Godox AD600 Pro electronic flash

During my film photography time, I used perhaps a dozen different models of speedlights. The most sophisticated was a small Olympus speedlight that, together with my Olympus film SLRs, allowed automatic exposure without pre-flashes, by measuring in real time the amount of light reflected by the film during the exposure and quenching the flash once it had emitted enough light.

After switching to digital photography, I continued to use a number of camera-mounted, battery-operated speedlights. Digital cameras do not allow the same type of real-time TTL flash exposure control as my former Olympus OM-2n and T20, and need to perform a pre-flash, a fraction of a second before the actual exposure, in order to allow the camera to measure the amount of light reflected by the scene and collected by the lens, and calculate the correct flash power to use during the "real" exposure.

After switching from Nikon DSLRs to Olympus and Sony mirrorless cameras, I used a couple of Metz camera-mounted TTL speedlights and two large Bowens mains-powered studio monolights incapable of TTL exposure. About seven years ago, I added to my kit two Godox AD200 units, which are a cross between a large battery-operated speedlight and a (physically) very small monolight studio strobe. The AD200 can be equipped with multiple types of head (rectangular speedlight-style, round speedlight-style, LED-only, and naked-tube studio-strobe-style), and interfaces with the camera through a dedicated 2.4 GHz radio controller mounted on the flash hot shoe of the camera.

A different controller is available for each major camera brand. In this way, the very same AD200 unit is capable of TTL operation with most popular DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Since that time, I used the AD200s for virtually all my flash photography.

The separate flash controllers for each camera brand are so versatile that I can alternately shoot with my OM System OM-1 and Sony A7R II by just putting down one camera and picking up the other, without changing a single setting on the cameras, controllers or flash.

After a few years, Godox replaced the AD200 with a more expensive but identically sized AD200 Pro. The main difference is a new operating mode that keeps the color temperature more constant when the flash emission power changes. The AD Pro line was gradually expanded with units emitting 100, 300, 400, 600 and 1,200 Ws. Godox continues to produce also numerous non-Pro models of studio strobes, which are mostly mains powered, and mostly lack TTL exposure. I have no direct experience with these Godox non-Pro strobes. Among the Godox LED light sources for photography, I use several LED64 mini-panels, but none of the larger models.

Godox also markets LED strobes, which can work like ordinary LED panels but in flash mode emit a strong, strobe-like pulse of LED light during the exposure. These LED strobes are an interesting idea, but at present they cannot directly compete with the combination of high brightness and short exposure time of xenon-tube strobes.

The power specifications of Godox studio strobes are fully realistic, unlike many speedlights and studio strobes addressed mainly to amateur photographers, which emit far less than the specified power (in some cases, less than half). The actual light power measured at the position of the subject is largely affected also by the reflector and/or light modifiers in use. Reflectors equipped with silvered surfaces tend to be more efficient than identically shaped white reflectors (by roughly 1-1.5 stops), and to produce a higher contrast than the latter.

AD 600 Pro

The latest addition to my photographic illumination equipment is an AD600 Pro, which I equipped right from the start with AC adapter as an alternative to battery. My main reason for this purchase is that the 200 Ws of the AD200 are not quite enough when using strongly diffusing light modifiers. For example, in product photography like the pictures illustrating this review, I use a small (30 cm) beauty dish on the strobe, placed quite close to a pop-up diffusing cube for product photography. I use three different sizes of diffusing cubes, and the largest one (90 x 90 x 80 cm) requires an increased distance from the beauty dish and is especially light-hungry. Shooting at f/8 to f/11 at base ISO with the AD200 and a light cube, I often find myself underexposing because the strobe already fires at maximum power. The AD600 Pro gives me an extra margin of 1.5 stops over the AD200, which often makes the difference between shooting at the aperture and ISO I want, instead of being forced to open the lens aperture and/or increase the ISO.

While the AD200 can be regarded as a hybrid between a battery-powered speedlight and a studio strobe, the AD600 Pro is 100% a studio strobe in all important regards, except being battery-powered by default. This strobe is also equipped with a LED modeling light, useful to preview the effect of the strobe light, but not strong enough to be used as a continuous light source. In the presence of strong ambient light, the faithfulness of the modeling light as a strobe preview is of course limited.

Among other things, this strobe is equipped with an attachment for a 5/8"(16mm) so-called baby stud, which is the type of attachment used by virtually all studio strobes (but not the AD200). When mounted atop a vertical baby stud, the strobe can tilt upwards up to 90° and downward over 90°, thanks to the presence of two stud sockets at 90° to each other. To switch between these sockets, you also need to unscrew the locking bolt from one socket and screw it into the other. The sockets are too close to each other to allow both to simultaneously carry a locking bolt (this could be allowed by moving one of the threaded holes for the locking bolt to the opposite side of the stud attachment).

