The Switch from Nikon to Godox Flash
Recently our lead photographer and founder Anton Chia switched from Nikon speedlights to Godox hotshoe flashes for his wedding works. Mainly because of the V860II. We had been watching the development of China’s “Big 5” photo gear companies for years. Godox, Phottix, Jinbei, Yong Nuo and Aputure, (Aputure being more video focused now) and we are now at a time where Chinese products are thrice the performance at a third of the price. The quality and tech just kept improving. Make no mistake we still love our Profotos and still love-hate our Nikons. But when something good comes along, we utilize it.
As mentioned we had been eyeing the Godox hotshoe flash systems for a while now, (alongside with the AD series which we own several AD600s). When Godox progressed beyond using their old FT-16 triggers and put on a new and better lithium battery pack into their 860 version II, its time to dump the expensive and backwards Nikon Speedlights and make the switch. Each Godox hotshoe flash is now both a master and a slave. No more fiddling with the old Phottix Strato triggers to get TTL pass-throughs, and we don’t even want to be reminded of the struggles we had with the highly unreliable CLS system. The controls are strikingly similar to Nikon’s CLS sytem, except that it is much better. There are plenty of reviews out there that goes into details for their features but that is not the point of this article.
Recycle Time Tested and Compared
We got the V860II and TT685 and want to know how they stack up in terms of recycling time, which is something important to the weddings and events photographers. And especially since the V860II can’t utilize an external battery pack, that’s why we got the TT685 as well for that purpose. We know from other reviews and feedback from existing users that while the V860II battery power seems to last for days of shoots, its recycling time pales slightly in comparison to the Nikon. We want to know exactly how much and here we share our findings.
Tested with its propriety lithium battery pack of course and the results:
At 1/32 power, (a common stroboscopic power setting for speedlights) we were able to hit 11 frames per second repeating burst and maintain it across 3 seconds, all 33 frames have consistent power output. It would probably go on forever till the battery runs flat.
At 1/16 power, 11 fps maintaining it for a full second, it barely manages after frame 6, either it pause for a split second and continues, causing you to loss some frames, or it gives you a unfired black frame. Out of 11 frames, we got around 7 to 8 frames exposed. (In comparison, SB910/SB900 at 1/16 is able to do it effortlessly at 11 fps, just normal NIMH 4AA cells, no external battery pack.)
At 1/16 power, dropped down to 5 fps and maintained across 25 shots over 5 seconds; every shot is consistent. It probably can go on forever till the plastic melts.
At 1/8 power, 5 fps, which is around the power most of us will be shooting speedlights at to get consistency without a battery pack and within a fast enough frame rate to grab moments; the v860 can maintain a full second at 5fps. If the burst is maintained across 2 seconds, at frame 6 its goes black and it comes back on again at frame 8, 9 and 10. (SB910 in comparison is able to maintain it across but with each frame after the 7th going darker and darker. We kind of remembered it is a smart Nikon design, to still pump out some low powered flashes while recycling at the same time, the benefit is that some shots could still be savaged in post production. So props to Nikon for that.
1/4 power and above is what it really matters in difficult lighting conditions since the V860II can’t use an external battery pack to boost recycle times.
At 1/4 power, 3fps across 2 second, it succeeded in the first second giving good frames 1 to 3, but immediately failed at frames 4 to 6. This is borderline ok for awards presentation, 2-3 shots per pax, rest 1-2 seconds for the next person to walk up, repeat. (In comparison, SB910 succeed for all 6 frames, with frame 5 and 6 darker by 1/3 and 2/3 stops respectively which is not a big issue)
At 1/4 power, 2fps across 3 seconds, all 6 frames ok. Probably the real world usage power/speed for stuff like awards presentation. (In comparison, SB910 succeed for all 6 frames, again with deteriorating exposures)
Tested with a recently charged up set of Imedion NIMH 4AA cells that was left unused for around a week. The cells had a about a past year of regular usage, always slow charged and frequently reconditioned. Here are the results:
At 1/32, again it can blast off 11fps almost indefinitely, depending on your battery condition.
At 1/16 power, 11fps, it can keep up to frame 6 and from frame 7 onwards it is all dark.
At 1/16 power, slowed down to 5fps for 2 seconds, it managed 7 frames, and the rest of the frames were all dark.
At 1/8 power, 5fps, it survived till frame 4.
At 1/4 power, 3fps, it managed only 2 frames.
At 1/4 power, 2fps, again it managed only 2 frames.
