If you're just coming into this article and wondering where I am coming from; Please read through my original article where I talked about my reasons behind buying these lights at this link (Switching to the Flashpoint / Godox Lighting System).
If you're looking for a quick summary I'm a studio and wedding photographer. I use speedlights from time to time in studio when I just need to add a splash here or there quickly but my main use of speedlights is for weddings. I use them in a 3 light configuration and make heavy use of TTL for weddings. Usually 2 lights are in TTL and the third is in manual and which one is in manual is often switching around as the day goes on and my position changes throughout the room. When used in studio they are always in manual only mode.
The easiest thing to compare out of the gate is output power. Its the key marketing metric and its often the thing lights model numbers are based on. So its hard to downplay the importance of output power. Unfortunately every company measures it a bit differently and even guide numbers can become difficult to compare directly.
I set up my trusty Sekonic L-358 light meter at 10 feet away with fairly open space between the light and the meter. I used 10 feet to make guide numbers easy to calculate. I set the meter for ISO100 at 1/200 and fired the lights at full power zoomed to 35mm (Nikon uses 35mm and it seems like a good standard to follow rather than the 200mm that Godox follows).
The Nikon SB700 gives f/7.1 and the Flashpoint Li-Ion Zoom R2 (Godox V860II) gives f/8. So that translates to about 1/3 of a stop. I also tested with an older Nikon SB600 which also provided f/7.1 in this test. All of these light meter readings were perfectly consistent across ten firings of each light with all lights tested.
So, this gives the Nikon a guide number of 71 feet (21.6 meters) and the Godox a guide number of 80 feet (24.4 meters). Nikon claims to measure the same way I did (35mm ISO100) and state their guide number to be 92 feet (30% more than actual). Godox uses 200mm which isn't a common use case in my opinion and tries to claim a guide number of 127. For those of you who are curious the Flashpoint gives f/11 at 200mm ISO100 @ 10 feet for a guide number of 110 when zoomed to 200mm (thus their spec is 13% more than actual performance).
If we want to play the zoom game the longest zoom number that both the SB700 and the Godox unit have is 105mm. Setting both to this value at 10 feet ISO100 1/1 power I get f/9 on the SB700 and f/11 on the Godox. So that translates out to about 2/3 of a stop difference between the two.
I can hear everyone saying, "what the heck does all that mean?". What it means is that there is about a 1/2 stop difference between a Nikon SB700 and a Godox V860II / Flashpoint Li-Ion R2 Zoom speedlight. Sometimes it is a little more than 1/2 stop and sometimes a little less but with rounding error that's about what it is. All in all we're not talking about much difference in power this means 1 maybe 2 clicks of lower ISO or 1 maybe 2 clicks higher aperture if you're pushing these lights to similar power levels.
As an aside note I also tested the AD360 or Streaklight 360 alongside the Alien Bee B800. I didn't want to have any lighting modifiers getting into the way of the test so I tested them from 10 feet bare bulb. The Streaklight 360 provided f/7.1 while the Alien Bee B800 provided f/9. The Streaklight claims to be 360Ws where as the Alien Bee claims to be 320Ws. So I can see where some people are coming from when they state that the Godox AD360's aren't quite up to what they are rated. If you are wondering why these numbers seem quite low... Such as the AD360 is putting out less power than the Flashpoint R2 speedlight; Remember that this was tested bare bulb. So while the speedlight was zoomed to 35mm the Streaklight 360 is putting out that power in nearly all directions.
Installing the standard reflector on to the Streaklight 360 bumps it up to f/14. Putting my most readily available similar hard reflector onto the B800 (the 8.5" high output reflector) give me f/16 of output. I should be testing with the default 7" reflector but those are all at the studio in a pile as I never use them. The 8.5" reflectors are just as easy to carry and provide more power with plenty of coverage for everything I do.
For completeness sake I tested the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 with its standard 7" reflector which produced f/18 and the Paul C Buff Einstein (at 640Ws) with the 8.5" reflector produced f/25.
So if you're keeping score at home:
10 Foot full power ISO 100 measurements:
Nikon SB600 and SB700 baseline lowest power @ f/7.1
>>> Add ~1/3 to 1/2 Stop >>>> AKA 1 click on your camera
Godox V860II @ f/8
>>> Add ~1.5 stops >>>> AKA almost 5 clicks on your camera
Godox AD360 with std reflector @ f/14
>>> Add ~1/3 stop >>>> AKA 1 click on your camera
Paul C Buff Alien Bee B800 with 8.5" high output reflector @ f/16
>>> Add ~1/3 stop >>>> AKA 1 click on your camera
Flashpoint XPLOR 600Ws TTL with standard 7" reflector @ f/18
>>> Add ~1 full stop >>>> AKA 3 clicks on your camera
Paul C Buff Einstein 640Ws with 8.5" high output reflector @ f/25
Answers to questions you may be asking so you don't have to do the math:
V860II Speedlight to the AD360 with std. reflector = 1.66 stops gained (6 clicks on your camera)
AD360 with std. reflector to AD600 with std. reflector = 0.73 stops gained (just over 2 clicks on your camera)
Alien Bee B800 with 8.5" high output reflector to 11" long throw reflector = 1 stops gained (3 clicks on your camera)
When you read those values up there if you're not used to thinking in stops that is why I've included "camera clicks". These could be that many clicks more "higher number" aperture or that many clicks less ISO in order to get the same output with another light. This is making the assumption that your camera is configured to make adjustments in 1/3 stop increments which 99% of all people do. If this still doesn't make sense please come to one of my workshops and we'll work this out together!
