I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the team at Interfit just took the crown for "Best Affordable Strobe With A Nature-Inspired Name" from the longtime champ Alienbees.First things first, let's get the introductions out of the way. Interfit has been around for what I would describe as "forever". Don't quote me on that exact time frame, but I certainly remember seeing their products around my local camera shops when I first began shooting a little over 10 years ago. I think it's fair to say that they're mostly well known for producing an affordable, if lower end, range of products that have historically been a good starting point for new photographers. I personally have not owned an Interfit product in many years, so I am being completely honest when I say that I went into this review with fairly minimal expectations.
Boy was I surprised.
The Badger Unleashed is the latest strobe unit from the folks over at Interfit, and the successor to their initial bumblebee-colored entry into their "Badger" line, the Honey Badger. Now, the Honey Badger seems to be a perfectly solid little starter strobe clocking in at 320Ws power for less than $200. No bells, no whistles, just light. So, how do you improve on that? Well apparently if you're Interfit, you beef up your branding, drop a rechargeable lithium ion battery inside, add TTL, add high speed sync, and keep cost down to $350. Don't ask me how they did it, I assume it's witchcraft.
When I first read the press release for the Badger Unleashed, I was somewhat confused. "TTL, HSS, and battery powered for right at $350?", I asked myself. "Is this a typo??". Well it wasn't a typo, that's exactly what the Badger Unleashed is. Three of the most coveted light features in a single strobe, and for cheaper than a flagship speedlight from Canon or Nikon. "Well," I said to myself as I continued my verbose inner dialog, "surely it's got to be a real piece of crap for them to be able to get it under that price point." Wrong again. I expected very little from the two Badger Unleashed units I was sent to review, but instead I found myself falling in love with the little strobes that could.
Before I dive into my review, let's run down the specs on the Badger Unleashed:
Maximum Power: 250Ws
Color Temperature: 5500 ±100K
Power Range: 9-stops (250Ws – 1Ws)
Recycle Time: 1.5 seconds at full power
LED Modeling Lamp: 15W/5500K, 90+ CRI
Triggering: Sync PortIR/Optical CellInterfit Manual RemoteInterfit TTL Remotes
Shooting Modes: Manual, TTL, HSS
Flash Exposure Compensation: +/- 3 stops
Max Sync Speed: 1/250 sec. in normal sync mode1/8000 sec. in HSS mode
Battery Type: 14.8V, 2900mAh lithium-ion cell
Battery Life: 430 full-power flashes
Channels: 15* (1-15)
*Limited to channels 1-8 when using Interfit Gen. 1 TTL Remotes
Groups: 5* (A, B, C, D, E)
*Groups D and E will be unlocked with Interfit Gen. 2 TTL Remotes (Spring 2019)
Dimensions: 5” × 5” × 7” (12.7 × 12.7 × 17.8cm)
Weight: 3.9lb (1.8kg)
So you'll notice right away that the 250Ws is lower than the 320Ws you get from the original Honey Badger unit. No big deal, these things are all but free so just buy an extra light if you need the power. The slight decrease in power is more than worth it considering the additional features you gain. It's also worth noting that the DigiBee 800 from Paul C. Buff (which I consider to be the closest direct competitor to the Badger Unleashed) does manage to give you 320Ws for roughly the same price, but without all those cool extra features.
I mentioned above that one of my primary concerns for these strobes was the build quality, but I was pleasantly surprised as soon as I pulled it out of the box. The unit has an almost entirely plastic shell, but not one piece of it feels cheap or flimsy. The strobe has a nice chunky feel in the hand and a reassuring weight. The accessory lock on the standard Bowens-style mount felt very secure and gave me no issues during several shoots I used the strobes for. The angle adjustment on the mount feels extra-secure due to a click-style adjustment rather than freely turning when unscrewed. I had no issues with adjusting my angles while mounted on a softbox or beauty dish during my testing.
The digital screen is simple and straightforward, as are the controls. Dedicated buttons to trigger various settings and modes, and a dial to adjust power and options. The unit has wireless connectivity built-in and can be controlled with one of Interfit's TTL remotes (available for Canon, Nikon, and Sony). Side note: the remote is, unfortunately, not as robust as the Badger Unleashed. Hopefully Interfit has an updated version in the pipeline that will show comparable build quality. I don't recall experiencing any misfires during my shoots with the strobe, everything pretty much just worked and worked well.
The 2900mAH Li-Ion battery is surprisingly small and drops directly into the body of the unit. It has a charging plug directly on the body of the battery so you can easily keep it charged without pulling out the entire unit. Interfit lists the battery life as providing "a whopping 430 full-power flashes" but I certainly never came close to running the battery down during my portrait sessions. In fact, I shot two sessions with the strobe and didn't bother charging the battery in between and did just fine; I think I ended the second session with one bar left on the display and no noticeable reduction in recycle time.
When it comes down to it, if the flash doesn't work as a flash, then it really doesn't work at all, and I was very pleased with the performance of the Badger Unleased. The Bowens mount popped right into all my existing modifiers with a nice secure fit, and when I pushed the shutter button, light came out of the strobe and did so reliably.
I found color consistency to be solid, no real variation from shot-to-shot. Recycle times were good, meaning, I never noticed a delay in recycling that caused me to wait on the strobe to shoot. The model light is serviceable but certainly not something that is going to blow you away or that you could double as a video light if needed. TTL worked as expected and seemed to generate a decent baseline exposure that was then easy enough to adjust up or down three stops to nail what I was looking for. High speed sync similarly worked, and triggered reliably. Though I doubt the strobe's ability to overpower the sun in an outdoor shooting scenario, I think it works really well for a controlled setting where you want to shoot with a large aperture that you might not normally be able to with your camera's native sync speed.
What I Liked
- Build quality.
- Looks like at any moment it could turn into Bumblebee from Transformers.
What Could Be Improved
- Would be nice if you could run on AC power as well as the battery.
- Current remote option feels a little cheap.
The Badger Unleashed is a really great strobe, and I have already recommended it to multiple shooters as a great starter strobe to help them get into studio lighting. If it had been around 10 years ago when I bought my first strobes, it would have been the unit I purchased. The combination of build quality, rechargeable battery, and extra features, is really unmatched at this time by other competitors. It is available for purchase for the price of $350.