Why I Chose Third Party Speedlights Over the Name Brands

Why I Chose Third Party Speedlights Over the Name Brands

Name brand speedlights — like a lot of things in photography — are absurdly priced, and although they carry the big brand names, they also lack in a number of key areas versus the lower cost, third party alternatives. Take a look at my reasoning for steering clear of the big camera manufactures brand speedlights.

I totally fell for it, at first armed with a minor understanding of available lighting products. Looking to branch outside of shooting in just natural light my sights were locked in on purchasing a brand name speedlight to match the name on my camera. It was the sensible direction to go. As a purchasing decision, I figured how can you possibly go wrong by paying more, surely quality reflects in the price. As I later learned with lighting, this is not the case.

Price

I placed this one first on the list for good reason. Any way you look at it the purchase of one flash, that costs the same amount as three is a tough sell. For example at the time of this post a single Canon 600EX-RT II Speedlite retails for $479. Alternatively the third party options that currently reside in my kit the Godox V860II-C are just a fraction of the cost, and currently selling for $179.00. On top of that current disparity the pricing tends to get even better from time to time, as these often find their way on sale. When I had purchased my set of three, combined they equaled under the price of the one aforementioned Canon Speedlite.

Pricing gets more lopsided when it comes time to control the speedlights off camera.The brand name Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite transmitter will set you back another $285. This price especially does not hold up well when compared to the more versatile X1T-N which is priced at just $46. Not to mention most of the time I shoot with dual cameras at my side, and having an affordable second trigger is much easier than switching it back and forth between camera bodies, disrupting the flow of the shoot.

One trigger controls it all.

A Well-Rounded Ecosystem

Take the Godox system as the current gold standard for a well-rounded system. Prior when I utilized a mixture of Canon and Profoto OCF, it always frustrated me that I could never conveniently combine both to work together. Switching over to just one system, I can now combine two or three of these inexpensive speedlights with a larger output strobe like the AD600, to quickly generate a larger variety of looks, using for example back lighting, and gels that compliment the main light. This is something I could never achieve before with an incompatible mixed system of more expensive brands.

Cross Brand Compatibility

One of the factors that eased my past camera brand switch, which entailed moving from DSLR to full frame mirrorless was that nearly all of my lighting equipment remained compatible. The only gear that I had to update was the relatively inexpensive trigger. Once the trigger was mounted to my Sony body, the communication just seamlessly occurred and everything simply worked. My Canon Speedlites could never do that. This was a large factor in my decision to switch as all this lighting equipment could be salvaged, and not painfully sold at a loss. 

Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery

It’s liberating to toss aside that horrible mixed-bag-collection of both rechargeable, and last minute gas station purchased batteries scattered about the bottom of your camera bag. Those are replaced with one convenient rechargeable lithium battery, that ships in the box, and lasts ages during a gig. One battery gets me through a full wedding day without breaking a sweat. 

Finally a flash that runs off of a rechargeable Li-ion battery pack, ensuring fast recycle time and all day performance.

Quality of Light Is the Same

Last among my reasoning is the fact that you can't argue that the name brands have great build quality. And although build quality will of course vary among the third party options available to you, there is hardly a real world difference to be found in actual light quality between them. All of the best accessory speed light shapers are third party and universal. With that said fitment and compatibility of must-have accessories like the ones form MagMod are never an issue.

So next time someone who is starting out in photography asks you for some light purchasing advice, do them a favor, and recommend a versatile, less expensive, third party option.

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49 Comments

Previous comments
Akpe ododoru's picture

I have been shooting with profoto for about 13yrs now and Godox not only gives me exactly what i normally get from profoto, it gives me more. Same colour light consistency, more power, better eco system, works everytime and better price. Godox did to profoto what sony did to canon and nikon, they came, they saw and the conqered.

Akpe ododoru's picture

3x Ad200 and 1x AD600

Akpe ododoru's picture

3x Ad200 and 1x AD600

Akpe ododoru's picture

3x Ad200 and 1x AD600 + 2x led light

Derrick Ruf's picture

I tend to agree with this, even though I still love Profoto gear. Love the last image, thanks for sharing!

Maarten Stappaerts's picture

One thing to mention is rental, for bigger productions I like the reliability of Profoto and Broncolor and I can rent them virtually anywhere in the world in case anything would go wrong or in case I forgot something.

I think one has to think for him/herself what to go with, I did start out back in the days with affordable Metz speedlights and gradually went into Profoto, this is a transition over time, not a quick decision, I like the reliability, versatility and most important the worldwide rental and service is a big factor.

Akpe ododoru's picture

Godox is just as reliable and versatile as profoto in my honest opinion. For big production i will go with the top brands only because the clients are paying so much and possible want to see big brand name.

Maarten Stappaerts's picture

You have a point about clients wanting to see bigger brands, though I love the fact that I can find service or rental in nearly every (major) city around the world for Profoto and Broncolor.

I respect everyone’s choice on the system they like to use, lights are just another tool in the hands of a photographer.

Motti Bembaron's picture

I always recommend Godox! Two young photographers that took my advice are happily utilizing a couple of AD200's and other speedlights for over a year now.

Adam Palmer's picture

I love godox

dale clark's picture

I use the Flashpoint/Godox system and well and love it. However, the cheap hotshoe has to do. I've already had to replace($20)

Exactly right! Unless the 3rd party 'speed light' is the Profoto A1 - lol - marketing genius to get people to purchase those!! (And don't get me wrong- I do understand the value of higher-end Profoto strobes...)

Maarten Stappaerts's picture

The A1 is indeed not a first time investment, as it isn't cheap and might bring you little more than investing in any other speedlight. But if you are already using the high-end Profoto it is a neat little thing to use. But I totally understand if you are not using any other Profoto strobe there's no real need to throw money at the A1, unless you are certain you want to go that way.

Przemek Lodej's picture

I bought a barely used canon 600EX-RT II with rechargeable batteries on Craigslist for a mere $200. Who said you have to buy new?

Joshua Mattox's picture

Flashpoint XPlor 600TTL. I've got smaller Godox TT685's as well. I can fit a full studio setup into a very small case.

Daniel Medley's picture

I don't think that the "better build quality" argument is as valid now as it once was; especially with the advent of the Godox/Xplor systems. For the price of a single Prophoto B1, you can get a couple AD600 Pros. The "better build quality" aspect is soundly countered by the fact that you've got a backup if you need/want it for the same amount of money.

I used my newly acquired Xplor 600PRO for this. For less than 1k, I'm happy with it.

Derrick Ruf's picture

Beautiful lighting on this one! I love how she looks slightly uneasy of the trip ahead.

Daniel Medley's picture

Thanks, Derrick. Ironically, as I sit here at my desk, I'm opening up my new Flashpoint R2 zoom flash that was just delivered. I'm going to test it out and may get one more. I have some shoots coming up in which they will be useful in conjunction with the 600PRO; hair light and/or back lighting, emulate car headlights ...

I’ve made the switch the godox and I have been very happy. I used pocket wizard flex with my sb910s for weddings for years.

I wanted to go with built in rf speedlights and strobes without breaking the bank and godox V860 made it happen. I love how they also work constantly and with their strobes and with ttl and hss. Now using a pair of ad200 as my off camera flashes has made my life easier. No need to use pocket wizzards and also all the aa batteries. I also love my ad600pro serious power for half the cost of a profoto b1.