Fstoppers Reviews the Godox Wistro AD600 Portable Battery-Powered Strobe

Fstoppers Reviews the Godox Wistro AD600 Portable Battery-Powered Strobe
We've seen a flood of high quality battery-powered strobes hit the market over the last few years. Increasingly powerful speedlights like the Nikon SB910 were a great start. More powerful units like the Godox Wistro 360 entered the fray and showed us what a small light could do. These were excellent alternatives to the already successful Paul C. Buff offerings and other options like Elinchrom's Ranger kits. Then, Profoto dropped the B1. We've had Broncolor's offerings since and some "lesser" brands like Phottix and Godox creating budget options. Today, we're going to check out Godox's Wistro AD600 (sold in the US as Flashpoint XPLOR 600).
 
The AD600 is a 600 Ws battery-powered portable strobe. Slightly more powerful than the Profoto offering and just shy of the Einstein 640/Vagabond combo, the AD600 has put itself right where enthusiasts and pros on a budget are looking. It comes in two versions (TTL and non-TTL), both of which are around the price of the Einstein, or just over a quarter the price of the Profoto. As with all budget options, there are a few things that perhaps don't live up to what you expect from more expensive "brand" options. We'll take a look at those, as well as the benefits of the strobe. 

Build and Design

Overall

The build of the Wistro AD600 is a bit of a mixture. I would place it somewhere in between the Einstein 640 and the Profoto B1. It feels a lot more solid than it looks, yet still doesn't feel like something you'd just toss in the car and forget about (I'd hope you wouldn't with any of these units). The buttons and jog dials are all solid and responsive. Compared to the Paul C. Buff Einstein 640, they feel excellent in build quality.

The Modifier Mounts

I can't speak to Godox's proprietary mount, as I purchased the Bowens version, but anyone who has used a Bowens mount will know what I mean: one false move and you'll smash the flash bulb. For me, this isn't really an issue as I use mostly umbrella shaft mounted modifiers like the Photek Softlighter II. The umbrella mount is slightly off center but sturdy, and the wing-nut tightens well to hold modifiers in place. 
 

Size and Weight

The AD600 weighs in at 2.66kg, which is slightly lighter than both the Profoto B1 and the Einstein 640 with the Vagabond Mini. Physically, it is a little shorter and fatter than the B1, but longer and narrower than the Einstein 640. It is around the size of a 70-200 f/2.8 lens and so fits quite nicely in bags designed to hold such a lens. I have been transporting it in a shoulder bag when I need just the unit and a single camera, or in the Large Pro ICU from F-Stop Gear when I take a larger kit. 

Some Small Issues

A couple of small things that feel like might suffer from wear over time are the sync port cover and the light stand mounting lug. Both of these feel like they were almost an afterthought in the overall construction. However, I've yet to see a problem with either. 

Aesthetic Design

This is not something I'm generally concerned about if the unit does its job, and the Wistro AD600 certainly does its job. It is worth mentioning though that it is not the prettiest rose in the garden. The design is functional, in that it houses what it needs to house. If the Profoto B1 is the sports car, the Wistro AD600 is the 1980s Volvo: boxy and straightforward. If that's a concern for you, perhaps consider looking elsewhere. 

Usability

The Interface

The button interface on this strobe is far more complicated than it needs to be. In fact, the nine buttons and jog dial could be simply reduced to the jog dial and one button by putting features that don't need to be accessed frequently into the menu system. By doing this, the whole system would be a lot simpler, and you wouldn't need the manual with you all the time. The menu itself is operated using the jog dial, and is simple enough to use. However, in normal shooting, I find that the Godox radio trigger is all that's really needed to operate the flash. 

The Remote

The Godox X1 is the proprietary remote trigger that gives you access to all of the features of Godox's system, including High Speed Sync, groups, power settings, and if you buy the TTL-version of the light, TTL. As a guy coming from the SMDV line of triggers, I find this trigger huge and unwieldy, but Profoto or PocketWizard users will be right at home with its size.
 
 
Unlike the AD600, the trigger is significantly flimsier in its construction. The buttons feel like they'll wear out very quickly, and I find myself constantly knocking them with my forehead as I shoot, especially the jog dial. The unit does give you complete control over your strobes remotely, though and is quite easy to use. Aside from better build quality, my only wish for the remote would be the ability to power up and power down the strobe remotely. 
 