There are a ton of ways to measure this. So what I thought I'd do would be to try and test in a fairly non-scientific but consistent real world manner.
What I did was set each light to 1/4 power manual @35mm zoom and I placed the light on top of the camera. I set the camera to 1/200 (sync speed is 1/250 on my D800) and f/7.1. I set the camera to continuous high speed shooting which is only about 4 fps on a D800 (remember it's slow because it has to shovel 36MP around for each shot). Then, I fired off 4 frames.
My theory is that at 1/4 power I should be able to get 4 images as fast as I want to. Asking for 4 frames in 1 second at 1/4 power really isn't that tough of a requirement in my opinion. This is something that could very easily be required of a light during a wedding. Say for example a bouquet toss or something of the like. Granted I usually try to avoid "spray and pray" as it's usually less effective but you get the idea.
The Godox claimed it was going to be a proper exposure for 10 feet away on its display. The Nikon claimed it was going to deliver a proper exposure 8.9 feet away. I'd say that the wall I was shooting was about 12 feet away. This isn't really relevant as we were looking for cycle times rather than proper exposure but I found it interesting. So what did we get?
Notice that both of these lights are at 1/4 of their full power. Here you can see that 1/3 to 1/2 stop of difference in power between the V860II and the SB700 does't really amount to much in the real world. Pretty near identical exposures.
I repeated this test several times and consistently got the same results. The Nikon SB700 is powered by 4 Eneloop AA's (not even fully charged) which I'd consider standard fare for anyone using speedlights for wedding work. I don't really consider it all that real world to use junk alkaline batteries as I never do and I don't imagine any serious wedding photographers are either. More serious wedding photographers would probably not even consider the SB700 as they'd want a light that allowed for external battery packs like the BP960 that the AD360 uses.
So then I decided it would be interesting to do the same test but to set the lights for TTL. Here I used the same camera settings manual 1/200 f/7.1 ISO200. I forgot to check and I had a +0.7 exposure compensation dialed in at the time I did the test. No real reason for the +0.7 other than that was there from the last time I was using the camera in aperture priority. It doesn't change the results so rather than re-test I'll just note it and move on. As we said before it isn't really material as what I'm interested in is how well the lights cycle when they are required to emit pre-flashes. I'm also curious how consistent the exposures are.
What I did was 4 shots on the Godox, then 4 shots on the Nikon. Then I went and repeated the test 4 more for Godox and 4 more for Nikon. I'll display all 8 images for each flash below:
So these results are pretty rough for the Godox. It missed a lot of exposures and the exposure consistency was not great. The Nikon also has some exposure inconsistencies but at these speeds a little is to be expected. I was really was starting to question if I had a setting incorrect. So what I did is another test of 4 images for each light and I gave a 1 second pause between images. Nothing was changed from the last setup:
Ok I guess the world is still round... Both lights become very consistent and reliable when they aren't being pushed hard. But when you lean on the Godox units they start to strain a little. This is something you'll need to be cognizant of when you use these for shooting a wedding.
Now let's test these things wirelessly and see if anything changes... I put them both on a light stand set them to TTL and fired off 4 shots here are the results:
Here the systems seem to be much more closely matched. The Nikon seemed to give a little bit less output on each shot and then finally failed to deliver. Whereas, the Godox seemed to remain consistent until it failed and then became consistent again. It is hard for me to say what I prefer. The SB700 is nice in that it held out for 3 shots before giving up whereas the Godox only got 2. But the images that the Nikon produced will need a bit more effort in post to match the exposures than that of the Godox lights. Thankfully, Lightroom has a very nice quick way to match overall exposures between a set of images. Perhaps this issue on the SB700 is one reason why I know exactly where that function is in Lightroom! So as meatloaf would say on these two tests... Three out of four ain't bad? Ok it's not 2 outta three but close enough. ;)
So out of the sake of completeness I figured I would also run the test in manual mode 1/4 power with the subsequent wireless systems in place. Here are the results:
Nikon / Pocket Wizard:
As you can see these are a good bit under exposed this leads me to believe the TTL images above were probably closer to 1/2 power. Thus making sense as to why asking for 4 quick images from the flashes wasn't very successful.
