Godox Witstro AD200 long term review

Four years on from its release, what do we think of the original Godox AD200 Pocket Flash?

It has been almost four years since Godox originally announced the AD200. For me and many others the AD200 was the strobe that we had been longing for. Extremely compact, powerful enough with 200Ws and reasonably priced. Today I am going to discuss how the AD200 has been holding up the last four years. With the risk of spoiling the review; I just love this flash. And I am not the only one that does so.

For this review I have gathered feedback from multiple photographers using the AD200 in order to get a good feel for the reliability and little flaws people have discovered. If you have additional remarks or comment feel free to share them in the comments. Hopefully this will give you more insight on how durable the AD200 is and if indeed this is the right investment for you.

Form factor

The first reason why people love the AD200 is because of the small size and convenient shape. In the pictures of my first impression article published a long time ago you can see that the AD200 has roughly the same shape of a speedlight. This is quite impressive since the AD200 is roughly three times more powerful than a conventional camera flash. But the form factor also means that the AD200 will fit nicely inside your camera bag in place of your flashgun.

The AD200 features a swappable head, which means that you can change the front part of the flash into a type of flash head that suits your type of photography better. The standard AD200 kit comes with two different heads that can be swapped, a Fresnel head and a barebulb head. Later on will discuss it a bit more, but there are many different AD200 accessories available.

One of the things where I think Godox could have improved is with the way how the battery is inserted. Due to the square shape of the battery itself it is hard to see how you need to insert it, especially when the light is dim. Compare it a bit to the traditional USB 2.0 connectors. For some reason you always need to insert it multiple types before you found the right orientation, and that is the same with the battery of the AD200.

Fortunately with a battery life of 500 full power flashes (specified by Godox) you do not need to replace the batteries very often. After 4 years of quite intense use I am not sure if my batteries can still hold a 500 flash charge since they have aged (which is completely normal). That said, battery life has never been and still is not a problem.

On the back of the unit there is a small LCD. It is quite simple and rather small, but in practice you will not look often on it since you will use a trigger to control the AD200. If you need to change custom settings on the flash it can be a bit tedious to do so because of the small display.

Build quality

My initial impression of the AD200 and its build quality was very positive. I am happy that I never had to change my opinion about this during the last four years. Although I have had some small accidents with it, it never missed a beat. For me personally the AD200 has been a strobe on which I can depend on.

With the feedback that I received from others I can that the AD200 has been also very reliable. In most cases people experienced no problems whatsoever with the strobe. For the few instances where people had suffered problems it was always due to a mistake from the photographer himself. One AD200 stopped working after it was submerged in water and another AD200 cracked its LCD panel because of a 2 meter drop onto concrete.

If I look some further on the internet you can obviously find more people that have had some problems with the AD200. While some of them seem to be single occurrences, there is one problem that happens more frequently. The switch of the AD200 is by far the weakest point on the device. Or better to say; was the weakest point of the device. All the discussions I found about the switch malfunctioning are from 2017 and 2018, so it seems that Godox has quietly improved this on their later production batches.

The experience I received with repairs and warranty depends from country to country. In the early years of Godox it was difficult to find a local repair center that would be able to repair your strobe. Fortunately this is not the case anymore. Due to the popularity of the brand it is possible to find distributors for most countries and these distributors will also help you with solving the issues with your flash. You should understand that if you directly buy from China then a local distributor might not help you to repair your flash since it is grey import.

Four years back, just after the release of the AD200 updating the firmware of Godox products was not especially easy. It had to be a Windows machine and even then you needed to do some special tricks for Windows to detect the connected device. My recent experience of updating Godox devices has been much better.

Accessories

Earlier I already mentioned that the AD200 comes with some accessories and there are a lot of optional accessories to buy. If you buy the standard AD200 kit you will get a storage box, battery, charger, umbrella swivel, two swappable heads and the AD200 unit itself. The initial version of the umbrella swivel could only be mounted with 1/4″ thread and meant that most lightstands were not compatible with it. Godox has changed this and the new design can be mounted on the spigot of a lightstand instead.

