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WHY I DITCHED MY CANON SPEEDLITES & PROFOTO B1s

The big 3 reasons I sold all of my Canon Speedlites & Profoto B1s.

We live in a golden age of photography off-camera lighting & triggering options. Canon is rapidly losing market share to brands like Godox, Flashpoint, Yongnuo, Interfit. Here's Why.

For those of you who want me to cut to the chase: I sold all of my Canon Speedlites (10 of 'em!) & Profoto B1s and replaced them with Flashpoint / Godox Speedlights and Flashpoint XPLOR 600 battery-powered studio strobes for the following reason:

  1. batteries

  2. interoperability

  3. affordability

For those of you who want the rest of the story...

I've made my living as a professional photographer since 2004 as a Canon shooter. I'm an early adopter, so I've tried all kinds of things as they come out, especially things that will give me more control over and better results from my off-camera lights. I'm talking speedlights, strobes, triggers, portable battery systems.

Below I will list some of the many kinds of off-camera lighting, triggering & battery solutions I have tried over the last 15 years. But you came here to find out why I ditched my Canon Speedlites & Profoto B1s in the year 2018, and you probably wonder what I replaced them with, and why. So here goes.

The big 3 reasons I sold all of my Canon Speedlites & Profoto B1s and replaced them with Flashpoint / Godox Speedlites and strobes:


  1. BATTERIES

  2. AN INTEGRATED SYSTEM OF LIGHTS

  3. AFFORDABILITY

BATTERIES

OMG. I used to spend about $100 before every wedding for a fresh set of lithium AA batteries for my 10 speedlights. I've done alkaline. I've done Eneloop rechargeables. I've done the external battery pack plugged into the Speedlite. I even bought some rechargeable AA Lithium batteries, but they performed worse than the Eneloops and much worse than the Energizer AA Lithiums.

I loved the Energizer AA lithium batteries because they lasted an entire wedding day no matter how long, they refreshed my flashes into ready mode much faster than either Alkaline or rechargeable NiMH AAs, and they are significantly lighter than other AA batteries. This last point can be a big deal when you're carrying around 2 c-stands each holding 4 Speedlites for 8 hours! I also love how AA lithiums hold their full charge right up until the point of full discharge failure.

One of the best things about the Flashpoint / Godox speedlights - and a really good reason to switch from Canon to Flashpoint - is their rechargeable lithium battery brick. I now get all the benefits of $100 worth of new Energizer AA Lithium batteries for no cost. And no waste. Each flash comes with a charger. It's so easy. I drop the batteries into their chargers after each job, and by morning I'm ready for another full day. I can't imagine why Canon has not yet made the transition to rechargeable lithium brick batteries, but it is a huge issue for a working photographer. Rechargeable lithium brick batteries offer refresh speed, all-day performance, light weight, no waste, and huge savings. All other battery options for speedlites are inferior.

AN INTEGRATED SYSTEM OF LIGHTS

Another thing Canon really falls short on is the limited choice of lighting products that they offer. Integrating Canon Speedlites with full studio strobes is always a compromise. And I've tried nearly all the ways one tries to integrate Canon Speedlites with studio strobes. PocketWizards. RadioPoppers. El cheapo triggers. Sync cables. Optically wireless triggers.

With full wireless interoperability between all of Flashpoint's many lighting products, I don't have to use any 3rd party products, or dangling sync cables or Velcro because the Flashpoint / Godox system really is a system. I can't see going back to something as limited as Canon Speedlites.

Until I saw the full range of products offered by Flashpoint / Godox (at the last WPPI) I always assumed that any 3rd party speedlights would have to be fully compatible with my existing Canon Speedlites. I didn't want to buy any speedlights that did not talk natively with my Canon Speedlites.

But then I saw Flashpoint's large range of speedlights and full studio strobes that are internally compatible, and compatible with my Canon bodies. They're just not compatible with my Canon Speedlites. In response to my complaint to the guy in the Adorama booth that none of his awesome gear talked natively with my large collection of Canon Speedlites, he suggested I sell my Canon Speedlites. And he was right. I should have. And I did.

You might be thinking, "well Profoto offers an integrated system of battery operated strobes, and studio strobes and speedlights". Yea. Profoto does offer a speedlight that works with their studio strobes, but $1,000 for a speedlight? Seriously? Let's talk about affordability.