Godox markets multiple non-Pro models of AD600, with different external appearance and capabilities. Some non-Pro models of AD600 have a cylindrical "tin can" body quite similar to that of many other brands of studio strobes, while others have a more squarish cross-section. The AD600 Pro is the most expensive and most capable among the current AD600 models.

When ordering, make sure you are choosing the exact model you desire. The differences among the AD600 models are significant.

The next step up in the Pro series would be the Godox AD1200 Pro, which is not a monolight but has separate generator/battery and head.

There is also a cheaper AD400 Pro model with 400 Ws power, which is moderately smaller than the AD600 Pro but very similar in shape and equipped with a proprietary mount for light modifiers. A removable Bowens-mount adapter is included. This model does not provide an option for AC power, and the battery, light reflector and xenon tube are not compatible with the ones for the AD600 Pro.

The AD600 Pro is by default equipped with a relatively large lithium-polymer rechargeable battery. The battery can be connected with the supplied charger either when mounted on the strobe or detached from the latter. The battery can be charged even while the strobe in use, but charging is far too slow to keep up with the power required by an average use of the strobe.

If you Google the Godox AD600 Pro, you can easily find multiple posts by users reporting that the AD600 Pro battery may fail to recharge if allowed to completely discharge during use or lengthy storage. It is also reported by multiple sources that shorting two dedicated contacts on the electronics PCB in the battery casing, while the battery is connected to a charger, resets the battery electronics and allows the battery to charge normally afterwards.

Godox warns against leaving the battery connected to the charger for an extended time after fully charging.

The AC adapter that replaces the AD600 Pro battery is a necessity if you use the strobe for an extended time at a fixed position in a studio/lab environment. It is also an insurance that allows you to continue working (at least in the studio) if your battery should develop the fault described in online posts.

Godox markets four series of radio controllers to mount on the hot shoe of your camera. I strongly recommend the more expensive and physically larger X Pro or Xpro II series. I started out with the X1 controllers, but some of them never worked, others never accepted firmware upgrades, and others yet were temperamental and could not be relied upon to work when needed. In the end I just threw all of them them away and bought X Pro controllers. They just work, without fuss.

Godox retired a few of the original X1 controllers and added a new, hopefully better, X2 series. They also flanked the X Pro series with an X Pro II series with slight improvements and a significant price mark-up. Godox still markets all four series. Amazon sellers advertise a potpourri of all four series, including models no longer offered on the Godox web site (caveat emptor).

AD200 & AD600 Pro
Figure 1. Godox AD200 (left), Godox AD600 Pro (center and right).
 

Figure 1 shows the AD200 and AD600 Pro side-by-side. The AD200 in the figure is equipped with strobe head and optional reflector. The AD600 Pro is complete with all default accessories (battery, xenon tube, reflector, front cap). Battery charger is also included, but not shown in figure. The main differences:

