Fstoppers Reviews - Neewer TT850 Li-Ion Flash

Fstoppers Reviews - Neewer TT850 Li-Ion Flash

No AA's? No problem! Late last year Neewer, a company previously bashed for making fake MB-D11 battery grips, released the TT850 speedlight (you may also find this same flash branded as the Godox Ving V850). While not offered by B&H, they can be found on eBay and Amazon, for around $100.  Typically I wouldn't get too excited about a third party product but there is a particular feature that sets the TT850 apart from its competitors and put it at the top of my list. This little guy is not powered by the traditional AA batteries found in (to my knowledge) every other speedlight, rather it uses a beefy, 12-AA-equivilant lithium ion rechargeable battery with a maximum output of 650 pops at 1/1 power.


As a lifestyle and editorial photographer I tend to avoid strobes and speedlights altogether in favor of natural light, reflectors, and hot lights. I only reach for my strobes when I'm in need of punchy, well defined light in a small package or some portable on/off camera light. My experience thus far with the TT850 has been rather impressive, it has honestly changed the way I look at speedlights and will likely be joined by another in my bag soon.

AR_Lightroom_ROG_3325

Build

The TT850 is roughly the same size and weight as the Nikon and Canon flagship speedlights. Even though the TT850 is by no means a featherweight, there is a noticeable difference in build between the Neewer and the 5x more expensive Nikon SB900. This difference shouldn't be too pronounced unless you're holding one next to the other and certainly isn't a cause for concern. At the end of the day if your TT850 snaps in half you still have enough money left to buy 4 replacements compared to the high-end manufacturer models. The buttons, switch, and wheel on the TT850 feel durable. The mount is made of metal and locks securely in place with a pin just like the Nikon and Canon models. I do miss the easy to use switch-style locking of the newer Nikon speedlights, but have no major complaints in this department.

Battery Life

When using 2,000 mAh eneloop batteries in a SB900 I get a maximum of 200 cycles. While you can get up to 250 cycles with lithium AA's towards the end the time between cycles gets unreasonably long. In this respect, the TT850 blows its competitors out of the water. The manufacturer advertises 650 pops at 1/1 and in my experience I've never run a shoot where I needed to replace the battery. While I'm by no means a machine-gunner with my shoots the cycle time hasn't been a concern either.  There is one (rather noteworthy) holdup with respect to the battery life — the TT850 does not have a port for an external battery packs that wedding and event photographers are so fond of. The lack of external battery options might or might not be a deal breaker for you, some people will find that 650 cycles is more than enough (and given the size and price of extra batteries) might not be opposed to simply carrying an extra battery or two for more intensive shoots.

Power

Having compared the TT850 output to the Nikon SB900 at fixed camera and flash settings I've found that there is no real difference in power, coverage, or duration to the light output. Judging by other video reviews the TT850 output appears to be on par with it's competition with equivalent or marginally better brightness and balance. When shooting outside, if you intend to overpower the sun I'd still recommend using two or more in a softbox to avoid the bare-bulb look. Otherwise, these make tremendous fill or rim lighting solutions.

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Usability

The TT850 is a manual flash, meaning that settings such as power and zoom must be manually adjusted on the speedlight, no TTL here. This should not be a problem for shooters who already are using their equipment in "M". If, however, you use "P" (as in professional) or aperture priority this might be a stumbling block. From my experience, using and adjusting the TT850 is simple and rather painless. Button placement is as it should be; the controls are intuitive. There should be relatively little learning curve (even less if you're willing to spend some quality time with the instruction booklet). The only U/I issue I've run into is that the beep setting does not remain activated after turning it off and back on. That said, the cycle time is fast enough that I really didn't need the beep! My only real gripe is that the LCD backlight doesn't seem to stay on as long as I'd like.

Speed

The lithium-ion battery of the TT850 allows for a remarkable cycle speed of 1.5 seconds at maximum power. While I didn't break out the stopwatch, this figure appeared to remain fairly consistent throughout the battery life of the flash. In contrast, the SB900 requires a minimum of 2 seconds to refresh and only gets worse as the battery drains. The flash has no problem syncing with the sluggish 1/200th of my Nikon D610 and can sync up to 1/8000th of a second on some Canon models with their "Cells II" transmitter, not too shabby.

