In a move that potentially threw the Profoto marketing team into a frenzy, Godox recently released their V1 hotshoe flash. Sporting a round fresnel head and all the features of a great flash system, the V1 is a hefty contender at its price-point. But, how does it perform? Let's check it out after the jump.
Design and Build
As Godox have done with other flashes in the past, the V1 seems to have an incrementally better build (in some areas — more on that below) than previous models. While the body of the flash feels equally as well made as the V860II, a few notable things have changed for the better. The power switch, swivel for the head, and hotshoe lock all feel much better built now.
In terms of size and weight, the V1 weighs slightly less than the V860II at 530g and is slightly bulkier thanks to the round head. The body of the unit is slightly thinner than its older brother, however, giving it an overall more compact feel.
Godox have opted for a locking mechanism like those found in many other speedlights for the hotshoe this time around. The V1 can be locked or unlocked from the hotshoe with a simple button push and quarter turn of the locking mechanism rather than the endless turning of the locking rings on their old flashes. While it still doesn’t feel as well built as the rest of the unit itself, it does make it easier to attach or detach the flash with sweaty hands.
It seems somewhat odd to mention the power switch as being an improvement. However, recessing it and using a switch with less play helps the unit feel more solid and gives a sense of confidence that it isn’t going to give way any time soon.
The improvement that I feel was most needed is the swivel for the head. The swivel on the V860II was incredibly noisy in the front-to-back direction and difficult to rotate. The V1 has fixed both of these by dampening the movements. Overall, this makes for an experience you can trust quite a bit more. By far the best feature of this new design, though, this the ability to tilt the head backwards 7 degrees. This is great for bounce flash as you no longer need to swivel the head around 180 degrees just to tilt it behind you.
As with all of Godox’s units, this flash carries all the features we need and expect. The Godox wireless system is built in as a commander and a slave, HSS is possible with every brand Godox supports, a modeling light and AF assist beam are present, and power is controllable from 1/1-1/256 in 1/10 stop increments.
The Round Head
The major difference between this and most other speedlights, bar the aforementioned Profoto A1, is the round fresnel head. While not being the answer to all the issues we have when using speedlights, it does offer some benefits over standard rectangular heads. However, there are a couple of downsides to this shape as well.
Firstly, the benefits. The shape of the head produces a round beam, unlike the square beam produced by regular speedlight heads. With many of our modifiers being round in shape, this helps to fill them more evenly. This is especially true for modifiers where the flash head faces forward, such as shoot-thru umbrellas. Take a look at the example below to see the difference in how the Godox V860II and Godox V1 fill my 173cm umbrella when both are zoomed to 28mm.
I wanted to see how much of an effect this would actually have when making a portrait with this setup. I was expecting a small difference but was actually quite surprised at how much of a difference using the whole surface of the umbrella made in this simple close-up portrait of my wife. Look carefully at the spread on her jeans and hair, and the subtle difference in falloff on her face. While not huge differences for many applications, this could be useful for those expecting a little more coverage from a large modifier and not wanting to carry bigger lights.
The second benefit relates to the way light falls off at the edges of the beam. It is much more uniform than the rectangular fresnel heads found on most speedlights. Below is a comparison of the beams from the Godox V860II and V1 as they hit a while roughly one meter (3') away. As you can see, not only is the shape different, but the gradual falloff of the V1 offers a softer looking transition back into the non-lit areas of the image.
The third benefit comes when using grids. By attaching a grid, we restrict the direction that our flash beam is able to travel in. The round shape of the V1's beam offers the ability to create spotlight-style lighting just like a studio strobe with a reflector and grid would.
The first downside is that the head is not able to zoom quite so much as a regular speedlight. This could be an issue for photographers who use the flash on camera as coverage may not quite be enough on the wide and not concentrated enough on the long end. For example, the Godox V860II zooms from 20mm to 200mm whereas the V1 only zooms from 28mm to 105mm.
The second downside is that the shape of the head means it won't fit many speedlight specific modifiers. Softboxes like SMDV's Speedbox series do not accommodate this shape, and despite the magnets being present in the head itself, MagMod's kit doesn't fit either. Hopefully this will change like some gel kits have.
The V1 also includes magnets in the front of the head, allowing for modifiers to be attached and detached easily. The Godox AK-R1 kit is available and looks to cover most of the basic requirements we have as still photographers. My distributor was out of this kit when I made the order, so I'm looking forward to receiving these and being able to share my thoughts on the exact pieces of this kit. However, in the meantime, I can see the benefits of this system and have a couple of things I'd like to see built for it.
I'd love to see some modifiers like the MagMod System available for this. A small softbox we can attach on the go would be great if the magnets are strong enough. Another one would be a full set of gel. I love using gels and a set of sheets that could simply be placed between two magnetic rubber rings would be great. What else would benefit your photography in a magnetic form for this flash?
The V1 includes a dot matrix LCD like we’ve seen on their other models. However, this time the default color is a bright blue that makes the screen easy to read, even in bright daylight. As with the V860, the screen turns orange when slave mode is activated to give you an easy way to know which mode the flash is in. As with other models, the buttons on the flash are context sensitive and their current function is displayed on the screen. This makes it easy to know exactly what the buttons are going to do as you work.
