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Lithium battery flashes are making their way to the market and could change how Nikon and Canon build their flashes. Ever since Godox (also branded as Neewer or Cheetah) introduced its first lithium battery flash Godox V850 back in 2013, users have been praising about them. Godox’s second version of this lithium battery flash Godox V860 has added support for e-TTL/i-TTL, HSS capability up to 1/8000s and full TTL control. The flash has been out for a while but it has been hit by quality issues with the battery. Now that the problem has been resolved, I have picked one up to give it a go. The Godox V860 is selling at about 1/3 of the price of Nikon and Canon’s flagship speedlights.
No more AA’s
The lithium battery is rated at 11.1V 2000 mAh which is equivalent to about 12 AA batteries.It is capable of delivering 650 full power pops with a recycle time of 1.5s. If you are firing with 1/2 power or 1/4 power, you can expect over thousands of pops. For weddings or events, all you need is a couple of spare lithium batteries and that’s it. No more AA batteries.
The Godox V860 is about the same size as the Nikon SB-910 and Canon 600EX. Its build quality is surprisingly very good, it feels solid. All the buttons, LCDs, dials and foot locks are well made, it is not going to fall apart by itself. However the Nikon/Canon speedlights are still better constructed, the dial and buttons feel better on the Nikon’s. If I rate Nikon/Canon’s craftsmanship a 10/10, the Godox v860 gets a 8/10.
The Godox V860 is rated at GN58 about the same as the Nikon SB-910 and Canon 600EX. I took some readings using a Sekonic light meter and found the Godox is slightly more powerful at full power. The Sekonic light meter read f/29 at 1m away from the SB-910 and f/32 at 1m away from the Godox.
I have yet to fully drain the Godox V860, but it is rated for 650 full power flashes. Compare to the Nikon SB-910, I can get about 230-250 full pops. It is crazy to see 12 AA batteries replace by 1 lithium battery. The Godox battery charger can also be charged via a car charger, how convenient is that.
One of the advantages with lithium batteries is their ability to reduce recycle time. The Godox V860 recycle time was tested to be 1.79s (average) at full power. The Nikon SB-910 recyle time was tested to be 2.57s which is 43% slower. The problem with AA batteries is that the recycle time gets longer as the battery starts to drain. Lithium batteries can maintain a more consistent recycle time even when the battery level is low. After an hour of use, the recycle time of the SB-910 has dropped to 3.5s while the V860 maintained at 1.8s (94% faster).
Handling and Operation
My first impression to he Godox V860 is that it is a simple flash with TTL capability whereas the Nikon SB-910 is a much more sophisticated flash. The Godox V860 comes with a foot stand and a carry pouch, it doesn’t come with a diffuser and colour gels. There are also less functionalities with the Godox V860; there are no illumination patters to choose from. The zoom range is only from 24-105mm compares to 17-200mm from SB-910. The buttons are also not backlit, so it is still using the technology from a SB-800. The LCD on the Godox is smaller and has a lower resolution. The interface is simple, there is no distance scale, no thermal protection indicator (but there is a battery level indicator), the menu system is almost non existence. It’s function menu is named, fn00, fn01, fn02, etc, so you can’t really tell what the functions are until you check the manual.
There are some physical differences between the Godox V860 and Nikon SB-910 apart from the size and appearance:
- Godox V860N’s foot lock is a rotational one whereas Nikon SB-910 uses a switch lock.
- The flash head on the Godox V860 has no lock whereas Nikon SB-910 has a lock on the side of the head.
- Godox v860 has direct firmware connectivity via a micro usb connection. Nikon SB-910 needs to update via a DSLR.
The Godox V860 is a basic TTL flash and a lot of users prefer its simplicity. Personally, I like the handling of Nikon flashes, they are more convenient. Especially when working in Master or Slave mode, the SB-700 and SB-900 have a dedicated Master and Remote switch that you can quickly switch to. The V860 requires press and hold the wireless button to change to Master/Slave/S1/S2 modes. The control settings on the Nikon (Master) is also easier to operate, each group’s setting is clearly shown on the LCD. With the Godox you have to cycle through each group to check the setting. There is one advantage that Godox has over the SB-700, the Godox V860 can set each group to TTL or M independently similar to the SB-910. The SB-700 can only choose either all groups TTL or all groups M.
The Godox V860 is TTL and HSS capable. In the earlier version, TTL wasn’t fully accurate, but it has been fixed via firmware update since version 1.8. The latest firmware is version 2.1 (Jul, 2015). To make a flash compatible with Nikon and Canon’s TTL function is a challenging task and it seems Godox has done it. There is no problem with the Godox V860 communicating with Nikon flashes in both Master and Slave modes. I have tested Godox’s TTL and compared to the Nikon SB-910 using bounce flash and direct flash both on camera. The Godox’s TTL is matching with the Nikon SB-910.
Bounce flash – Godox V860 vs Nikon SB-910
Camera setting – ISO 100 | f/5.6 | 1/200s | TTL
Direct flash – Godox V860 (flash zoom to 24mm) vs Nikon SB-910 (flash zoom to 24mm)
In the direct flash test, the shutter speed was set to 1/8000s to confirm its capability with TTL and HSS modes. I have set both flash zoom to 24mm manually to give it a more even spread.
Camera setting – ISO 100 | f/5.6 | 1/8000s | TTL (HSS)
Direct flash – Godox V860 (flash zoomed to 50mm) vs Nikon SB-910 (Flash zoomed to 50mm center-weighted)
The Godox V860 has only one standard illumination pattern and when compared to Nikon SB-910’s different illumination patterns, it shows a clear difference.
Camera setting – ISO 100 | f/5.6 | 1/8000s | TTL (HSS)
Off camera Flash
As far as I know, the Yongnuo 622 triggers are compatible with the Godox V860 and I have tried it with Pocket Wizard Flex TT5. All functionalities seem to be working except one problem when using with the AC3. It looks like in HSS mode (>1/250s), the AC3 is unable to control the Godox V860 in TTL mode, it wouldn’t respond to the flash compensation setting on the AC3. However, in M mode the AC3 is able to control the flash power. To overcome this, you can use the FT16 trigger on top of the Flex TT5 instead of the AC3 to control the flash. It is a little bit more hassle until Godox comes out a fix for it.
I have mix feelings with the Godox V860. Overall, I do like the Godox V860, it is a solidly build flash that has all the main functions. It may not have some advance features like the distance scale, etc, but it is not the end of the world. Performance wise, the Godox V860 is excellent. Its TTL functions work perfectly with other Nikon Flashes. Its i-TTL is accurate and it is powered by a beefy lithium battery that has fast recycle time and capable of delivering 650 full power pops. It is also reasonably well priced. However, the design of the flash especially the interface and lacking of some advance features made it feel old despite it is fully TTL capable and is the first lithium battery speedlight.
Like all third party equipment they are deem to have some compatibility issues and with no exception, the Godox V860 is not fully compatible with Pocket Wizards. My recommendation is if you are not going to benefit from the lithium battery, the Nikon SB-700 is a better choice. You will find it to work better, more sophisticated, better resell value, better compatibility especially if you are working with off camera and TTL/HSS. If you need a simple TTL flash that takes advantage of lithium battery and hate AA batteries, the Godox V860 is for you.
- Lithium battery no more AA battery management
- Fast recycle time
- 650 full power pops per charge
- Attractive price, 50% of the SB-700 and 33% of the SB-910.
- Has its own TTL trigger FT16 and Cell II
- Lacks some advance features
- Still using old interface like the SB-800
- Compatibility issues with RF triggers
- No backlit buttons
- Limited 24-105mm zoom range
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