The Ultimate Lighting Kit for Wedding Photographers
Well, that's obviously an opinion more than a factual statement. But I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better collection of gear to photograph weddings with. Read on to find out why I feel this way. This isn't a comprehensive, detailed review of Godox products, but rather is just a general overview of the line and why it works well for what we do.
Also of note, some Godox equipment is rebranded and sold under other names (the most popular being Adorama's Flashpoint brand), so these same observations apply.
Radio Triggering Done Right
I have to admit, I was a flash snob earlier in my career. I exclusively used only the camera manufacturer's speedlights, first Canon, then later Nikon. I looked down those cheap third-party flashes with odd-sounding names. It was my frustration with the abysmal state of radio triggering at that time that initially led me to try Godox flashes.
When I shot with Canon, and in the early portion of my time with Nikon, their flashes only had optical triggering for remotes, where the on-camera main flash communicates with remotes using fast pulses of light during the pre-flash phase of capturing an image. This worked fine in some situations, such as in a small to medium sized room, but often failed to trigger reliably when shooting outside or in a large indoor space.
Various radio triggers existed, but where a bit clumsy to use in conjunction with an on-camera flash. Photographers would find their own methods of what worked best, usually involving strapping the trigger to the on-camera flash, and connecting it to the camera's sync port with a cable (thus giving you on-camera TTL flash, along with radio-triggered manual remotes). The downside to this method was that with most systems there was no way to change the power of the remotes from the camera. If partway into a reception you decided one of your remotes was firing a little too bright for your liking, you'd have to physically go over to that flash, lower the stand, adjust the power, raise it back up, and see how that setting worked, repeating as necessary. Furthermore, if you were shooting with multiple cameras, say, one with a f2.8 zoom and the other with an f1.4 prime, although you might prefer for each of these to have their own power setting for the off-camera flash, this wasn't possible (unless you set up separate flashes for each camera), and instead you'd have to find a compromise setting that would work acceptably for both.
Stepping in to at least partially fill the void was a product called RadioPopper, which consisted of a transmitter that attached to the main flash, and receivers that attached to the remotes. It essentially functioned as a radio repeater for the optical signals sent by the main flash, enabling radio-controlled TTL and manual power adjustment of the remotes from the main unit. This worked well, but like radio triggers, were somewhat clumsy to use, and this was more "stuff" to fiddle with. Weddings are often fast-paced events, and if you have a situation in the middle of the wedding day when you have to spend a minute or two messing with getting these extra things set up and functional, it can seem like hours.
Meanwhile, within a few years, Canon began introducing radio triggering into its flashes (though I had moved to Nikon by that time), and shortly afterward, Nikon did as well, but their first radio-enabled flash maddeningly only worked with one or two of their most recent bodies, and I had no interest in buying new cameras at the time just for enabling the use of radio triggering. It was in this context that I finally decided to look elsewhere, and came across Godox.
Godox flashes function pretty much exactly like the optical triggering that was prevalent at the time, but through radio, and their system works very well. Each flash has the transceiver built-in, which means most of their flashes can act either as a main or a remote. I appreciate this kind of flexibility... I can grab any speedlight out of my bag and use it as a remote, or use it on-camera.
Full Control of Remotes from the Main Flash
It's delightful to be able to have full control over remotes from the camera, with full radio range that is not subject to the limits of the optical triggering system. You can adjust manual power of remotes, use them in TTL, or both (with some in TTL and others set manually), and obviously you can disable/enable remotes as needed.
As an example, I don't always use remotes during wedding receptions, but when I do my favored setup is to have the on-camera flash set to TTL, with one or two remotes on manual. Not only that, but if you are shooting with two bodies, each of them can have their own separate power settings for the remotes. And although manual power setting of remotes is the favored method when shooting portraits in a static situation due to greater exposure consistency, you might find yourself in more of a "run and gun" portrait scenario where you don't want to take the time to meter and adjust the power each time and are willing to accept some exposure variation, you can use the remotes on TTL.
This is not uncommon now with the flashes sold by Canon, Nikon, and Sony, but at the time I switched over to Godox it was revolutionary to have this level of control with a radio trigger, not to mention the convenience of having it built in to the flash!
