Upgrading to Godox/Flashpoint AD400 Strobes

Discussion in 'Lighting and Hardware' started by adamhiram, Nov 30, 2019.

  1. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    [​IMG]
    20191127-DSC_5960a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    I recently upgraded from TT600 speedlights to bigger AD400 monolights following a prior discussion and some great Black Friday sales. I started this thread to share some of my thoughts on transitioning to bigger lights as well as create a convenient place to ask questions, which I seem to have a lot of.

    Some initial observations:
    • These lights are huge compared to speedlights. By volume, the AD400 is about 6x the size, but it doesn’t exactly fit in my camera bag. The case it comes with is about 20x as big. Practically speaking, this basically just means carrying an extra case for each light, unless I pickup a dedicated case for lighting gear.
    • The increase in weight is significant as well. The light itself is about 4.5x as heavy, but is closer to 8x with the case. For 3 lights, this means going from transporting around 3lbs to more than 26lbs.
    • The power output is impressive, as expected. I metered it at almost exactly 4x as bright as a TT600 at full power. The modeling light is pretty bright as well, at least for studio use.
    • Recycle time is incredible. As I mentioned in another thread, reviews typically focus on recycle time at full power, and 1s between shots at 400Ws is already pretty impressive. But at 1/32 power, I can shoot continuously at 10fps. At 1/16 power I am still at 9fps. Even at 1/8 power which is equivalent to where I typically max out with speedlights, a can still shoot reliably at 4fps with no misfires. So far, this seems to me like the biggest benefit to upgrading to bigger lights.
    I will also add that I haven't gotten much use from the modeling lights so far, although I can certainly see their value. Practicing on myself, I obviously can't see anything without taking test shots, and when photographing a preschooler, I am more likely to opt for a lighting pattern with wider coverage and even shoot a bit wide to keep a fidgety subject in the frame, so precise light placement isn't critical there. However it was still helpful in placing a grid spot on the background without a half dozen test shots and adjustments, and feathering the key light to minimize spill on the background was much quicker to do in real time. Hair light placement was a breeze as well, albeit an exercise in futility with the aforementioned preschooler. I'm sure I will get more use out of the modeling lights when I have a chance to work with an adult subject, other than myself.


     
  2. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I wanted to understand the differences in working with bigger lights, so I setup both TT600 speedlights and AD400 monolights and ran them through their paces.

    The first test I ran was to see how the spread differed when used as a background light. Each light was positioned 5’ from a gray seamless background, which is pretty typical for the space I have to work with. The speedlight was used bare and zoomed to its widest setting (20mm), while the monolight was used with the stock 4” reflector. The difference is pretty noticeable in these test shots, with the monolight having a much more uniform spread. In practice I don’t know how much difference this really makes - for a half body portrait, I would be cropped in much tighter, often with a larger aperture, and focused 2-3’ in front of the light stand. When using a painted canvas backdrop, any unevenness becomes even less noticeable. However I’m glad to see this improvement here if needed.

    [​IMG]
    20191127-DSC_5897a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    Something I commonly use in headshots and some creative portraits is a grid spot behind the subject. With speedlights, I use a Rogue Flash Grid, which can be configured for different spreads, and has worked very well for me. Since I don’t have this capability out of the box with the monolight, I picked up the inexpensive barn door and grid attachment for the AD400, hoping it would have a narrow enough spread to be useful. As you can see in the examples below, it’s not bad, but really not the right grid. The barn doors helped control spill, but didn't really add anything otherwise. Would my best bet be to pickup a standard 7” Bowens mount reflector and a set of grids to achieve this effect?

    [​IMG]
    20191127-DSC_5901a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr
     
  3. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    This purpose of this next example was to illustrates the quality of light from a speedlight vs. monolight inside of a double-diffused softbox and the same power output. To be honest, I don’t see much difference once inside the modifier.

    [​IMG]
    20191127-DSC_5932a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    I was also curious how the spread differed looking at the front of the softbox. In this example, the light is double-diffused, with the flash firing forward and no deflector disk. As expected, the speedlight creates a slight hotspot in the center, since it is firing forward through a fresnel lens. The monolight creates more even light from its bare bulb, although it has the opposite effect with light spilling around the inner diffusion. This difference wasn’t particularly noticible by the time the light hit the subject.

    [​IMG]
    20191127-DSC_5956a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    Using a larger modifier, like a 12”x56” strip box that also included a deflector plate, the difference was a little more noticeable, with the speedlight producing a brighter hotspot in the center, and with more falloff towards the outer edges. I didn’t test how this difference showed when lighting a subject, but in this case power became a bigger differentiator anyway.
     