AFFORDABILITY

Finally, the TTL Flashpoint / Godox speedlights are about 1/3 the price of Canon Speedlites. The non-TTL are even less. And the various Flashpoint studio strobes are 100% compatible with the family of Flashpoint speedlights, and fully controllable from the back of my Canon 5D Mark III bodies.

How Many Flashpoints Can I Buy for the Price of 1 Canon or 1 Profoto?



Flashpoint Flashes & Strobes


$479$995$2,095
XPLOR600 HSS$549
XPLOR600 HSS TTL$699
XPLOR600 PRO TTL$899
Zoom Li-on R2 TTL$179


In fact you can buy one Flashpoint / Godox battery portable studio strobe (XPLOR 600 HSS Battery-Powered Monolight) for a little more than the price of one Canon Speedlite. Wut?

And for the price of one Profoto B1 you can buy almost 12 TTL Flashpoint speedlights, and you can buy almost 4 Flashpoint battery portable studio strobes (Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS Battery-Powered Monolight).

While the Profoto B1s are definitely prettier than the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS Battery-Powered Monolight, there is very little offered by the Profoto B1s that the XPLOR 600s don't do just as well or better.

Both Profoto and Flashpoint strobes are portable, rechargeable lithium battery operated, and controllable wirelessly. The one thing where the Profoto B1 offers an advantage is how it lets you find the right settings with your B1s in TTL mode, then press a button on their wireless remote Air Remote TTL-C that switches to manual mode bringing those TTL settings over to manual mode. This is a great feature that I wish all strobe & speedlight manufacturers would adopt.

Of course, if TTL is important to you in a strobe (it is not to me), Flashpoint also sells a TTL studio strobe, the XPLOR 600PRO TTL Battery Powered Monolight that is $350 more expensive than Flashpoint's non-TTL strobe yet is still 60% less expensive than the Profoto B1. You can buy two XPLOR 600PRO TTL Battery Powered Monolights for the price of one Profoto B1, with a lot of money left over. But as far as I know the Flashpoint wireless does not offer Profoto's TTL to Manual button.

Other than Profoto's TTL-to-Manual button, I can't think of any advantages the Profoto offers. The Profoto rubber wrap softbox mounting system is very good, but the Bowens mount is very good, too. Both are superior to Paul C Buff's atrocious 3-claw thingy. The Profoto B1 looks good, but so does the XPLOR 600PRO TTL, and the standard non-TTL XPLOR 600 looks plenty good to get the job done. Both systems offer a bright LCD menu system.

Advantage goes to Flashpoint when it comes to power options. The Profoto B1 can only be powered by a battery. To get constant AC power with the Profoto strobe you must purchase a completely different Profoto model. The Flashpoint studio strobes can be powered both by batteries, and by an inexpensive accessory that lets you plug into an AC outlet.

A QUICK HISTORY OF FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY

As you look into the history of flash photography, you really see how incredibly lucky we are to be photographers in the early 21st Century. Back at the beginning of photography it seems everything about it was very difficult and usually very dangerous, including generating a flash of light in sync with one's camera.

In the earliest days of photography photographers would calculate the specific length of magnesium strip to roll out and set on fire based on factors like aperture, and distance from subject. Not too different from the way mainstream "potato masher" flashes from the early 2000s were configured. The first standardized flash used by photographers was some form of magnesium they would set on fire. Some used powdered magnesium mixed with potassium chlorate. While some used a roll of magnesium from which they would cut a strip, the length of which depended upon how many people they were photographing, how far away they were, and how much light they needed to produce. One manufacturer of magnesium strips - Pistol Flashmeter - included a handy ruler photographers used to measure the right length of strip as they rolled it out. Sounds like fun! No smoking please!

The tedious manual nature of this process reminds me of how photographers used flash before the days of TTL and instant video preview on the back of their digital cameras. When I asked one veteran how she did wedding flash back in the days of film and bare bulb potato mashers she told me that's what those guide numbers in the flash's LCD screen were for - you would dial into the flash your ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and distance from subject and it would tell you what power level to set the flash. Did I say we are in a golden age of flash?
Back in the day photographers determined their flash setting by dialing in all of the above type information: Power Setting; Aperture; ISO; Guide Number; and Distance from Subject. Are we having fun yet?