One final thing to note is that the buttons are not particularly well labeled, and the manual is necessary for a while to understand the secondary function of each of the buttons.
 

Output and Features

Output

Output is adjustable from 1/1 to 1/256 in 1/3 stops. This can be done from the unit itself or the X1 remote. Aside from power options, Godox also offers all the usual bells and whistles, like flash groups and multiple channels. These can all be set from the unit or the remote as well. Power output is consistent in my tests, as is color output. Recycle is between 0.01s and 2.5s, which is a touch slower than the Profoto B1, but faster than the Einstein 640 when battery powered.   

The Battery

The battery attaches with a solid "thunk" and doesn't feel like it's going anywhere anytime soon. It has a clip to remove it and can be charged when attached or separated from the strobe. A convenient button on top of the battery quickly lets you know how much power is left regardless of whether it's attached to the strobe or not. 
 
The battery has 8700 mAh of power. That is enough for 500 full-power pops, more than double that of the Profoto B1. This to me was actually the dealbreaker for the B1: battery capacity. My purpose for this strobe is primarily an upcoming long-term personal project in remote areas, The B1 would simply have been too pricey, especially considering how many extra batteries I would likely need to take.  
 

HSS

High Speed Sync works well and allows you to leave those pesky ND filters at home, provided your camera system is one of those supported by Godox. Of course, you'll lose a little power each time you bump up that shutter speed, but it's completely worth it for the amount of DOF control you gain. When compared to my Nikon SB800, the AD600 puts out about 3-4 stops more light at full power. This is such a treat when using HSS in broad daylight, as you can have the strobe in a large softbox and still shoot at 1/8000 s. These high speeds were useful when shooting BMX and skateboarding at the local park with my pal, Greg Samborski. Despite the fairly standard t.1 times in normal mode, by using HSS, we were able to freeze the riders in mid-air with high shutter speeds and high flash output. 
 
Using the Godox remote, the strobe automatically switches itself in and out of HSS mode as your shutter speed changes. However, I have noticed that it seems to be tied to Canon sync speeds even with Nikon cameras. My D750 syncs to 1/200 s, and my D800 to 1/320 s, but the trigger automatically enters HSS mode after 1/160 s. The other small error I've noticed is that the strobe enters HSS when the camera is powered off but a test pop is fired from the remote. Not too much of an issue, as it automatically switches out of HSS when the camera is switched on. However, it can be a pain when using a light meter to get your exposure.

Parts

Perhaps a major concern with off-brand equipment is getting service and parts. Living in Asia, I don't have any issue with getting spare parts quite quickly directly from Godox. The strobe itself took only two days to arrive in Seoul from Hong Kong, and I was testing it by the morning of the third day. Even getting parts to the US or Europe shouldn't take too long with services like DHL widely available out of Hong Kong and China.
 
The protruding bulb may not feel as sturdy as the B1's covered bulb, but to be honest, aside from an accidental knock, nothing should happen to the bulb during everyday use. I've had my Paul C. Buff Einstein for six years now with no problems in this regard. Also, parts are so cheap for this strobe that you can afford to carry a few extras and still be well shy of the B1's initial cost.

Against the Einstein

I feel that the most useful comparison of the AD600 should be against the Paul C Buff Einstein. They are in a similar price bracket and power range. Indeed, although it seems the AD600 is aimed squarely at the Profoto B1 as an all-in-one unit, the Einstein is actually closer in terms of flash power and battery life (when used with the Vagabond Mini).
 
Theoretically, the 640 Ws Einstein should be only 1/3 stop more powerful than the AD600, and my tests show it to be 0.2 stops more powerful when set inside my Softlighter II. Both flashes put out exactly the same power each and every time they were fired for 20 shots in a row. At approximately 2 meters through the Softlighter, this was f/11.7 from the AD600 and f/11.9 from the Einstein (ISO 100). 
 
In terms of color, they both performed exceptionally well. There was barely any swing at all when repeatedly firing at full power for both flashes. Each of 10 frames were tested in Photoshop using three different points around the image. The AD600 swung approximately 1 point on the blue channel over the 10 frames and the Einstein 2 points on the red channel. These are such tiny movements that for all intents and purposes, they don't exist. 
 