During my transition from Nikon to Sony, when I shot with both systems simultaneously for a while, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Godox flashes for my Sony gear were able to utilize my existing Nikon-specific Godox AD-360 strobes as remotes. Furthermore, I discovered I could shoot with a Nikon on my left shoulder and a Sony on my right, and the remotes would seamlessly switch back and forth depending on which one was being fired at that particular moment!
In other words, although the main on-camera flash is still platform-specific, remotes are generally platform-agnostic, at least in my experience with Nikon and Sony. This can also be useful if you have a second photographer working with you... you can both utilize the same remotes, rather than further cluttering up the space with more light stands.
Broad Availability of Lighting Products
I think my favorite aspect of shooting with the Godox ecosystem is the huge variety of lighting gear that is available. Speedlights and strobes in a huge range of size and power are available.
For example, in my kit I have some very compact V350 speedlights that can be used on-camera, but are also perfect as remotes for wedding receptions (the way I shoot, in most cases I don't need a lot of power for remotes, and actually often end up gelling them with a 1-stop ND gel to bring the power range down even more). I can put these on light stands during a wedding reception or to add a little extra pop by backlighting a send-off, or if there's a balcony or some other elevated area, I can stash one or two of them up there, such as in this first dance photo. Being so small, I can easily find room for four of them in my roller bag, and can even drop one or two of them in my pockets or in a belt pouch during the wedding day if I need to.
I also have a several of the more powerful V1 round-head speedlights. These can also be used as the on-camera main flash or a remote, and this flexibility is a godsend sometimes.
But that's just the beginning! The Godox line includes numerous battery-powered strobes that are much more powerful than a typical speedlight. For example, the AD360II is almost identical in form to the Quantum T2 many wedding photographers would have in their lighting kit years ago, but with the inclusion of TTL and radio triggering. This is is great for large group shots, or for outdoor use, where the strobe will be firing at higher power most of the time, as it will not suffer from the same constricting temperature limitations as a typical speedlight will in this kind of scenario. I don't use it as much as I used to, but it's my go-to choice for outdoor portraits such as this sunset portrait of a bride and groom, as it's a good balance between mobility and power. It's also my choice when doing high-volume headshot jobs, since I can shoot all day with it on one charge.
The AD360II is an older Godox product, which uses an external battery pack (though it's MUCH lighter than the old lead acid battery the Quantum strobes used). This unit can actually be used as a powerful on-camera flash, though only Canon and Nikon versions were made. Mine are the Nikon-specific versions, but again, since most Godox lighting equipment can be used as TTL and power-controllable remotes for any camera platform for which they offer a compatible master flash or transmitter, it's not a problem to use these as remotes with my Sony gear. Unlike typical speedlights, which can't be pushed too much without overheating (or melting!), the AD360ii is a workhorse and can be fired repeatedly even at full power with no ill effects.
Although the AD360II is still available and is a great light, most photographers buying a strobe in this power range are instead opting for the newer AD200 or AD300, which are more like a mini-monolight, with a self-contained battery. I do like that the AD360II's separate battery pack means that this weight can be placed lower on the light stand compared to units with a built-in battery.
There's also the impressive AD600, a powerful 600ws strobe that can deliver up to 500 full-powered pops on one battery charge. It's available in a manual-only model, or for a little more, you can get the version that also supports TTL. This is quite a hefty unit, and if you don't feel comfortable placing this monster onto a light stand and elevating it up high (creating a potentially dangerous top-heavy unit that could more easily topple over, especially if not thoroughly weighted down with sandbags), a remote head is available. With this accessory, only the relatively lightweight strobe portion mounts to the top of the light stand, connected via a cable to the bigger and heavier portion of the light (containing the electronics and the battery pack) which remains down low. This not only keeps this unwieldy weight off the top of the light stand, being near the base it also helps stabilize the light stand. And, of course, usage of this remote head is pretty much mandatory if you want to use an extended boom stand.
The AD600 is my preferred tool for outdoor bridal portraits, where the slower and more deliberate pace of these shoots makes it worth the tradeoff in mobility to have the extra power at my disposal, especially when using a larger modifier.
Plus there are other strobes in various powers and sizes in between these that have been mentioned. And all of them can be controlled either with an on-camera Godox flash, or with a Godox trigger like the XPro (if your shooting in a scenario that doesn't require an on-camera flash). Power can be controlled manually, or with TTL on most of the strobes. HSS is also supported.