I'm not really going to spend much time at all testing HSS on these lights as I find it somewhat rare that I'm able to use HSS on speedlights. They often don't have enough power to over power the sun (which is why I'm usually using HSS) unless you just use direct hard light or you install 3 or more of them together. This just simply isn't a good way to use these types of lights for me unless you're looking for an exercise in frustration and compromise. So I could test but really it makes no difference to me.
FV Lock.... I actually did test FV Lock on the speedlights and I will say that it fully works as it should with the Godox/Flashpoint/Cheetah or whatever other brand you buy these under... So consider it tested (but I didn't include any photos). That is pretty cool that it works so well though. Even the venerable Pocket Wizard types have not been able to figure out how to make FV lock work correctly. A fact that I think I'm going to email them about shortly! ;) But being that these Godox systems are so effective and the fact that I've heard of them laying off a lot of people at Pocket Wizard I have a feeling that my email will fall upon mostly deaf ears.
Ok so.... Yes, there are a lot of other features to these lights. However, getting to this point in this test I've fairly well covered my usage case for how I use these lights. I believe that I've deemed these lights to not really be enough better than my SB700/Pocket Wizard setup in order to keep them. I'm not 100% certain on this as I had initially planned on buying the speedlights because I was hoping to have a single system that all talked the same and supported TTL from my smallest to my largest light in the event I needed it. That hope and dream may lead me to keep these lights but at the moment I'm not as impressed as I'd hoped I would be with the Li-Ion battery technology in these. Granted I LOVE that I can simply pop in a single battery rather than having to properly orient 4 AA's. I also LOVE the number of pops that I should be able to get from each pack I may try and test that but that will take a WHILE. But, changing and charging batteries isn't really THAT much of an annoyance. Its just part of the job. Also, being able to simply put a speedlight on a stand and being ready to go is very nice. But, putting my SB700 onto a Pocket Wizard and then putting that onto a stand isn't really THAT big of a deal either... #firstworldproblems
Now, what does this all mean to someone looking to buy a new set of lights? BUY THESE GODOX UNITS! I see you looking at me all confused after you read that I'm planning on sending these back... But let me explain.
A Nikon SB700 new costs $326.95 (adorama 7-6-2016) and a pocket wizard TT5 costs $186 (adorama 7-6-2016). To get 1 light off camera you will need 2 TT5 trigger units. So you are looking at $698.95 for a 1 light off camera system. For my wedding configurations I generally use 3 off camera lights. So my 3 light system if bought new would cost $1724.85. This is why I buy a lot of my gear used!
A Flashpoint TTL R2 Li-Ion Zoom Speedlight is on special right now for $149.95 (adorama 7-6-2016) and the Flashpoint R2 TTL Nikon Trigger is $49.95 (adorama 7-6-2016). So a simple 1 light off camera system costs you $199.90. My 3 light configuration will cost $499.80.
So now when you see that the Flashpoint / Godox system is very similar to my Nikon / Pocket Wizard but only costs $500 instead of $1725 it becomes a full on no brainer!
The only reason I don't consider them worth it to me is because I already own the SB700's and Pocket Wizards. Also I won't be able to sell the Pocket Wizards because they are 100% required for me to hold my lighting workshops in the manner that I have become accustomed. However maybe I'm wrong there. It would be interesting to see if I can get manual light control with this Nikon trigger on a Canon, Pentax, Sony, Fuji or what have you. So I'll probably slog along with my current system. But don't feel bad for me at all because both sides are pretty great!
I hope this has been helpful for you all!
Next, I plan on taking the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 and the Flashpoint Streaklight 360 out along with the Paul C Buff Alien Bee B800. I would like to test how well I can do with hypersync vs the true high speed sync provided by the Flashpoint system. I have tested hypersync with the Einstein and I have found it to be too limiting. You are REQUIRED to use 1/1 full power in order to get hypersync to work at all on an Einstein because its optimized for fast flash durations. I have a feeling during this test the convenience of not needing to break out the Vagabond's and running cabling will really show itself in ease of setup and teardown. I hope that the recycle times, quality, quantity, and color of light all match up in a favorable manner leaving me to not think twice on keeping the Xplor 600 and the Streaklight 360.
UPDATE: The fact that these lights overheat after 30 full power pops (or only 15 pops at full power if you're using HSS) is the final nail in the coffin for these speedlights. The Flashpoint R2's just barely beat my Nikon SB700 on recycle time when I use it with Eneloop rechargeable batteries in the SB700. After the R2's overheat the cycle times get REALLY slow. The cycle time goes from about 2 seconds to about 6 seconds. Whereas when the R2 has overheated the SB700 still shows that it is fairly cool via its temperature graph. It's also nice that the SB700's provide a graph of temperature rather than the R2 which shows nothing until it's too late. However it's not like I'd really ever be able to see the temperature indicator from the top of a light stand anyway. Thankfully in years of use I've never yet overheated the SB700's. I have overheated and melted down a neewer unit though...