For me, the Godox wins out over the Einstein in many situations because of its size and portability and High Speed Sync being such a useful addition to my arsenal. However, if I have a wall socket to plug into, not having to worry about running the battery dry and faster recycle times will put the Einstein in my bag every time.
 

In Conclusion

What I Liked

  • Good build quality overall
  • Great color consistency
  • Great output consistency
  • Light, all-in-one package
  • High Speed Sync
  • Godox trigger easy to use
  • Excellent battery life
  • Quick to set up

What I Didn't Like

  • Slightly flimsy mounting lug
  • HSS bug with remote
  • Convoluted button system
  • Bowen's mount 
  • Wish the remote could power up/down the strobe
So far, this has been a great flash. It might not have the street-cred of the big brands, but it pulls its weight. For the past six weeks, it has been a reliable addition to my kit that has taken the place of the Einstein on outdoor jobs. Having this much power in a small unit that fits in my shoulder bag is really handy when the sun gets high and I need to shoot. Its few shortcomings are not enough to outweigh the excellent performance, especially when the price is considered. 
 
I haven't used the B1 enough to do a full comparison yet, but I look forward to renting one again and doing a full showdown between this, the B1, and the Einstein. Stay tuned!
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53 Comments

Igor Butskhrikidze's picture

i want this thing... added it in ebay's watch list few months ago...
Cheers!

I have three of them - absolutely love them. Shot fashion last week, 1073 frames, one misfire.

Scott Stebner's picture

I can't wait until they finally ad Fuji compatibility

Quentin Decaillet's picture

I'm not sure will see any TTL unit compatible with Fuji just yet. From what I've heard they are not very cooperative when it comes to their proprietary flash system… only Cactus has managed to somehow hack it/get access to it. Hopefully this will change in the near future though!

Scott Stebner's picture

I've heard the same. That's the only thing I hate about the Fuji system. I can dream though!

With the upcoming Fuji brand flashes, I have the feeling we will see some improvements in this area. Hopefully some firmware love for the older cameras as well. Fingers crossed.

Jon Roberts's picture

The Same could be said about Sony, especially after the MIS back and forth, but Godox have now added support for Sony across their entire line so there's still hope for Fuji too

That will be beautiful once Fuji support is added :-)

Is there anyway to piggyback the Profoto air remote ttl-n to the godox remote in manual mode? I have B1, B2, and acute b600 and would like to get 2 of these or Flashpoint XPLOR 600 for lighting backgrounds or for rim lights.

How is the Profoto to Bowens adaptor? Is it sturdy?

Is the color temperature differetn from profoto heads?

Thanks.

The Bowens mount itself is not particularly sturdy. The profoto would have to slot into that. I can't imagine it being particularly robust.

Dave Camara's picture

I can shoot a PW plus 3's piggy backed, and it shoots my other strobes flawlessly.

Jon Roberts's picture

Great review, I have been using these AD600's recently along with the AD360 for a few weeks now.

I'm also lucky enough to work with both the Profoto B1's and B2's too and I can definitely say these are a great budget alternative and give out similar power and similar results with HSS (although the light delivery is a little different as profoto has a recessed flash tube whereas Godox stands proud of the head)

Biggest negatives for me have been:

-Exposed flash tubes (both ad360 and ad600 seem vulnerable)

-Plastic mounting to the lightstand (overtightening seems like it could damage the plastic, under tightening and they blow in the wind)

- A power cable was promised some time ago to run it from the mains....but it still hasn't appeared yet

Biggest positives:

-HSS works at all power levels (Profoto only does at high power)

-Battery life blows profoto out of the water

- Bowens modifiers are readily available and cheap in comparison to profoto

- Godox ecosystem..one flash supports Sony Canon and Nikon (with the correct respective trigger) and one trigger supports their speedlights, ad360, and ad600

-ability to use the whole head as a ballast with a lightweight remote head (great for windy shoots)

-That Price!

All in all, if it were my money I'd be buying the Godox over the Profoto. If Money were not an issue, I'd stick with the B1 over the Godox , but surprisingly the Godox ad360 over the B2's.