From here it may appear that the TT685 performance is way beneath the V860II, but IMHO, it all depends on your battery cells, mine is pretty old. We also noticed that at higher power and faster shooting frame rates, each shot is slightly darker than the previous. Then we tested with a fresh set of “Energizer Advanced”, a popular battery with local photographers, supposed to be meant for high drain devices like camera flashes.
At 1/32, not measured, obviously it will be all good.
At 1/16 power, 11fps, it kept up to frame 7, but frame 8 was severely darker and the rest of the frames were all dark.
At 1/16 power, slowed down to 5fps maintained for 2 seconds, it got us 9 frames with the last frame dark
At 1/8 power, 5fps, it survived till frame 4, just like the NIMHs.
At 1/4 power, 3fps, for 2 seconds, frame 3 was dark, frame 4 is back on again, frame 5 and 6 were dark again.
At 1/4 power, 2fps for 2 seconds, it managed 3 frames.
In conclusion, fresh out of the pack, high drain alkalines are just a tiny bit better than the old and abused Imedion NIMH rechargeables. So the V860II with its lithium pack battery actually way outperform the TT685 on high power alkalines.
Godox TT685 with External Battery Pack
TT685 plugged in with Canon CP-E3 power pack with 8 fresh Energizer Advance AAs. In the flash body is a recently charged set of Imedion NIMH cells that had a about a past year of regular usage, always slow charged and frequently reconditioned:
At 1/16 power, 11fps, succeeded 10 frames and goes dark at 11th.
At 1/16 power, down to 5fps, maintained for 3 seconds, all 15 frames lit!
At 1/8 power, 5fps, maintained for 2 seconds, all frames except the 8th lit.
At 1/4power, 3fps, maintained for 2 seconds, all frames except the 3th lit.
At 1/4power, 2fps, for 3 seconds, all 6 frames lit.
Versus SB910 with External Battery Pack
In comparison with SB910 plugged in with Nikon SD8A power pack with 6 fresh Energizer Advance AAs (Yes, 2 cells less, my SD9 pack was long dead for no reason, poor circuitry or quality that’s probably why), and again in the flash body, a recently charged set of Imedion NIMH cells that had a about a past year of regular usage, always slow charged and frequently reconditioned:
At 1/16 power, 11fps, all 11 frames lit, but there are slight exposure inconsistency in some frames.
At 1/16 power, down to 5fps, maintained for 3 seconds, all 15 frames.
At 1/8 power, 5fps, maintained for 2 seconds, all 10 frames lit.
At 1/4power, 3fps, maintained for 2 seconds, all 6 frames lit, exposure inconsistency with each shot very slightly darker, like a -0.10 in Lightroom exposure adjustment
At 1/4power, 2fps, for 3 seconds, all 6 frames lit, again exposure inconsistency
Conclusion for TT685 vs SB910 both with power packs; the SB910 is a better performer even with a smaller power pack (2 cells lesser), but have slight exposure inconsistency, it might fare better with the SD9 pack with 8 cells. The TT685 with power pack is easily as good as the SB910 because it makes up the slightly slower recycle with exposure consistency and that means less time on post production adjustments.
Godox TT685 with External Lithium Battery Pack
Latest test (22 December 2017) with a Hyper-Pac/Charger Device 2X2s (depending on where they are rebranded into), which is lithium clone version of the Nimh Quantum 2×2 plugged in, and in the flash body, a recently charged set of Imedion NIMH cells that had a about a past year of regular usage, always slow charged and frequently reconditioned:
At 1/16 power, 11fps, all 11 frames lit consistently.
At 1/16 power, down to 5fps, maintained for 3 seconds, all 15 frames lit.
At 1/8 power, 5fps, maintained for 2 seconds, all 10 frames lit.
At 1/4power, 3fps, maintained for 2 seconds, all 6 frames lit
At 1/4power, 2fps, for 3 seconds, all 6 frames lit
Here on we pushed the limits at 1/2 power
At 1/2power, 3fps, maintained for 2 seconds, frame 3 and 6 dark.
At 1/2power, 2fps, for 3 seconds, all 6 frames lit.
Best performer of all with a Lithium pack.
More Interesting Findings
During the course of the tests, we also noticed peculiarly, that while lowest manual power allowed is 1/128, the flash actually can go down to 1/1024 in TTL mode. Another thing, these units can be triggered both via the built-in radio and the optical slave modes, but interestingly, the optical slave modes doesn’t work like conventional optical flashes. When the unit is in optical slave mode, it can only be triggered by the master slave while it is on the camera’s hotshoe. It ignores all other flashes. In other words, it may be in optical slave mode but someone else’s flash won’t be able to trigger it. Kinda remind us of CLS again.