Compatibility

The TT850, being a center-pin manual flash works on all cameras with a standard hotshoe, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, (now even) Sony. If fired off camera you have even more options, the TT850 can be triggered as a slave (in response to another flash firing), or by using the surprisingly useful Neewer 16-channel wireless transmitter (sold for around $30). This transmitter fits on the hotshoe of the camera and has a adapter that plugs in to the side of the flash and can be used to trigger the TT850 up to 1/250th as well as control power remotely. It's not a Pocket Wizard, but for the price it's not bad. As previously mentioned, Neewer also makes a transmitter called "Cells II" which allows some cameras to sync the flash up to 1/8000th of a second. It should be noted that the TT850 does not have a standard 3.5mm sync plug for Pocket Wizards. An adapter  can be purchased for use with other — non-Neewer — transmitters. Again, this might or might not be an issue for you.
Austin Rogers Neewer TT850 Li-Ion Flash 4

Summary

Despite the eccentricities that inevitably come with third-party products such as the missing external power plug, and odd sync port I have been thrilled with the performance of this dark horse speedlight.

What I like: 

Rechargeable battery - The rechargeable lithium-ion battery is a unique and very useful feature that allows me to carry 12 fewer AA batteries or a large external power pack while still producing upwards of 650 1/1 power pops and a crazy fast recycle time of 1.5seconds.

Simple U/I - The interface of the TT850 is great and makes transitioning from a Nikon or Canon speedlight or working with one of each a breeze.

Price - At around $100 for the strobe, Neewer is practically giving it away. Considering the power and performance of the TT850 this price is very reasonable. If given the choice between one SB900 and a fleet of 4 TT850s I'd definitely go for these plus a handful of the transmitters.

What could be improved:

TTL - While I typically shoot in "M", event and wedding photographers will probably miss the flexibility of an automatic flash. However, if you have time to fiddle with settings this shouldn't get in your way.

No 3.5mm outlet - Want to use the TT850 with your Pocket Wizards? Sorry. You're going to need an adapter.

No external power options - If you're planning on shooting 1,000 1/1 shots in a day you're going to be disapointed in the lack of external power outlet on the TT850. Though the battery should provide 650 pops, so it may be easier just to purchase a spare and keep it in your pocket.

Final thoughts

If you're a shooter comfortable with adjusting settings in manual or have the time and patience to experiment a little this little speedlight is for you. For $130 I was able to purchase the speedlight and proprietary wireless transmitter, a fraction the cost of even the entry Nikon and Canon flashes.  The TT850 has set the bar very high for its competitors, I hope to see Nikon release a lithium-ion powered competitor soon.

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37 Comments

Jeff Weeks's picture

I jumped on this when it came out, having read the preview of the Godox Ving 850 a few months ago (Exact same flash under different Chinese branding). It's wonderful - I already have and love the Cheetahlight CL360 (AKA the Godox Witstro AD-360), and this uses the exact same trigger. The hotshoe-mount transmitter allows you to independently adjust the power output of up to 16 flashes. It's a really nice setup with the big barebulb CL-360 as a main source with a few of these speedlights for rim, hair, background lights, etc. You can dial them all in from the back of your camera on the fly. It's a center-pin system, so it works equally well with my Nikon and Fuji cameras. Thumbs up.

I'm working on a smaller scale than you are, obviously — I'd love to have the 850 as a main light and a smaller (as yet imaginary) compatible companion for the accent lights.

Jesus! These things look amazing. After some further research the Godox triggering system looks pretty slick too - the receiver plugs directly into the side of the flash, you can control the power remotely and these bad dudes also have HSS up to 1/8000.

E Port's picture

I'm glad fstoppers is finally reviewing smart alternatives to expensive gear. Considering most of us shoot in full manual, this seems like a no brainer purchase. If anyone is concerned with the reliability of knockoff brands, I have used and abused them for years (many times they have dropped 6+ feet onto hard surfaces). With the money saved, you could even end up purchasing a nice mobile light modifier.

I've been looking for decently priced speedlights for portrait rim lights and reception lighting. These just might do the trick. Amazon Prime shipping is also a nice bonus.

Has anyone measured the colour temp?

TRON !'s picture

No optical slave is kind of a deal breaker.

If only you could buy one on ebay for nine bucks..

It does have an optical slave option.

You can absolutely use this as an optical slave.

650 pops at full power is amazing. Assuming the battery doesn't turn to crap too quickly (*cough* iphone), that's pretty killer.

These units are great! I have four of them now and I can say that yes, the battery performance is amazing as compared to traditional AA batteries. One of the great things is that as opposed to AA batteries the lithium packs deliver reliable power right through to the end meaning your recycle time doesn't degrade like it does with alkaline batteries.