Buttons and Dials
The main difference with the V1 from previous Godox speedlights is in the jog dial. It is a lot easier to turn (for those of you who found the V860II dial too stiff at times) and now operates as a 4-way selector as well. The selector offers quick access to zoom, flash power, mode, and modeling light. With these four functions quickly accessible, the flash is a breeze to operate and you rarely need to open the menu at all (although this, too, now has its own dedicated button).
Possibly the best thing that has been implemented in this new jog dial is the method of changing power. Since the jog dial is so easy to turn, you need to first activate the power changing option by pressing the left selector. At first, I thought this would be annoying, but it activates a new mode on the dial. By turning the dial you can either change power in 1/3 or 1/10 stops (depending on your settings) or you can press up and down on the selector to change power in full stops. Typically, I’ll make large changes more often than small ones, so this is a great setting for me.
Activating the modeling lamp then allows you to set its output with the jog dial as well. Although it isn’t the brightest light I’ve seen, it could be used in dark situations to visualize how your light is falling or assist with focus. It also has 10 different power settings, meaning you can adjust it to your needs.
The dedicated menu button is really handy for those who use the menu frequently. Personally, I've found that once you've turned the sound off, set your adjustment levels, and picked your distance scales on a Godox flash, there are very few reasons to go into the menus. But, if you're someone who frequently makes adjustments in there, there's now a button just for you.
There are still a couple of issues overall that Godox hasn't been able to shake on any of its lights so far. The buttons and dials all feel a touch cheap. They're better than previous attempts and you can see that they're making headway. However, especially with the jog dial, they have some work to do. It has a lot of play and the labels occasionally rotate with the dial. Why they're not just fixed in place behind it, I do not know. Check the image below.
Let's talk punch. This is the thing that surprised and impressed me most about this unit. With the perfect round head, even coverage, and softer falloff, I was expecting a significant hit in the power department. Not so. Godox have maintained an almost perfect match to their V860II flash.
With the bare flash pointed directly at my light meter, the V860II measured f/8.7 while the V1 measured f/8.8. Inside my 173cm umbrella, the V860II gave me f/8.7 and the V1 a solid f/8.5. Two-tenths of a stop never killed anyone. I'm really impressed with the size of the unit barely changing with these comparisons.
While the V1 has the Same advertised 1.5 second recycle time as the V860II, in my testing, it actually recycles quite a bit faster than its older brother. This is great for scenarios like wedding formals or group shots at corporate events. You can pop off all the shots you need in a few fractions of a second less and get people back to what they actually want to be doing. The recycle light is also green now. Well done, Godox.
However, we still suffer from the same dinky overheat-protection in high-speed sync. Twenty shots and the protection kicks in. The actual temperature of the flash still doesn't matter. You still get 20 HSS frames, turn the flash off, turn it on, and get 20 more. Come on, Godox. With all the advancements you've made, this shouldn't still be in here. Twenty consecutive shots at full power in the summer in Rajasthan is not the same as twenty consecutive 1/8 power shots in the Siberian winter. This needs to change.
While we're on this, Godox, please allow the flash to fire before it fully recycles. If I miss the recycle time at full power by 0.01 of a second, I get nothing. Not even the 95% of the power that was already charged. Please allow the flash to dump before it's fully charged in future models.
The included lithium-ion battery now slides into the side of the flash to save a little space and has 480 advertised full-power pops versus the V860's 650. I can't say I've ever needed 300 full power flashes from a speedlight in any given session, let alone 650. So, 480 seems like a good number to me.
But, let's talk about the charger. Godox, you have done well. Here's an open letter about it:
Dear everyone else,
USB-C chargers, please.
It's so simple. My laptop charges on USB-C, my Godox AD200 now has the UC-29 charger, the Fujifilm X-T3 uses USB-C as it's interface, my portable SSDs use it, my phone uses it, Intel runs Thunderbolt through it, AMD will soon have support for the standards. Let's take this standard and run with it. Please.
One of the things I found extremely lackluster with the V860II (at least my Fujifilm version) is that the TTL would change exposure dramatically between shots. I could have the camera locked down on a tripod with the settings fixed and still get 10 different flash exposures over 10 different shots. The V1 has rectified this completely. I've had nothing less than great results over multiple shots of the same scene. Well done, Godox.
What I Liked
- Round head makes a subtle but impactful difference in many uses
- Godox maintained output with other flagships
- Refined button layout
- Refined power changes
- Imrpoved TTL
- USB-C Charger
- Slightly improved recycle times
- Beam spread
- Magnetic modifiers
- Improved display
- Improved contextual buttons
What I Didn’t Like
- Construction still not quite "there"
- Wiggly jog-dial
- Lack of good modifier support (for now)
- HSS Heat Protection still feels like a child developed it
- Still cannot dump partial power, needs to fully recycle
Godox is so close to the perfect speedlight. With a few more tweaks, there won't be a reason not to choose their units. For now, this is a significant jump from the V860II in terms of beam pattern, modifier coverage, usability, and TTL reliability. There are plenty of other small improvements that are listed above, as well. Overall, I can't recommend it highly enough. Pick yours up here.