The Godox AD200 has been around for a few years now, and in 2019, Godox released the "Pro" version of the AD200. Is this small, lightweight, powerful flash the right choice for you in 2023? Why do so many photographers think so highly of this pocket flash?
When I first started to learn off-camera flash, I was using a Canon 7D and a pair of Nissin Di700 speedlights with a Nissin Air 1 wireless trigger. These little strobes were an accessible, inexpensive way to learn off-camera flash. There comes a point when flashguns just aren't powerful enough and you'll be looking for something bigger. There are plenty of options with far more power, but few as practical as the Godox AD200. I looked into high power studio strobes, which either required mains power or bulky battery packs. Then, in 2017, I got my first Godox AD200 and XPro wireless trigger, and I was sold on this perfect (for me) compromise of power and portability.
What's in the Box?
One of the major selling points of the AD200 is that for under $300, you get a flash with LCD screen and built-in wireless capabilities, battery charger, adjustable tripod mount with umbrella holder, bare bulb head, and fresnel head with built-in LED modelling light.
The whole kit comes in a handy carrying case which is probably a little bulky to take with you if you have multiple units, but it's perfect for storage. The foam compartments will definitely protect the bare bulb, which unfortunately doesn't come in a protective tube.
The unit is solidly built, with a plastic casing that feels substantial in your hand. The flash head is also well designed, with a sturdy locking mechanism and an easy-to-read LCD screen. The overall construction of the AD200 gives the impression that it is a high-quality product that is built to last. Sadly, that's not always the case, and I've managed to destroy two of these units since I started using them. The AD200 is certainly as durable as you'd expect at this price point. The two I have broken have both been the result of a fallen light stand: one fell onto a concrete floor which smashed the bare bulb and cracked the LCD screen. The other fell over during a beach shoot, apparently exposure to salt water for less than a second is enough to destroy one of these units.
On the rear of the unit is a perfectly functional LCD screen. The screen could do with being a little brighter to see in harsh sunlight, and the menu system isn't immediately obvious, with some features requiring a long press. The LCD has never caused me any issues, as I generally control the strobes from the wireless controller attached to the hot shoe of the camera. The LCD is pretty clear to show flash power and group number when using groups for your strobes.
The AD200 is also highly portable, weighing in at just under 2.5 pounds. This makes it easy to carry around on location shoots or to set up in tight spaces. Despite its small size, the AD200 packs a powerful punch for its size with a maximum output of 200 watt-seconds. This is plenty of power to light most subjects in a range of situations, even when shooting outdoors in sunlight. The AD200 isn't quite powerful enough to claim that it will overpower the midday sun, but it does an excellent job when shooting outdoor on location.
With plenty of shooting modes from TTL to full manual and the ability to be triggered by a wireless transmitter or as a slave unit triggered from another flash, the AD200 is easy to use for a beginner, with enough options for a more experienced photographer to use. When used with the Godox X Pro wireless trigger, you can choose from eight channels, and place strobes in up to six groups, which can all be controlled from a single transmitter on your camera hot shoe. The groups will allow you to easily add and control more strobes as you grow your kit.
One of the standout features of the AD200 is its versatility. The flash unit comes with a fresnel head, which is a similar size to many traditional flashgun heads, making it compatible with a number of third-party accessories. The flash also comes with a bare bulb head, which is perfect for larger modifiers such as softboxes and strip boxes. As the unit is only slightly larger than a traditional flashgun, it fits into the popular Bowens S-mount speedlight bracket. Using the Bowens mount adaptor, I use my AD200s with a whole range of lighting modifiers, such as octaboxes, beauty dishes, and a spill-kill wide reflector.
The Fresnel head also includes an LED modelling light, which I've found to be barely bright enough in any kind of modifier or any well lit area. It's often handy as a flashlight when packing up, though.
Another key feature of the AD200 is its fast recycle time. The unit can recharge in around two seconds at full power, which means you won't have to wait long between shots. This is especially important if you are shooting a fast-paced event like a wedding or action sports where you need to be able to capture moment as it happens. You can adjust flash power from 1/1 down to 1/128 in 1/10 increments, which is ample for most situations. The AD200 allows high-speed sync up to shutter speeds of 1/8,000 s, also great for shooting action on location.
