Does an expensive flash really make a difference? AD200 vs. B10 shootout
I have been shooting with strobes for decades. These days, the primary focus of my work is boudoir, and product work. One of the most common questions I get when exhibiting my photography is about how expensive my strobes and camera are. Many people often assume that it takes an expensive setup to get professional results. The Godox AD200 and Profoto B10 both find their home in my location shooting kit, so which one is better? Both strobes are compact, battery powered and trigger via a wireless controller that fits in your camera’s hotshoe. The strobes are close in power output with the B10 offering 250-watt seconds of light and the AD200 coming in at 200 watt seconds. The Profoto B10 retails for just under $1500 and the Godox AD200 lists for just under $300, so given the vast difference in price and similarity in power, there must be a huge difference in the light produced by these strobes right? Let’s talk about it..
I have shot with many different brands and sizes of strobes, Paul Buff, Elichrom, Profoto, Godox, Photoflex, in various configurations from monobloc to power pack. The lesson I have learned after all these years is that no matter how expensive your strobe is, at the end of the day, it will produce light. Some are manual, expecting a connection to your camera via PC cable, and others are wireless. Just like a car, you can spend a ton of money on your strobes and get the flex-worthy Profoto or Broncolor, or you can opt for more budget friendly offerings from Godox or Neewer. So, the B10 and AD200 are both like cars, in the sense that both get you from point A to B, but what is really the difference?
Ferrari Vs. Toyota
The difference between an expensive strobe and a budget friendly one comes down to the sturdiness of the units and the consistency of the light being produced each time the strobe is triggered. For the last few years I have been actively using the B10 and AD200 in my work, so this is not a “fanboy” review. I consider my camera gear a tool and have no loyalty to one brand over another. With that being said, let’s discuss the differences between these two units.
The Profoto strobe in everyday use is sturdier than the AD200 hands down. The Profoto unit can survive a fall from a reasonable height in the studio, while the AD200 is going to end up a mass of pieces scattered all over the floor when the light stand holding it topples over. If you do a ton of location work and find yourself throwing your gear into your bag, where it will get jostled you may consider something sturdier than the AD200.
Consistency in light level output
When a manufacturer cites the light output of a strobe, they often fudge the numbers a bit. This means a strobe rated at 200 watts may or not be equal in light output to another brand or even the same brand of strobe. This is where Profoto fanboys scream about lumen measurements and lux etc. I have been using both of these strobes for a while now and they are pretty close in the amount of light they output – on the first flash. They are not equal when it comes to sustained output. Considering that these are both battery powered strobes, as the battery starts to fade in power, recycle times will get longer on the AD200 and the amount of light that the AD200 delivers can become inconsistent by as much as ½ to 1 stop as the battery nears the end of its useable charge. Conversely, the B10 will output the same amount of light from the first shot to the last with consistent recycle times until the battery is dead. This is good in that you will get expected levels of light delivered to your subject throughout the shoot but can be a surprise if you are not keeping track of the battery level.
Consistency in light color output
The B10 and AD200 differ widely in their ability to deliver consistent light color during a shoot. I use a color checker passport from Datacolor to ensure proper color in my final images. During any given shoot, the AD200 will often deliver a warmer color cast when the strobe fires. This is common with the AD200 and I have seen this on all of my units. One might surmise that a slight color cast would not be a big deal, but getting the color calibration unit in the frame when the strobe delivers a sub-optimal color temperature can be difficult. The color shifts tend to be inconsistent, and this can lead to having to “eyeball” color temperature, in post-production which is not great. The B10 always delivers consistent and predictable color temperature through the shoot. Is this an issue? It depends on your use case, if you are shooting portraits it is probably not an issue, if you are shooting products where the correct color is important it can be a concern.
The AD200 is rated at 0.01-2.1 Sec recycle time while the B10 comes in a bit slower at 0.05-2.0 Sec. I talked a bit about recycle times above, but wanted to mention that even though these two strobes are rated differently on the lower end of the recycle time, in practice I find them very similar when shooting on the lowest power.
This is one aspect of the B10 and AD200 that I constantly struggle with. I expected the AD200 to be much less reliable than the B10. I’m a member of many internet forums about studio lighting, and I have seen numerous testimonials about the AD200’s reliability. There are horror stories about the photographer getting to a shoot and finding that the AD200 unit would not power on. I always take online reviews with a grain of salt because I never know if the person writing the review has an axe to grind with the manufacturer for one reason or another. When I’m shooting on location, I always have backup camera bodies and strobes, so a dead strobe would be an inconvenience, but not a showstopper for my work. I do have to say that I have found the B10 and the AD200 to be nothing but totally reliable in terms of function. I usually charge the units the night before my shoot and remove the batteries from the units to avoid drain. In hundreds of shoots, both units have operated flawlessly.
I run two batteries with each of these strobes. The Profoto B10 is rated at 400 full power flashes and the AD200 comes in at 500 full power flashes per charge. In practice, I use both strobes together because their power consumption is very similar. I don’t often run at full power (unless I’m shooting in bright sun) and I generally have more than enough power for a full shoot without having to change battery on either unit.
