Before you read this, bear in mind that my lighting knowledge is pretty dismal. This is an average review from an average photographer. Yes, I could have cleaned the dust off the flash and transmitter for the review, but I'm lazy and I have two young kids, I barely had enough time to get these photos done. Also bear in mind that I'm not a stock photographer...actually to be fair, I'm not an anything except I get lucky once in a while photographer and produce decent photos through pure fluke to photos taken percentage.
I've had transmitters on buying list for ages, but it's one of those things that has slipped down the list due to my wife's ridiculous prioritisation. Other stupid things like rent, food and school clothes always seem to take a higher priority. I personally think she's being shortsighted, after all, I could be the next Joe McNally of lighting with only transmitters and receivers being the key…then we could buy gold plated school uniforms. Sadly she doesn't see it the same way or see my real potential to be the Chuck Norris of photography.
I purchased the transmitter and two receivers from Photoshop Studio. The transmitter came with a single receiver and I ordered a second because I have two flashes. The transmitter and receiver was $145 whilst the second receiver was $70. They had no larger package options I could look at. I. e. 'a transmitter + more than one receiver but the costs are fairly low so that wasn't a major. The pricing is pretty reasonable for a TTL transmitter, although there are a number of models in similar price range.
Why did I pick the Godox?
When it comes to triggers and receivers, there are a lot of models that do TTL these days (if TLL is important for you). Most people with dedicated studios may not care too much about TTL but as someone who wants to use their flashes outdoors in conditions that change constantly, TTL is an added advantage. Speaking from a personal perspective, I'm keen to add a TTL battery strobe to my kit bag fairly soon and Godox have the AD600 which seems like a pretty good option. Yes, Profoto is better but without being a professional photographer, spending 3 times the amount on the Profoto just isn't feasible, so until such time as I accidentally produce a photographic masterpiece and Profoto decide to sponsor me, Godox is one of the few feasible options. I think where Godox offer a distinct advantage over some of the other triggers for amateurs as they also offer a TTL strobe (that doesn't cost $3000 like Profoto).
Unlike Profoto, the Godox transmitter does work in TTL with a Nikons if you use a Godox Receiver on it, so it gives you the flexibility to combine your Nikon flashes with Godox strobes. Their strobes (which have a built in receiver for the X1N/X1C) can all be used with the same TTL transmitter so you can create a combination of strobes and flashes (Nikon/Canon/Godox) with TTL if required. This offers a lot of benefits to entry level users who can start with flash and progressively build up strobes as required.
In conjunction to this, Godox recently introduced a range of wireless TTL speedlights is that also offers both AA and a dedicated rechargeable. Yes, they may not be the same quality as the SB5000, but they also don't require a D5 or D500 so they could be on my purchase list soon depending on how the transmitters and receivers go.
For some people this is important with entire videos being dedicated to unboxing of products, for me it's not, but it's here anyway for those who care. Packaging was adequate. It comes in a box with a couple of cables. You could say it's cheap packaging but my Sekonic Lightmeter which cost nearly double the price came with the same style of packaging. It takes 2 AA batteries, it doesn't come with batteries, but if you're using flashes, you probably have a couple of dozen rechargeable AA's for your flashes.
Construction on the flashes seems to be okay. It's not premium, but it's not terrible. Some of the things look a little cheaper than others. The twisty hotshot tighteners seem like they're cheaper plastic but overall, given the price the construction seems fair.
The more important stuff
Now, there is one thing that confuses me with it comes to things like this, and that's manuals. When you are charging $150 for a piece of electronics and you're relying on something that requires a fair degree of knowledge to use, create a decent bloody manual. Godox need a reality check here: The reality they need to face is that professional photographers are probably going to be using premium transmitters like PocketWizard. When you're providing a manual that's likely to be used by entrance level transmitter and receiver users, why not invest the time in creating something that is remotely detailed enough to allow the user to understand what is going on. And if you aren't going to do that, at least get someone to create a decent set of instructions on the website which costs you next to nothing. The current manual is really subpar so if you're expecting it to give you any information on how to setup it up other than what each button does, you are going to be sadly disappointed. The sad part is I have no doubt that some people will probably assume the triggers don't work simply because the manual is so dismal that you may battle to get them working.
So what is wrong with the manual? Well, you get a trigger with cables, you don't actually know if you have to use them, it says put the flash in manual. Clear?Sure, but what about TTL? There is a small mention of setting the flash to TTLin one small section but again, not very clear. When you have problems (like those which are fixed by the firmware which I later discovered by scouring the internet), you're not sure whether it's because the manual is clear as mud ,the product is faulty or you're just an idiot. They probably spent 5 cents on the manual, they could have spent 50 cents and at least made it remotely useable. The challenge with Godox is there isn't a whole lot of information on the web you can use either. No X1N reviews, no videos that really do justice on how it works and the lack of information makes it pretty tough. If you're sitting in a position where nothing exists on the web and you're trying to sella product, CREATE A DECENT BLOODY INSTRUCTION BOOKLET OR WEBSITE, GODOX! (After the 50th time I mention it they may get a hint)
In my case, sadly the dismal manual exacerbated a connection problem between my flash and the receiver, largely because it took me a while to know if I actually had it set up correctly. Due to the loose connection it kept telling me to switch the flash to manual when I was trying to use TTL which was half of the problem.I also had the firmware issue which didn't help but eventually after fixing the firmware, I picked up that my SB700 has a loose connection with both receivers,although I'm not 100% sure if this is an issue with the receiver or my flash.The flash seems to work flawlessly on my camera, so perhaps the tolerances are set a little high on the receiver.
