren’t huge movie nerds like myself, check out the third act of David Fincher’s Seven.)
In any case, what’s in the box will vary depending on which seller you purchase it from. I bought mine from CheetahStand, which includes:
- Carrying case
- Lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Umbrella swivel
- Bare bulb head
- Fresnel head
- Modifiers (barn doors, grid & gels)
I can’t comment on the mods because, well, I’ve never used them. I bought into MagMod a couple years ago and at this point, I see no reason to try anything else.
Furthermore, I can’t comment on the bulb head because it doesn’t work with MagMod. Hm, there seems to be a theme here.
The good news is that the Fresnel head does, in fact, work with MagMod. It’s a bit of a tight fit, but once you get the MagGrip on there, you’ve opened up whole new world of light-shaping possibilities.
[Related: See Jesse’s review of the MagMod MagBeam.]
This would be a good time to mention that the included umbrella swivel (i.e. the thing that connects your light to your stand) kind of sucks.
The 3/8-inch thread comes loose at the slightest provocation so that the Godox AD200 will spin freely on the end of your stand. There ought to be some sort of rubber gasket to allow you to crank it down more securely, but unfortunately, this is not the case.
I strongly recommend purchasing a Godox S-type bracket, (shown in the image above), which needs to be modified slightly in order to fit the AD200, but is well worth it in the long run.
Godox AD200 Review | Drawbacks
Aside from the HSS overheating issue, the dim modeling light and the faulty swivel attachment, this light is basically perfect.
That said, there are a couple things you should know before purchasing.
This is probably a foregone conclusion at this point, but the Godox AD200 is an off-camera flash only. It doesn’t have a hot shoe, so it can’t be attached to your camera. This is a non-issue for me personally, but I’d be remiss to not mention it.
Since it doesn’t sport a shoe mount and it’s a bit heavier than a speedlight, the Godox AD200 isn’t highly compatible with handy tools such as Manfrotto clamps, Tether Tools, etc. It’s primarily a light stand strobe.
In situations where I need to put a light up in some small nook or cranny, I find myself switching to a speedlight. My current go-to is the Godox 860ii, which uses the same radio trigger as the AD200, so it’s a quick swap.
Finally, the Godox AD200 isn’t the ideal candidate for high-ISO images in which you need to capture scant ambient light (e.g. nighttime photos, star photos, etc.)
Since it’s more powerful than a speedlight, it tends to be too bright when shooting at high ISOs, even when powered down to 1/128th. You can always pop on a neutral density filter or two, but once again, switching to a speedlight is the best course of action.
Long story short, the Godox AD200 isn’t the perfect tool for every shooting situation. But that’s okay. No one piece of equipment is meant to be.
Godox AD200 Review | Conclusion
Not quite a speedlight, not quite a studio strobe. The Godox AD200 is a hybrid of the two, bringing together the best of both worlds without the hassle of extraneous bells and whistles.
It’s super easy to use and has an extremely intuitive interface, surprisingly long battery life, highly-consistent wireless triggering, incredibly fast recycle speeds and the necessary power to light your subjects in midday sun.
This is the quintessential wedding photographer’s light. If you haven’t done so already, I’d highly recommend ordering one today. I am in no way sponsored by Godox, so I have no reason to lie to you.