OTHER OFF-CAMERA LIGHTING & TRIGGER SYSTEMS THAT I HAVE TRIED

Dynalites

My first off-camera studio strobe system were the Dynalites. Very small. Not very powerful. Required AC power of some sort. Not shown in this stock photo of the Dynalite kit are the four long cords that connected each light to each of the four ports on the unit. Wanna put a light way back outta the way? Too bad. They were a good choice back in 2004. But I wouldn't understand why anyone would buy such a system today.

Speedotrons

I've never owned Speedos but my first photography mentor did. They were built like a tank. I wouldn't want to take them on location. I don't know if they offer a battery option nowadays. But I won't be surprised if those bullet proof Speedos my mentor used back in 2004 are still going strong.

White Lightnings, Alien Bees, Paul C Buff

If the Speedos are bullet-proof, Paul C Buff's White Lightnings are beasts. In my never-ending quest to tame the brightest high-noon sun I owned a bunch of White Lightning x3200s. These things are so bright they could burn the chrome off of a trailer hitch. But, back in the day, they required bulky lead acid battery packs. And they didn't offer the kind of back-of-the-camera remote wireless control that comes standard with the better Speedlights and portable studio strobes. It was always a physical chore to haul those things anywhere, and all power adjustments required you to walk up to each light and slide a lever left or right, but they were nearly indestructible. Nowadays lead acid batteries have given way to lithium-ion batteries and Paul C Buff offers a very good solution if you want to bring your AC strobes out into the desert. I still have my lithium-ion Vagabond and we use it to charge cell phones when we're beach camping.

YongNuo

One of the first Canon-compatible radio-wireless Speedlite knock offs from China were the YongNuos. While they looked and performed somewhat like the actual Canon Speedlites, my YongNuos always gave me troubles and I didn't keep them for long. The worst problem a YongNuo speedlite ever gave me was to interfere with and disable every other Speedlite I had set up in a ballroom. For reasons unknown this one YongNuo behaved like a jammer, causing all the other YongNuos and Canon Speedlites in the room to stop working. Ugh. Trouble shooting that as the start of the wedding approached was not fun times.

Qflash X5dR Bare Bulb Speedlight

The Qflash X5dR is another legendary product, one of the most powerful portable flashes available before this golden age of power, control, automation and portability we now find ourselves in. The Qflash was nearly as powerful as a respectable studio flash, yet it could be mounted atop your camera, or set on a c-stand or placed anywhere you might place a speedlight today. I never liked mine because they are so big, and because they required a large external battery connected via a springy coil cord. Photographers often connected a second springy coil cord from that really big battery to power their camera, too, so I always felt like I was trapped in a spider web, and I'm sure that I looked like a major dork, even moreso than I do naturally. Topping off the suck, there was no easy way to control any of the settings on the big Qflash from the back of your camera. Compared to the options we have today, the Qflash seems very primitive and cumbersome.

PocketWizards

If you've been around photography long enough, you've probably tried or you own PocketWizards. I've tried many of them, and I still own some P IIIs and even some old skool Plus IIs. PocketWizards are legendary for range and reliability, which is why so many sports photography pros use them. But they're dumb, with no ability to control the settings of your strobes. Even though PocketWizard tried to respond to the revolutionary RadioPopper PX when they came out, the PocketWizards answer to the RadioPopper PX reportedly never worked as well as the RadioPoppers. And now that both Canon and Nikon, not to mention Flashpoint and many others, have integrated radio wireless control directly into their products, I can't see much reason to buy RadioPopper PXs anymore.

RadioPoppers

To be clear, when they first came out RadioPopper PXs really were revolutionary and brilliant, taking the iffy optically wireless control native to Canon and Nikon speedlites and converting that optical signal to a radio signal, dramatically increasing the range and the environments in which you could use your Speedlites. Suddenly your Speedlites could trigger through walls, and in bright sunlight, and for over 1,000 feet. I LOVED my RadioPoppers. But as I said, we live in a golden age of speedlites, strobes and triggers and RadioPoppers have been eclipsed by the cornucopia of quality off-camera lighting solutions available today.

Trade Show Booth Traffic Photographer Steven Joseph Fogarty, 2148 Sun Swept Way, Henderson, NV 89074 - (702) 274-4447 - steve@expotraffic.com