Let me start by stating that no company is currently paying me, giving me free equipment, or listing me as a sponsored-photographer in exchange with my enthusiastic reviews. It’s just that I know how hard it is to choose a studio equipment set-up, and since I’m happy with my new one, I’m sharing my thoughts and choices with you!Within the last month, almost all my studio equipment has been replaced with a new, Fuji-centered, set-up, especially in terms of lights, diffusers, and stands. Since this was the first time I did such a major update, the whole “figuring out what to buy” wasn’t a breeze, but required a whole couple of weeks on the internet looking for options and reading reviews. A month later, and with a few shootings done both in the studio and in locations, I can finally state that I did my job right, and that the new equipment really fits my photographic approach.
Before I had (well, still have, they’re on sale right now) two Elinchrom RX, excellent studio strobes, and four Yongnuo 568 EXII, good hot-shoe flashes. With them I had a whole set of diffusers, all Elinchrom-compatible, and four adapters to mount the diffusers also on the hot-shoe flashes. Of the Elinchrom RX I loved the quality of light and the power, but I didn’t like the wireless trigger that didn’t control the power, the weight, the size, and the fact that they didn’t work on batteries, since a lot of my shootings are on locations, often abandoned ones, so with very little/hard/none access to electric plugs. My very first article on FujiLove was about an image created with the Elinchrom RX flashes.
Of the Yongnuo 568 EXII I loved the weight, the size, and the good Yongnuo YN622C triggers that could wirelessly control every single aspect of the flashes. What I didn’t like, though, were the limited power, the long recycle time, the limited number of selectable groups, and the poor light consistency when used in full power. The latter proved to be a real hassle in several occasions, especially when shooting fashion lookbook, where light consistency between shots is mandatory. I used the Yongnuo flashes with my Fujis a lot in the last year, and published several projects here on Fujilove, like these ones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
Looking for a solution that could merge the light quality of the Elinchrom strobes and the size and wireless operability of the Yongnuo, I finally stumbled upon the Godox Witstro AD360 flashes. These are hot-shoe flashes and as such are small and portable, but they are powered by and external battery pack, which makes the recycle time super short (especially when equipping them with the Cable Y adapter). In order to be wirelessly controlled they need the FTR-16 receivers, which allows to select between 16 groups (12 more than the Yongnuo’s) and which is powered directly by the flash (a lot less batteries to pack and recharge). The receivers can be controlled and triggered by the FT16 transmitter, which allows to control the power in 24 steps (the Yongnuo’s trigger allows for 18 steps), can switch on/off the recycle sound-buzz, and is fully compatible with the Fujifilm gear.
Now, Godox has recently released a new, sensibly more expensive model, the AD360 II, which introduces TTL, HSS, and an integrated wireless receiver. While these add-ons may look attractive, please consider that TTL and HSS will work only with Canon, Nikon, or Sony, and that each brand will require a different transmitter to operate. So, buying the newer version will not give you TTL or HSS with your Fujifilm cameras. I personally can live without the TTL functionalities (I would switch it off the 99% of the times), and I like the external wireless receiver no less than the integrated ones. HSS is a different story, one I solved by buying a Cactus II transmitter. The Cactus goes between the camera and the FT16, meaning I first plug the Cactus on the Fuji’s hot-shoe, and then the FT16 on the Cactus hot-shoe, and automagically the whole Godox set-up goes HSS. I tested it, it works, but I still didn’t have the time to plan a proper shooting that uses this function, so you won’t see any photos taken with this set-up here on this article.
The Godox Witstro AD360 Kit I bought came with the battery pack and a standard reflector which can be equipped with white or colored “diffuser disks”, or even with a grid. All the shots with the colored lights were taken using only the standard reflectors and the colored disks. In terms of optional equipment, I had to buy the wireless receivers, the transmitter, the colored disks, the Cable Y, and the Q-Type Clip (to attach the battery pack directly to the light stand).With all this sorted out, I then needed to figure out how to mount the flashes on the light stands and how to mount the light diffusers on the flashes. I decided to get S-Type adapters with Bowens mount. There are many different adapters for using hot-shoe flashes with studio light diffusers, but personally I would recommend the vertical ones, where you “clamp” the flash head inside the light-diffuser mount, while the bottom part has a swivel mechanism that allows for changing the angle of the flash/diffuser. I decided to go for Bowens mount simply because it is my understanding that it’s the most widely used, so it’s the one with the largest number of and easiest to find diffusers.
When choosing the stands and the diffusers, my main requirements were building quality and easiness of assembling-dissembling and packing. The reason why is that I have a small studio and that I shoot in location more than 50% of the times. This means I need to keep my equipment packed all the time, so the time I spend in setting everything up and down, and the number of times I can do that before the equipment starts failing, are both crucial. Stand wise, I went for the Manfrotto Babylight, the ones that extend till 211cm, because of their small (and smart) size when packed. I already own a boom and a mini stand, both Manfrotto, which I’m keeping. I then decided to get two big, 90cm diameter, octagonal Walimex Pro Easy softbox, with Bowens mount. These fellas open and close like umbrellas, which means quick and easy, after which I just need to add the two white diffusion layers to get an incredible large-sized, diffused, high-quality light. All the shots you see with the white light are obtained using only one Godox Witstro AD360 equipped with the Walimex octagonal diffuser.
And with this we finished reviewing my new studio equipment set-up. In the next articles, I will explore more in depth some of my shootings and the camera and flash settings, plus the light positioning. In the meantime, if you have any question regarding any (or all) of this equipment please feel free to ask!