  4. JBPhotog

    JBPhotog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Congrats on the major upgrade, the Ad400’s are really nice units.

    Get a grid set that works with your holder, typically they come in 10, 20, 30 and 40 degree set. Dispense with the barn doors since they are virtually useless on strobes for cutting with a grid(the grid is doing the cutting anyway). Spill with a grid is best handled with a flag if there is any, in most cases there won’t be. Barn doors can come in handy to C-47 a gel in front of a grid rather than tape, heat melts adhesive.

    One advantage of decent modelling lights are to reduce the size of the subjects pupil. This creates more natural eye colour and prevents them looking like they are on some illicit drugs.;)
     
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  5. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    @adamhiram interesting write-up. I think you'll find there are still some cases where speedlights are better on location, but in studio you'll find the strobes better. One thing that's helped me in lighting placement in studio is working in a darkened space, using the modeling lights for lighting. By switching them on one by one, it makes it easier to see the placement. As you get into more complex setups with more then 3 lights the modeling lights become essential.

    I just completed a series of Christmas shots, on 7 children ranging in age from 3 to 7. Lighting them is as you say more a zone approach, but I've found that rear ends on a chair, feet off the floor, and something to hold, goes a long way toward minimizing movement.

    Looking forward to seeing your next project with your son, seeing him always makes me smile.
     
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  6. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Good write-up I hope you have a great time with these new lights, they really sound fantastic .One second recycle at 400 watt seconds really does sound great
     
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  7. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    That's the plan! It's a shame - I was hoping the accessory kit would do the trick, as it is much more compact and even fits in the existing case. I didn't have much interest in the barn door attachment, but the stock 4" reflector has a nice even spread, and the attachment holds both gels and a grid. I don't mind cutting out 4" circles from larger gel sheets, but unfortunately the grid just isn't tight enough, and I don't know of any other options that will fit in a proprietary 4" holder. Looks like I'll likely go with something like this, which is along the lines of what you mentioned.

    This was mentioned in a prior post, and after looking back at older portraits I've done, does not seem to be an issue most of the time. I tend to keep my makeshift living room studio moderately lit with indirect lighting, and just kill the ambient through camera settings, so I didn't notice any particularly large pupils. This definitely makes sense shooting in a darker environment, but most of the time is not how I have worked.
     
  8. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Great advice, and definitely something I will keep in mind! I think it will be a while before I start working with more than 3 lights, although it's nice to have the option of still using my speedlights on the same wireless system.

    I hope everything went well once you got your lighting dialed in, and hopefully the older kids were more cooperative than the little ones can be! I've definitely picked up some tricks to keeping a younger subject in place, from giving him something to hold, to having him sit on a seat, to marking the floor with masking tape so I know where to put the seat back after he moves it, and even weighing it down with sandbags so he can't move it.
     
  9. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Looking at the link you provided earlier to the grid set am I wrong or is it $16.75 cheaper to buy the Grid set and the reflector as separate items?

    I think that a 7 inch reflector would be the best first size to get for most grid uses.
     
  10. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Good catch, what a strange way to price it. Looks like I'll eventually need to repurchase gels as well - I think my last set was from Lee but precut for smaller lights, not sure if there's much difference between those and Rosco. I just wish it wasn't $7 a sheet for specific colors if I don't want an entire gel set!
     
  11. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    They all had their moments. Having everything dialed in before hand is the key. Camera was on a tripod, theathered to Lr, I used f7.1 as the aperture for a good DOF, and had the focus set to selected multiple points, to cover the area their faces would be in, that allowed me to watch them, not the camera, while firing away. I had intended on trying facial tracking, but forgot all about it.

    One added thought on modeling lights, in big soft boxes heat isn't as much a factor, but reflectors and snoots can get warm fast. Add grids and they get real hot, something to remember if using gels. Normally once dialed in I turn those modeling lights off.
     
  12. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Same here, minus the tethering. Rather than focusing for each shot, I often pre-focus for the first shot and make sure to have sufficient DoF that as long as the chair doesn't move, the eyes will stay in focus. For a recent shoot, 8' distance at 85mm, f/8 meant about 5" in either direction was okay and I could interact with the subject more. With a basic 1-3 light setup, I still don't see a drastic difference with modeling lights for pre-setup. It speeds up the process, sure, but a few test shots from speedlights to get everything positioned, a few more to meter flash power, and I'm all set.

    This was a big factor in waiting to get bigger strobes - Flashpoint/Godox have similar powered lights for under $100 that are A/C powered and use halogen modeling lights. Safety was a big concern with the little one around, and hot bulbs combined with trip hazards seemed like an accident waiting to happen. These strobes use LED modeling lights which should definitely help with that, although at this brightness they still generate a good amount of heat.
     

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