AD200 AD600 Pro
Weight 0.89 kg with speedlight head and battery Weight 3.53 kg with battery, tube, standard reflector, and front cap
Body size 168 x 75 x 50 mm, no head Body size 325 x 125 x 155 mm including battery, folded-up mount for baby stud, tube, standard reflector, and front cap
Plastic outer casing Plastic outer casing and handle, metal mount for baby stud
LCD screen on rear LCD screen on left side
5 buttons and 1 rotary dial near LCD display 9 buttons and 1 rotary dial near LCD display
Multiple 1/4-20 brass screw sockets, no mount for baby stud Built-in metal mount with dual sockets for baby stud, inclination is continuously adjustable
Requires mounting on a tripod head to allow inclination adjustment Attachment inclination adjustable by over 180°
Can in principle be held in the left hand, while the camera is held in the right hand Difficult to hand-hold together with a camera, unless a custom bracket or a remote head is used
Power switch (slider) on left side Power switch (pushbutton) on underside, near handle
No handle Removable rear plastic handle
Battery inserts in right side, near rear Battery attaches at rear
No battery test button on battery Battery test button and 4-LED battery status display
No AC power option Optional AC power supply, replaces battery
Battery must be extracted from unit and inserted in charger. Cannot be charged in place Battery can be charged in place, also when strobe is powered on (but charging is too slow to allow repeated strobing if battery is near-exhausted)
Speedlight-style head interchangeable with studio strobe-style head with mount for light modifiers No interchangeable head
Proprietary mount for light modifiers. An ungainly holder for the AD200 allows the use of Bowens-style light modifiers. Built-in mount for Bowens-style light modifiers
Extension cable replaces head and allows mounting either head almost 1 m away from main body Extension cable plugs into xenon tube socket and includes a replacement head with modeling light up to 1 m away from unit
Xenon tube in strobe-style head has no built-in diffuser Glass enclosure of xenon tube has a disk-shaped built-in diffuser at front
No built-in mount for umbrella-style light modifier Built-in metal mount for umbrella-style light modifier
Nominal power 200 Ws Nominal power 600 Ws
Recycle time 2.1 s after full-power flash, with fully charged battery Recycle time 0.9 s after full-power flash, with fully charged battery or AC power supply
Up to 500 full-power flashes, with fully charged battery Up to 360 full-power flashes, with fully charged battery
GN 60 with strobe-style head and AD-S2 reflector GN 87 with standard reflector
Very weak (probably 1-2 W) LED modeling light, only in speedlight-style head 38 W built-in LED modeling light, proportional intensity (only in M mode) or adjustable intensity
No cooling fan Cooling fan in body, runs continuously when modeling light is on (except at minimum power). Additional cooling fan in AC supply
Not humidity- and rain-proof. Must not be used when wet (risk of electrocution!) Not humidity- and rain-proof. Must not be used when wet (risk of electrocution!)

As a whole, the AD600 Pro is less modular than the AD200. The latter can be equipped with different types of head, but there is no speedlight-style head for the AD600 Pro. On the other hand, the AD600 Pro can use virtually any of the hundreds of Bowens-style light modifiers on the market, with the possible exception of very heavy ones that would put a strain on the Bowens plastic mount of the unit.

The AD600 Pro has a USB type A connector, protected by a rubber flap, on the top of the casing, where you can plug in a wireless receiver. It is only useful if you want to use a non-Godox wireless controller (in M mode only, I believe). A second rubber flap nearby covers a USB type C connector, used to upgrade the firmware via a Windows PC (sorry, Mac and Linux users, but the reality is that Windows accounts for over 72% of the PC market), and a 3.5 mm jack socket, used for triggering the strobe in M mode from a camera hot shoe.

Special settings and behaviors

If you are familiar with studio strobes, most of the menu settings of the Godox AD600 Pro will require no explanation. The following explanations are not a substitute for the AD600 Pro user guide, which you should always consult for unfamiliar settings.

Power switch

First of all, the power switch does not respond immediately to pressing. It must be kept pressed for one second (or possibly a little longer) before the strobe turns on. This is probably meant to reduce the likelihood that the power button is accidentally pressed while the strobe is being handled. On the other hand, the strobe switches off even with a very brief pressing of the button. The power button is also a little recessed, and requires some strength to be pushed in. Its location on the underside and close to the base of the handle places it out of sight in normal use, and it may initially take some effort to find it just by touch.

Channel and Group

You need to configure in the strobe a Channel on which to listen for radio remote controllers. The strobe (or at least my specimen) comes from the factory configured as Channel 1. Unless you are already using other Godox strobes, you can leave this configuration untouched. Then, you need to make sure that the strobe controller is set to use Channel 1, or whatever channel you configured in the strobe. The controller can work with multiple groups and channels simultaneously, but the strobe has no Group setting. Do not change the ID setting on the strobe, unless you have a reason to (the default is OFF). The X Pro controllers have a setting for the distance between controller and strobe, which may need adjusting.

TTL mode

At this point, you can change mode on the controller. TTL flash exposure with studio strobes is quite common these days, and should require little explanation, except for the bits specific to the Godox radio controllers.

Set the controller to TTL and press the test flash button on the controller. If the strobe flashes, you are essentially ready to use the strobe. If not, go once more through the configuration of strobe and controller (in particular, make sure that the channel you configured is in an active Group (groups can be individually deactivated on the controller).

Exposure compensation

As a test, change the exposure compensation by turning the dial on the controller, and shoot a few test pictures with this setting at different values. Note that the exposure compensation displayed on the strobe, on the controller and on the camera are all independent of each other, so you need to remember where you are using non-zero flash exposure compensation. The setting on the camera is global and controls all strobes. Depending on the camera, the exposure compensation setting may affect both ambient-light and strobe exposure, or the camera may have two independent settings for either light source. The setting on the controller affects the current group. The setting on the strobe affects the individual strobe. The actual exposure factor is the sum of all three factors (e.g., if you set +2 on the camera, -1 on the controller and -1 on the strobe, you end up with a flash exposure compensation factor of zero.