This factor is pretty crucial to most photographers. Is this piece of kit going to function as expected when needed?
In my experience, I've had very few misfires in the past six years and no connection issues when shooting wirelessly with the XPro transmitter. The AD200 has an option to beep when a setting is changed so when you're using multiple strobes, you know which one is adjusted and there's an audible confirmation of the change. Such is my faith in these units, the beep got annoying, as it was so unnecessary considering the adjustments were always registered without fail.
Battery life is good, with up to 500 full-power flashes before a recharge is required. The battery indicator is accurate and gives plenty of warning of a low battery. The batteries are removable, rechargeable and the unit comes with a battery charger that gives an accurate indication of charge level. The batteries do take quite some time to charge from empty, I usually leave them overnight before a shoot.
The more recent AD200 Pro model claims improved consistent color accuracy, but this has never been an issue to me. If consistent and specific color temperature is absolutely crucial, I'd likely opt for something bigger than a $300 pocket flash. For weddings, events, outdoor portraits in pretty much any conditions, these little strobes are more than capable, lightweight, versatile enough, and incredibly reliable in my experience.
Pros and Cons
I have owned five AD200 units since 2017 and currently have three functioning units. It's safe to say that I am a big fan of these versatile little strobes, but they aren't perfect.
- Size and weight are great, they'll fit into most camera bag flashgun pockets
- More powerful than most flashguns
- Very simple to set up and use
- Versatile with fresnel and bare bulb heads included
- Removable, rechargeable battery with no need for heavy battery packs
- Solid battery life for the size, around 500 full-power shots on a full battery
- Built-in LED modelling light
- Compatible with a large selection of accessories
- High-speed sync up to 1/8,000 s
- Lots of wireless channels and options for multiple strobes
- Easy to switch head using a single spring-loaded switch
- Durability can be an issue, as I've broken two units simply by light stands falling over while on location
- Menu isn't particularly intuitive
- Battery takes a long time to recharge, so definitely invest in spares if you shoot for extended periods
- Not as powerful as most studio strobes
- Modeling light barely bright enough
In 2020, Godox released the AD200 Pro which currently retails for $350, which is around $50 more per strobe. There's some great quality of life improvements, such as a more pronounced power switch, more solid fixing for the included tripod mount, minimum power down to 1/256, and a claimed "more consistent color temperature," within 100 K. More helpful improvements are the slightly recessed LCD screen for increased durability and addition of two more buttons to reduce the need for long presses. Is it worth an extra $50 per unit? In my opinion, no. But if highly consistent color temperature is critical for you, then the Pro model may be for you.
Given the popularity of the Godox AD200, there have been the expected clones from other budget brands. A couple of notable clones are the Yongnuo YN200 for $190 and the GVM Speedlite for $300. Both boast similar power output and battery life as the AD200, but the Yongnuo has a fixed bare bulb and the GVM has a fixed fresnel head, so you'd need one of each to match the versatility of the Godox AD200.
In my opinion, the Godox AD200 is the most cost-effective, versatile, and practical small strobe available right now. If I'm in the studio on a commercial shoot and need something with a lot more punch, I'll rent the biggest studio setup I need. However, in my kit bag, I'll always have a few AD200 strobes.
If you're a hobbyist looking to learn off-camera flash, then these are a great starting point that will allow you to grow your kit as you learn, with strobes in up to six groups that can be controlled by a single XPro transmitter. Wedding and event photographers would also benefit from the long battery life, compact size, and enough power for shooting all day on location. The AD200 can absolutely be used by working professionals, but for color-critical work or large studio shoots, you'd be better off using something bigger.
Have you used the Godox AD200? What was your experience with this pocket flash system? Do you have any alternatives you prefer? Let me know in the comments.
All of the portraits in this article were taken using between one and three AD200 strobes using Bowens mount modifiers.