Jon
www.jonroberts.co.uk

Agreed on all counts. I have been using the locally branded version of the Godox AD360 for about a year now. I love it. That was my test bed for whether I would invest in the Profoto line

Jon Roberts's picture

A quick size comparison to the Profoto for anyone interested:

Jon - I want to try and create some full body portraits for an even company I work for using the 'Jill Greenberg' lighting look on location. I wanted to use the 600 as main light and a 360 for side illumination on the left hand and right hand side. Would the 360's be powerful enough or would I be better going for all 600's.

Jon Roberts's picture

It certainly shouldn't be a problem.... but it comes down to what f-stop you want to use and/or how much ambient you need to kill.

Basically if you knock the ad600 down to half power (1 stop down) it's ROUGHLY what you'll get from an ad360 at full power. If you're indoors and not fighting ambient and happy to shoot at a normal aperture (f5.6-f11) then it should easily be able to cope with power to spare.

More power is always nice (even if you use them at a lower power but have faster recycle times), and the price point is similar on both units....Either setup should work well, just depends which lights you want for using the rest of the time when they're not in this setup!

bit vague, but hope it helps!

Jon

rex singleton's picture

Thanks for your assessment as well! I am coming from Einsteins and PW.

Spy Black's picture

This unit looks pretty cool, I'm going to look into it. I presently have several of the Godox re-branded Adorama Flashpoint speedlights, and they've been great.

"...I find myself constantly knocking them with my forehead as I shoot..."
For some reason this image immediately came to mind when I read that...

Oh my... Haha. You do realise what you have done? Every time I raise the camera to my face now...

Christopher Nolan's picture

would be great to see a head to head flash duration test at 1/10,000 vs the B1 at 1/19,000

This is now on my list when I rent the B1.

Christopher Nolan's picture

I have 1 B1 and i LOVE IT, and flash duration is important with what I shoot, fitness, combat sports, olympic weight lifting, ... BUT, also being able to use High Speed Sync at all power levels would probably reduce the need for a flash duration as high as the B1, ..... oh, and that ProFoto color, ..... NEED MORE LIGHT!!!! LOL

Christian Santiago's picture

Love it, unfortunately with these flash heads, they only tend to be supported with the Canon and Nikon's of the world. Fuji, M4/3, Samsung, Pentax, etc. SOL

Jon Roberts's picture

and sony!

The other thing that has me looking at the AD600 is the ability to turn it into a pack and head system, perfect for tossing on a boom overhead.
Also they now sell the Mains adapter for the AD600 unit for studio use. (adorama has them: FP-PS-X600), and of course if you need more power, you can link up two AD600 units to get a 1200ws with an extension head adapter, something you can't do with the Profoto B1 units. (at adorama: XP-1200).
Pack and single head review: https://youtu.be/mBb59MtWmks

Spy Black's picture

Despite the power loss, if you absolutely need to do this, it's nice to have the option.

Oh! I must have missed the release of the power adaptor. I heard it was coming. Time to open the wallet again.

Jon Roberts's picture

As mentioned above, the loss of power is a real shame in the power pack setup...if you're planning on using it regularly you may as well just buy the AD360's as they'll give a pretty similar output to the ad600 in pack/head mode

Nick Giardina's picture

I think everyone is missing the real beauty of the AD600 when using the pack-and-head adapter.

My wife and I own two AD360 units and one AD600. The reports of the AD360 and AD600 having a similar output when the AD600 is using the pack-and-head adapter are true, but that isn't the whole story.

For those of us who prefer to use a VAL to hold lights when in the field, the AD360 puts over two pounds at the end of the boom. The AD600 remote head weighs less than 1 pound. I know that doesn't seem like much, but in practice it is the difference between my wife being able to boom it over our subjects for one frame and multiple frames. When configured this way, it actually weighs less than a speedlite!

Also, the recycle time of the AD600 at comparable power settings is anecdotally much faster than the AD360, even with the twin power adapter. I haven't attempted to clock it, but it is noticeable.

Jon Roberts's picture

Fair point, to be honest they are both so lightweight I'd never considered comparing them. For me it's a non issue, my VAL's are usually burly enough for anything! but agree for others it may be more relevant.

But then if you're looking at weight you also have to factor in lugging the weight of the ad600's to your location to start with when they weigh 3 times as much as the 360's with battery