Modeling light

In TTL mode, you can set the modeling light intensity to a % setting of the full power. Up to 20% lets the strobe work without using the internal fan. Above 20 % the fan is continuously turning, regardless of the strobe temperature.

The MODEL setting on the strobe controls whether the modeling light is continuously on, or switches off while the strobe recharges. I find it convenient to use the last setting, as a confirmation that the strobe fired correctly and is ready to fire again. One of the buttons on the main unit can be used to switch off the modeling light.

The LIGHT setting on the strobe has nothing to do with the modeling light. It controls whether the backlighting of the LCD display is permanently on, permanently off, or switches off after 15 seconds of inactivity.

Color temperature

The COLOR setting on the strobe controls whether the setting of stable color temperature is in use. When engaged, the color temperature remains very nearly constant (±75 °K) regardless of the emitted power, but the actual duration of the discharge increases, so you may wish to disable this setting when photographing subjects that move rapidly.

Delay

The DELAY setting (up to 30 s in hundredths of seconds) on the strobe controls the delay between triggering and firing, but only in M (Manual) mode, not in TTL mode. The strobe display counts down the time to firing.

The camera knows nothing of this setting, so it triggers the shutter immediately, unless configured with its own delay.

Mode setting

The MODE setting on the controller overrides the setting on the strobe (except when the latter is in Multi mode), but changing MODE on the controller does not display the new mode on the strobe until the controller fires the strobe. In other words, the mode displayed on the strobe is not necessarily the actual mode, until after the strobe fires. Therefore, don't rely on the mode displayed on the strobe.

M mode

In M (manual) mode, the strobe does not pre-flash, and flashes at the fixed intensity previously set with the dial of the controller (between 1/1 and 1/256 of full power). This is the typical way pre-TTL studio strobes operated. In exposure values, this range is equivalent to 8 stops. This setting can be changed in steps of 0.1 stops.

Old, pre-TTL speedlights and some studio strobes could use a photocell pointed toward the subject to achieve a sort-of automatic exposure. This required the flash and camera to be manually set to the same aperture and ISO values. TTL strobes and speedlights do not need this operating mode anymore, and do not have this photocell. The AD600 Pro does have a photocell for triggering the strobe as a slave, behind a red transparent window on the top of the strobe.

Multi mode

In this mode, the strobe works like a stroboscope. This mode is not available on my X Pro controllers, so I set it on the strobe.

After entering this mode, set the strobe power the same way you do in M (manual) mode. For sequences of many flashes in rapid succession, you need to use a very low power, lest the strobe will not recycle fast enough and the sequence will not complete. Then press the SET button on the strobe and choose the number of flashes (up to 100). Press SET again, and choose the flash frequency in Hz (up to 100). Press SET once more, and the strobe is ready. All these settings are displayed on the strobe display.

To use this mode, set the controller to M mode and trigger the camera. The camera, of course, must be set to a manual exposure length at least equal to the total duration of the stroboscopic sequence.

Keep in mind that ambient light (as well as the light from the strobe modeling light, if activated) combines with the strobe emission during the camera exposure, so in most cases you will want to shoot in complete darkness and against a black background. In extreme cases, you will also need to turn off the backlight of the strobe display and controller display, as well as the camera's LCD. You will also need to disable AF and set the focus manually before starting the stroboscopic series.

AC26 power supply

AD600 power
Figure 2. WB26 battery (left) and AC26 power supply (right) for AD600 Pro.
 

The AD600 Pro is by default equipped with a relatively large lithium-polymer rechargeable battery. The battery can be replaced with an AC power supply, available as a separately purchased option, that allows continuous mains powering.

Google shows that specimens of the AC power supply for the AD600 Pro are variously branded as Godox AC26 or Godox AD-AC. I don't know if the two model types are different in any respect, but both the outer appearance and the specifications are the same (up to 240 VAC input, 12 VDC 20A output). Mine, purchased in early 2024, is the AC26. It is possible that AD-AC was an earlier model name.

The battery that comes with this strobe is model WB26, which follows the same style of model naming.

The AC26 power supply contains a fan, visible through the ventilation grille on the left side of the strobe. A ventilation grille is also present on the right side. The fan is normally off, and in normal use I did not see it turning on (but in my typical work, I never shoot rapid sequences of flashes at high power). A rocker switch on the rear controls power to the supply, but does not replace the function of the power switch, which still must be used. A LED on the rear of the supply lights up when the supply is powered, and remains lighted also when the strobe is turned off with its power button. Use the rocker switch to completely shut off the power supply.