Differences in triggers
[Note: these results are based on the latest firmware updates for the triggers as of Summer 2022]
Before we move on to the photo examples, it is important to talk about the triggers and how they interact with the camera to achieve a proper exposure. For this test, I used the Profoto Air Remote-C for Canon cameras and the Flashpoint Xpro Trigger for Canon on a Canon 5DMKIV with the latest firmware release installed. In practice after shooting with these strobes for years,
I have found that Profoto setup tends to trigger more reliably than the Godox does using the Xpro trigger. I would put the performance of the AD200 on par with a shoot using pocketwizards to trigger the strobes, which I also have no complaints about. Both systems are good and have few missed fires, but Profoto is overall better than the AD200. The only time the Profoto trigger starts to drop fires is when the batteries in the trigger are fading.
The other big difference between the two units is the the way them measure light for proper exposure using TTL. Profoto tends to be about half a stop too hot and Godox tends to be about half a stop too dark. This is found when comparing the units in the same environment with the strobes at the same distance from the subject. Overall, not a big deal, and both units can be adjusted to compensate easily.
We can discuss manufacturer’s specifications all day, but what we really came to talk about in this article is the quality of the light these strobes produce and is one worth the more than $1000 difference in price. To give some real-world examples, I set up a melon with the strobes using a the same 8-inch reflector.
As expected here, both strobes give hard light with a sharp transition from light to dark. The AD200 TTL trigger delivered light that was a bit too bright, which I have found is common when shooting colored objects in lower light situations. The light from the B10 was a bit softer – even for hard light and had a softer transition from highlight to shadow. The AD200, even though it is initially a bit too bright gave a better bare bulb performance. This is likely due to the frosted glass in front of the B10 bulb.
For this test, I used a budget 1 X 3 foot strip bank modifier on both strobes. Normally, I would use the Profoto strip bank for color consistency, but for purposes of this test I used the same modifier on both. Both images have nice light and are both a bit underexposed. The B10 is a bit brighter, and closer to proper exposure.
For this test, I shot again with the same light modifier on both strobes. This was the budget 1 X 3 foot strip bank. The light was elevated over the model at about the same distance with both strobes. These images were taken in a darkened studio environment like the melon shots above. The first shot I took with the Profoto B10 was a bit brighter than I wanted and as with previous examples, the Godox setup was underexposed. After a quick adjustment I reached my desired exposure. Can you tell the difference? Does one look like a strobe that costs more than 1000 dollars more than the other? I was mean here, if you would like to know which one is the Profoto strobe and which is the Godox, feel free to drop me a message on twitter or via my contact page here.
Now that you have seen examples of the 300 dollar strobe versus the 1500 dollar strobe, can you look at the product photos here and determine which strobes were used? I’ll give you a hint, both images were taken with bare bulb setups, no light modifiers.
Which one is right for you?
The reasons for getting a more expensive strobe for your work will often come down to the use case for you. Will you be shooting a lot on location? Do you need a sturdy workhorse unit? The job of a strobe is to produce light. The features and the brand will determine the price. Some people like to drive Porsche while others are just as happy to have an old Carola. Both cars are driving on the same road and have the same speed limits. Often the biggest difference comes when something breaks, just like with these two strobes.
Repair costs and experiences for each strobe vary vastly. When I have had issues with my B10, it cost 120 dollars to fix any issue and was sent back quickly in top notch shape. When I had an issue with the AD200, getting hold of customer support was difficult, and once the final cost to have the unit fixed was given to me, it was cheaper to buy another AD200 than to have the broken one repaired. If you need your strobes back ASAP, then the more expensive route is the better option here.
Both strobes are popular and have a lot of accessories available. Profoto accessories are always many times more expensive than comparable accessories. I’m going to give the AD200 the edge here because there are more available for the AD200, including some cool 3d printable goodies. Another thing to mention is that the B10 can also be used as a video light. It boasts 75 minutes of color temperature variable video light use. I have found it easy to use for some down and dirty video work on location.
For me, I use both strobes, but if I was to grab one, it would be the Profoto B10 without hesitation. I can achieve comparable results images that have been exhibited in galleries and printed in magazines, but the AD200 ends up taking more time to work with. The user interface for the B10 is more straightforward, and I never miss a shot when working with a model when I’m using the B10. The shots take less time to post-process because the lighting and color are consistent with the B10. I’m always about taking the path of least resistance, and for me, in my work the B10 is the better choicem even though I can get comparable results with a strobe that costs 1000 dollars less.
Stop the hate
The saddest part about this comparison is all the hate for expensive versus budget photo gear. There’s no reason to hate Profoto because they are expensive and there is no reason to hate Godox because they are cheap. It comes down to the fact that if you get to know your tools and learn to compose an interesting image that your client likes then who cares what you use – as long as you aren’t shooting on a Pentax (KIDDING).
Before you go..
I love to hear from my readers! What do you think about the comparison between these two strobes? Feel free to drop me a message here or any of my social media links below. Here is one more image, can you tell which strobe this was shot with? A hint, it uses the same budget strip bank as the other shots. Tell me about your guess on twitter!
“Ted’s journey into the landscape of the human body is a marvelous celebration of all that is physical, sensual and diverse
” – FSTOPPERS
About the author
Ted Tahquechi is a Denver Colorado based professional landscape and travel photographer, disability travel influencer and is almost completely blind. You can see more of Ted’s photography at: http://www.tahquechi.com/
Ted operates Blind Travels, a travel blog designed specifically to empower blind and visually impaired travelers. https://www.blindtravels.com/
Ted’s body-positive Landscapes of the Body project has been shown all over the world, learn more about this intriguing collection of photographic work at: https://www.bodyscapes.photography/
Questions or comments? Feel free to email Ted at: firstname.lastname@example.org