Value & Longevity
While price was not my main consideration when switching over to Godox, there's no escaping the fact that camera-brand flashes are very expensive, and flashes are probably the least durable of the three main categories of gear we use (camera bodies, lenses, and lighting). Thus, it can be somewhat nerve-wracking to put one of those at the top of a 10ft. light stand, or put an on-camera flash through the typical rigors of a wedding day. Godox flashes are about 1/3 - 1/2 the cost of the major brand's comparable speedlights.
Don't get me wrong, Canon and Nikon make some really nice flashes, and you can definitely tell a difference in build quality. And I have to be honest, when I first moved to Godox in late 2015, I fully expected these flashes to essentially be disposable, and that I would probably have to replace them once a year or so. Yet at the time of this writing, it's been 8 years and all of these flashes initially purchased (including one of them that took a fall from a light stand onto a hard tile floor) are still going strong, though admittedly I don't use them as much now since switching to Sony several years ago.
A photographer can spend $2400 - $3200 on just a basic outfit of four Canon, Nikon, or Sony speedlights, while four Godox V1 flashes would run about $1000. So for that same amount of money as the camera-brand flashes, they can equip themselves with a full arsenal of Godox gear including, for example, four V1s, two V350s, an AD200, an AD600, and an XPro transmitter, and be ready for virtually any lighting scenario they would ever encounter as a wedding or portrait photographer.
Lastly, as a Sony shooter, I'm acutely aware of the relatively weak plastic foot design that the Multi Interface Shoe design uses. If the foot of a Sony-branded flash breaks, it's going to be quite an expensive repair, while with Godox, this part is readily available for only $20 or so, and is easily replaceable by the user with just a few minutes.
But again, even regardless of the price difference, switching away from Godox would be a painful proposition simply because I'd have to give up the depth of interoperable lighting gear Godox offers.
Most Godox flashes now come with lithium ion rechargeable batteries, although there are still a few models available that use AA batteries. I was a long-time AA holdout, but (coinciding with my switch to Sony) I eventually decided to move to lithium ion batteries. I quickly found that the lithium ion versions of Godox flashes are superior in terms of recycle times and how many shots you get on a single charge (I virtually never have to swap batteries during an event), plus they are much easier to charge and manage than a few dozen AA batteries.
Probably the most significant downside to Godox flashes (or any third-party brand) is that these manufacturers do not have access to the original communication specs and protocols, and must do some creative reverse-engineering in order to create the firmware that runs these flashes. Some things don't get translated over properly, creating some inconsistencies that you'll need to be aware of.
As an example, with the Godox TT685N flashes that I originally purchased for my Nikon gear (and still use occasionally), simply switching the main on-camera flash to master mode to control remote flashes would result in the on-camera flash TTL underexposing by a stop or so. In this case, it wasn't a matter of the output of remotes interfering with the TTL calculations, as this problem would occur even if the remotes themselves were not even on. Just having the main flash set to master mode resulted in underexposure, when it should have been identical to non-master mode. But this is easily compensated for by dialing in a bit of FEC.
Another example is that with Sony, I've found the V350 and V860II sometimes produce inconsistent TTL exposures when shooting with the A9, particularly when bouncing flash and when using fast primes (more than the usual variations that are to be expected when shooting TTL), but the more recent round-head V1 works much better as an on-camera flash. This larger V1, as well as the V860II, don't balance as nicely on the relatively compact Sony bodies and prime lenses compared to the much smaller V350, but in addition to TTL working much better, the added power is nice, as is the better UI for controlling remotes. The V350 does, however, work fine with the more recent A1 body.
Additionally, the user interface design of Godox flashes is, in some cases, not as polished and clean as it is with the camera-branded units. This has improved over the years though.
One last thing to be aware of is that it's reportedly difficult to work with Godox on warranty repair issues. I've never personally needed warranty repairs, so I can't speak to this personally, but if warranty support is a high priority for you, consider buying Adorama's Flashpoint products instead (which, again, are rebranded Godox).
In conclusion, I don't think there's a more flexible and comprehensive brand of lighting equipment. The interoperability between Godox products is its strongest benefit, prices are reasonable, and they have a wide enough range of products that just about any lighting need can be accommodated.