If the issue is with the SB700, I'm not sure if it's my specific one or all of them,but my SB600 seems to have no issues. In short, if you bump the light stand and the flash happens to be at an angle where it is likely to slip out of the connection socket, the pins lose connection and your trigger is dead until it's fixed. This means something like an umbrella softbox can be problematic if you have the softbox pointed down because the flash is at an angle where any bump to the stand will result in a lose connection and subsequently having to remove the front of the softbox to fix the problem. I've got away with this by being selective about which stand I put in the umbrella softbox. Obviously not an ideal situation so I may look at how I can rectify this. I could send it back but I need to find another receiver to see if the problem is with the SB700 or not before I do that.
The firmware issue in case you are wondering is a "minor" issue with TTL where the flash goes off about a second before or after the camera (can't remember which) so essentially you only get ambient light, which could be a black frame. It only seems to do this with TTL and manual works fine (which is part of the problem with the manual not being clear) The firmware update fixes this so it works again as you'd expect. Updating the firmware isn't very hard except the instruction are in Chinese.
On the flash sync speed fan, I've seen conflicts on the website as to what is supported. The manual says 250, people on the web say that only works with theD800 which support a max of 1/320 on the camera but only 1/250 on the transmitter. The D750 supports 1/250 therefore you have to drop down to 1/200to get it to work reliably without banding…or you don't. As I said, there is confusion. Some people don't have problems with 1/250 on the D750, some do. I don't oddly enough. Now I understand that Godox can't test every model, but at least testing some would have been nice. It's not that hard or costly to send a transmitter and receiver out to people with different bodies.
On top of that, it's really missing a FAQ or common problems section because there are small little annoyances that really take a little while to find out what the problem is. For example, if you forget about red eye flash, you'll find about a second or two delay when you take a picture. It seems like a substantially longer delay than you'd normally have with a flash in the hot shoe, but I think part of the problem is I normally have red eye switched off and when my camera went back to Nikon for a service advisory they must have switched it back on last week.
Ignoring the teething problems…
Problems aside, how does it work once eventually work out how to get it going, get through the firmware issues and resolve loose connections with flashes, and work out what the sync speed really is?
Actually pretty good. It triggers when it's supposed to, the TTL works pretty effectively, and you can adjust the flashes directly from the remote. It does as advertised, but it takes longer than necessary to get there.
When you first get your transmitter and receiver, check if it has 3 or 5 groups. If it has 3, update the firmware!! In fact, update it even if you have 5. The firmware update instructions are worse than the manual, they aren't even inEnglish. You'll need a micro USB cable. I'm sure most people have these but it would have been nice if Godox provided one. I had one so it wasn't an issue.Download the updated firmware applications from here. Install the exe, it prompts for a Java install at the end of the process. Once you've installed java it'll prompt you for a download (I assume the latest firmware), you then still have install the firmware on the device by opening the application, when it completes the install it gives an okay message.
Using the transmitter
Switch on the transmitter and receiver before switching on the the camera and flash. The flash needs to be switched to TTL. For the SB700, it needs to be in the normal on position, not master or slave . For the SB600 it seems to work in slave.
If you want to shoot manual, you switch the transmitter to manual. My flashes seem to fire when the trigger is in manual and the flash is in TTL so I'm not sure that you have to switch the flash as well as it seemed to work on mine. If you have a SB700 and you're trying to use it in TTL and it says switch to manual, check the hotshot seating, don't switch to manual.
You can use the little test button to test whether the transmitter/receiver are working. Push the button on the transmitter, if the flash goes off, then its working. If it doesn't, check whether the light on the receiver goes on, if it does, it may be a seating issue with the hotshoe.
I'll be honest and say I haven't tested groups D&E but I know there is some limitation of group D & E that I can't remember, but having only 2 flashes,I haven't reached that limit yet. The flashes can work independently, so one group can be set to TTL and the other to manual. This means if you can't get the level of control out of one group with TTL, you could switch it down to manual for more flexibility.
If you want to adjust power, you simple use the scroll wheel to adjust power up and down in 1/3 increments. It's the same process for adjusting in Manual and TTL.
If you have one of the newer style cameras, you can change the ambient independent of the flash using exposure compensation so check your menus to see whether you have it set on or not.
Other nice features
There are a couple of nice additional the X1N comes with although its not stuff I really use. You can also use the transmitter and receiver as a camera remote trigger. Not doing many landscapes means that it's not something I'd use often (I would mostly use the timer to reduce any shake) but I'm sure this may be of interest for other people.
While I may have been pretty harsh regarding the manual, I do actually like this trigger and receiver. Once you know how to use them, they are relatively easy to adjust. As far as TTL goes, they seem to work pretty well. The combination of technology options they offer are really good and offer good growth options.
On the local front, whilst I understand Godox are on the lower end of the market,manuals, or at least the online versions are easy to create and with competition being fairly tight in this segment of the market, it's hard to understand why Godox wouldn't have at least invested some time in doing it given it's likely to impact the successful use of the product. I would recommend that some of the local importers actually invest in doing this to help establish the products. Once you get them working, they are actually fairly good remotes.
To be fair to Godox, at this stage, I'd complain about the seating issues with the SB700, but I'm not 100% sure that the receiver is the issue with the SB700 as I have seen some notes online about problematic SB700's butI'll update this review when I can establish that. For now, I'll assume mySB700 is the problem.