Batteries aside, what makes these units even better is the available, affordable, and camera agnostic wireless system. The hot shoe mounted transmitter lets you control individual or groups of flashes from the camera. Flash power from 1/128 to 1/1, focus assist lamp and remote beep. The units can produce a tone when ready to fire again or operate silently.

Andrew Sible's picture

holy cow thanks for that tip. is there a good place to buy those transmitters/receivers?

I'm looking at options to trigger my flashes and I like my CLS system but for the bang/buck factor I think going full-manual with wireless controll would be huge. TTL is nice though sometimes so I'll consider this with other options.

The flash units themselves are least expensive on Amazon (branded as Neewer) and you get free 2-day shipping if you're a prime member.

I get the radio transmitter and receiver parts from Gadget Infinity. Though, if you're just starting out with these units I recommend you just get the Gadget Infinity kit: 2 flash heads, 2 receivers, 1 transmitter - $269.95 (http://www.gadgetinfinity.com/godox-ving-v850-wireless-starter-kit-with-...)

The flash units themselves are least expensive on Amazon (branded as Neewer) and you get free 2-day shipping if you're a prime member.

I get the radio transmitter and receiver parts from Gadget Infinity. Though, if you're just starting out with these units I recommend you just get the Gadget Infinity kit: 2 flash heads, 2 receivers, 1 transmitter - $269.95 (http://goo.gl/KtVaZ4)

never seen the site before, thanks for linking!

The two biggest frustrations with my Canon 600EX-RTs are the AAs running dry, and the overheating shutdown after a good solid burst of 1/1...this flash fixes one of the problems...solve the other and chuck in a compatible radio trigger and I'm on board...I'd pay a lot more than $100 for a flash like that...

Nice!!!! I need a replacement to my 30 dollar Bower flash =) haha.
I honestly do not understand the difference in all of them. They all flash a bright light, that's all you need =P

you obviously don't use a flash often then

Power output (GN), recycle speed, build quality, TTL, HSS ... depends what you need. I need 3 ETTL flashes for ebvent coverage (weddings) and a buttload of cheap manual only flashes for "studio" lights.

These flashes with their transmitters that can set power output will be killer for my "studio" work and the 650 pops at full power means I don;t have to miss shots because my batteries have started flagging halfway through a boudoir, glam, maternity, mass product shoot ...

i have an older aa powered neewer and found that it was close to the canon and nikon equivalent speedlights at a fifth the price which my old college city of glasgow college are now considering buying neewers rather than canon as they go through over 15/ year in breakages they have already gone for neewer ir flash triggers for the studio's and are looking at radio triggers although not the neewers as the neewer radio triggers are not very good with very low range (distance) (i have these also 2 sets a quad channel with 2 hotshoe recievers for off camera speedlights and a 16 channel main studio flash trigger and reciever)

Matthew Odom's picture

Just scooped up one. 650 flashes at 1/1 ?!

That's insane!

I wish Nikon would build their speedlights to accept camera batteries.

Andrew Sible's picture

battery laws change so for a major brand to do this they have to be careful...my D700 and D90 already use batteries that are no longer legal to produce. cross-compatibility and future use aren't as crucial when the unit is so much less expensive..

People bash these Chinese units around.. But I've owned a few lights in my day, and back a few months ago bought a Nissin flash unit. On top of being feature filled, I've worked the ever-loving crap out of this light.... It just keeps on going. I've since lost 2 SB-900 units since the purchase on a circuit issue and bulb failure.. I wouldn't be so quick to discount these units anymore.

Just about to order 5. I had 5 YN460's that I;d use as studio lights for on location work or when power outlets were not readily available. The YN460's have finally died after 3-4 years of heavy use. These puppies will put those to shame ... just wished the transmitter/receivers were sold individually instead of in combos... I want/need 5 receivers but only 2 transmitters ... now I'll have 5 of each.

Any word on lamp life?

Andrew Sible's picture

not sure but you should look for a set that includes one transmitter and two receivers, or another type of tx/rx perhaps?

The thing is their transmitter/receivers allow for setting power at a distance and they from the transmitter. Also haven;t found a set with more than one receiver or individual receivers.

http://www.neewer.com/index.php/neewer/product/455#.UwVHXvldV8E

Andrew Sible's picture

Oh sheesh, of course I wasn't thinking and didn't realize it's a proprietary setup to be able to adjust these remotely.

Here's a link to the receiver by itself: http://www.gadgetinfinity.com/godox-wireless-power-control-flash-receive...