Fstoppers Reviews: The Badger Unleashed TTL & HSS Strobe

Fstoppers Reviews: The Badger Unleashed TTL & HSS Strobe

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

  • Price.
  • Battery/TTL/HSS.
  • 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.

In Conclusion

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.

Andrew Strother's picture

Andrew is a professional photographer based in Houston, Texas. Texas is better than all other states including Canada.

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Nice to see another budget battery powered strobe to compete with the Godox AD200.

In general, I have been really pleased with the strobe options coming from smaller companies over the last several years. Competition is good and I think that photographers are benefitting from it.

Absolutely agree! The gaming industry streamed lined PC components, took away the Apple (overpriced) exclusivity and benefited all power users with extremely affordable monster machines. the photography industry is going through the same phase with affordable accessories (strobes, flashes, modifiers, lenses etc.) to compete with the high price of so called 'brand names'.

The quality of those competitors makes their ROI unbeatable. I can only see better future for young photographers.

And who knows, with so many amazing phone cameras coming out of the Far-East maybe we will see a new camera brand very soon.

It's very hard to see any amount of investment in kit that clearly uses a proprietary power source of ANY kind.

I thought the article was a serious one until the output and battery was shown.

Not sure what you're referring to. The unit is certainly restricted by working off a battery only, but if you intend on using this professionally you'll also have extra batteries and chargers at the ready. I don't see it as a real detriment.

Don't most battery-powered strobes use a "proprietary power source" in that they all have their own batteries?

I don't think using AA batteries will work here.

The article is a series article. What about the output power and battery don't make the article a serious article? I would be more interested in the flash if it had more power but that doesn't mean I'm not interested in the article or that the article isn't serious. Some people don't need more power in the flash, but I do as I need HSS in full sun situations.

250 watts is fine for tabletop work and close quarter portrait, such as boudoir. Bigger rooms and larger subjects would tax it. Not a bad package for $400.

Yeah, I think it's ideal as support lighting, run-and-gun setup, and a beginner kit. And list price is $350, but I've seen it significantly lower during different sale periods.

What you describe is what about 99% of photographers do 80% of the time. I did weddings and other events with two AD200's. I even did studio shoots. However, if you do fashion and high volume sessions than the 600w and up are more what you need.

I use to carry Einsteins on location (with batteries), thank God I don't have to do that anymore.

Hell, I just shot a big party the other day and used a Godox 600Ws strobe for fill flash off the ceiling and even on lowest power it was too much!

I used to work with Einsteins and I know what you mean. The Einsteins were able to go very low on the power scale, I am not sure how low the AD600 acn go.

I did absolutely fine with the AD200's on 1/4 power in weddings.

A review of both Badger and Digibee would have been more interesting. Knowing for that price which gives what advantage would have been better

well, the Digibee doesn't run off battery power (unless you buy a separate battery pack to plug it into) and the Badger doesn't run on AC power so they seem to be aimed at two different markets.

As Michael said, the Digibee lacks several of the key features that make the Badger Unleashed stand out (battery power, HSS, and TTL) so they don't directly compare beyond power and price point. Though that is a really great idea for an article working to find the best entry level strobe. I'll see what I can do!

Speaking as a long-time user of Buff products, this is a significant issue. This "Badger Unleashed" doesn't exist in a vacuum, and neither does the Digibee. They are both parts of a system of flash units, complementing other parts of the system.

The Buff system suffers greatly from not having a unit with HSS, particularly, and nothing with TTL. I talk to other Buff users, and we're all wondering what's going on over there in Nashville.

I hear you. Buff strobes were my first buy when into monoblock strobes eight or nine years ago. I started with AlienBees and eventually bought the Einsteins when they first came out. The lack of updates and innovation have been really surprising to me and were the main reason why I eventually sold all of my Buff gear and moved to to a different system.

I still have my Buff Einsteins, but the lack of HSS has caused me to use other brands. I use them for other work, but Buff needs to get with the times if they want to survive. With Paul himself gone I really wonder which way they are going to go.

I'm afraid Paul Buff himself was their innovation engine.

For being battery operated it would have been nice to see on location portrait work as opposed to studio portraits. Not knocking the quality of them as they are great photos.

Ironically, both of these shoots were on location I just set a backdrop up. Portraits like that are more my style so I don't shoot as much environmental stuff. Great point though, and if I shoot anything like you mention I will definitely make sure either this post is updated or I make a new one to give additional insight.

It looks like a nice little light, but I would have to ask why someone would choose it over an AD200. Even figuring in a bracket cost, the AD200 is cheaper for almost the same amount of power, and gets you into a much larger ecosystem of lights, and is significantly smaller and easier to transport around.

I own 3 of these bad boys, have had them for a few months and i love them. Battery life is beastly and the ease of use is on par with the big boys for the most part. I didn't feel like the remote felt cheap (canon version) as it has everything you need... my only beef is the AAA battery for the remote.

Sorry for yelling, but its important to know if you are thinking of getting these strobes and own a newer Nikon mirrorless.