New users could be left puzzled by the fact that, with the AC26, the AD600 Pro effectively has two power switches, both of which must be turned on for the strobe to work. Additionally, the AC26 must be turned on first, the AD600 Pro afterwards. Doing it in reverse order does not work. On the other hand, to switch off everything, it is sufficient to just flip the rocker switch of the AC26.

The double-trouble with the dual power switch is a consequence of the fact that the AC power supply was designed as an afterthought, not as a planned part of the system. For example, with the AC supply in use, the LCD display of the strobe still shows a full battery, so the strobe simply does not know it is running on AC. With proper planning, these problems could have been avoided e.g. by equipping the battery with a power switch, instead of the main body of the strobe. Placing this power switch on the rear of the battery would also make it more visible and accessible. Another alternative is using one or two of the 12 contacts between body and power source (only 8 of these contacts carry the supply current) to transmit a power-on/power-off signal from the switch on the body to the electronics in the AC supply.

Still, I find it very useful to have an AC power supply, especially since I may occasionally skip using the strobe for weeks, and by the time I need it again the battery might require topping up.

The power supply increases the length of the strobe by almost 4 cm, compared to the battery, and weighs 550 g, exactly like the battery. A generously long power cable (5 m) comes with the power supply.

Tube socket and tube

AD200 & AD600Pro
Figure 3. Godox AD600 Pro, front.
 

Figure 3 shows the front of the AD600 Pro, with Bowens-style attachment for light modifiers, electrical contacts for xenon tube, and LED cob (modeling light). The grille slits in the aluminum plate allow the passage of air blown by the internal fan.

AD600 Pro tube
Figure 4. Godox AD600 Pro xenon tube.
 

Figure 4 shows the xenon tube of the AD600 Pro. It only has four electrical contacts, of which one is not used. The additional electrical contacts at the front of the AD600 Pro main unit are used for the H600P extension cable (e.g. to power the modeling light in the strobe head permanently attached at the end of the H600P).

If you decide to add an extension cord and remote flash head, make sure you get the H600P model. An earlier model had a design fault that prevented it from mounting securely on the main body of the strobe. The AD-H600 and AD-H600B are different remote flash heads for the AD600B and AD600BM, and are not designed for use with the AD600 Pro.

I don't know whether the remote head contains a fan. It would not surprise me if it does, given that this head also contains a 38 W modeling light. The casing of this head has small ventilation slits, and the aluminum plate that carries the LED cob has identical cooling slits as the one on the strobe.

The xenon tube is covered by a non-removable Pyrex protecting shell with the dual function of protecting the tube from fingerprints (which would cause the tube to heat up unevenly and ultimately to crack and explode), as well as to contain the glass shards if the tube does explode (which remains an unavoidable risk in high-power strobes). Do not try to remove the Pyrex shell, and do not operate the strobe if the shell becomes cracked or falls off (in either case, purchase a complete replacement tube). The tube shows the tell-tale yellowish color cast of the UV-cut vacuum-deposited gold coating, present on all but the cheapest photographic xenon tubes. The shell has no visible coating.

The holes in the shell allow both cooling air and the blast of air pressure and heat caused by the discharge to escape. This blast is what causes the audible "pop" that accompanies the discharge of a studio strobe.

The front of the shell carries an integral, non-removable diffuser. It helps to reduce the hot spot in the center of the strobe emission, compared to a "naked" xenon tube.

Always wear clean cotton gloves when handling the pyrex shell. Fingerprints absorb the abundant NIR radiation emitted by the plasma arc, heat up the shell unevenly, and may eventually cause it to shatter. Never put your naked fingers into the hole at the back of the shell.

Periodically inspect the tube surface within the shell for any dirt, fluff, molds, dead insects etc. that may have found their way into the shell. Blowing with a rubber bulb (not with your mouth!) into the large opening in the rear of the shell is the first thing you should try to remove any foreign material, followed if necessary by cleaning the tube with a soft brush through the same hole.

Summary

The Godox AD600 Pro is an advanced, cost-effective for its capabilities, TTL studio strobe that, together with Godox radio strobe controllers, allows TTL exposure on most modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras. A setting that enhances the stability of color temperature across the whole range of emitted power (at the expense of a moderate increase in flash duration, especially at low power) can help to obtain a consistent color balance. The Bowens-style attachment for light modifiers means that this strobe can use a very broad range of compatible light modifiers made by third parties.