Personally I think the storage box is a very nice addition, but the way how it is designed could be much improved. First of all, in order to store the bare bulb head you need to remove the bulb from the head. Godox has stated in the past that you should avoid doing this since the contacts are not designed for this type of wear. Also within the storage box there is some space to store a battery, but why wouldn’t you store the battery inside the AD200 itself? My last remark is about the space reserved for the charger. For most of my trips the charger always stays at home and therefore the space inside the box is wasted if I wanted to use for the storage box for transport.

Besides the two included heads there are more swappable heads available for purchase. One of them is the AD-L, a 3.6 watt LED head (no flash) and the other is a round head adapter called the H200R. This round head is identical in shape to the Godox V1, which means that the accessories for the V1 (AK-R1) also work on the H200R. At 80 dollar the H200R is not particular cheap.

Like is the case for the round head, there is a line of optional modifiers for each swappable head. The barebulb head shares the same mount with the AD360, so all reflectors and modifiers also work on the AD200. For the fresnel head there is a set available with a grid, magnetic colour filters and a barndoor attachment

There are also more accessories for the AD200, such as the AD-B2, which is a Dual Power Flash Bracket. Onto the back of the AD-B2 you can mount two AD200s and the front has a mount for a Bowens modifier. This means that effectively you create a 400ws light source that uses Bowens modifiers. Great if you are in a situation where you occasionally need more power, but for most of the times you can use them separately.

The last accessory I would like to mention is the EC200. This an extension cable for the AD200, meaning that you can move the body of the AD200 away from the head. For most situations this is not really needed since the AD200 is already quite light, but it does mean that you can use the AD200 on camera. You will need a X1 or X2 for this to put on your camera, on which the EC200 can be mounted. I did previously a review on the EC200.

You can see with all the products mentioned in this section that Godox has created a whole ecosystem around the AD200. There are so many optional accessories available meaning that you will be able to find the right one for you.

Performance

Even after four years of use I am amazed with how much power this little flash has. With 200ws it has plenty of power, while it might not be enough for the biggest modifiers, for most applications it is sufficient. I think the AD200 is the most versatile tool in my camera bag and it has been my go-to strobe for already a long time.

Besides the two included heads (fresnel and barebulb) I also have purchased the two optional heads (round and LED). When you use the AD200 in a light modifier the barebulb head is a great option since the bare bulb throws light in all directions, meaning that you fill your softbox very evenly. Unfortunately the bare bulb head does not have a modeling light. In the photo underneath you can see that the the light spread of the bare bulb is not perfect, this is due to the shape of the tube itself. Godox has opted for instance for a more classical design with the AD300Pro for instance to solve this minor issue. In practice you will not notice much about this because there bare bulb head is always paired with either a reflector or a modifier.

The other standard included head, the frensel, does have a modeling light but also has one significant flaw. This fresnel head can be compared to the head of a tradional speedlight, but stuck at the 35 mm zoom setting. The problem comes with the way how the lens diverts the light. As you can see in the images underneath the light spread from the fresnel head is far from pleasing. It is not uniform and has a very harsh fall off. I know some photographers love this head because MagMod accesoires can be used with it, but personally I would never use it without diffusion to light my subjects.

Light pattern of the bare bulb
Light pattern of the round head
Light pattern of the fresnel head

In my opinion, Godox should have never made the fresnel head and directly included the H200R round head. It achieves a similiar spread of light, but instead it has a pleasing light pattern and also features a modeling light. I am happy that the H200R does exist, but compared to the price of the AD200 itself it is quite a pricey accessory.

From swappable heads by far the least useful is the AD-L, the LED head. Since this head has no flash functionality it is not particular useful, especially since the output of the light is not very high at 3.6 watt. I would not recommend this optional head.

While I personally never had any issues with overheating, I do see some people complaining on the internet about overheating issues. The Godox AD200 is officially rated for 40 full power flashes with the fresnel head and 60 full power flashes with the bare bulb. If you activate HSS then this number is reduced to 20 and 50 respectively. From my tests this number seems to be accurate. My assumption is that the people that have issues are using the fresnel head with HSS activated. In that case 20 full power flashes happen pretty quick, especially when you are trying to overpower the sun with this little flash.

Underneath I have included some of my work with the AD200. For me the results speak for themselves. It is an extremely versatile tool that can do a lot.






Godox AD200 vs. AD200Pro

The AD200 has been so popular that Godox decided to introduce an updated model, named the AD200Pro. Both the AD200 and AD200Pro are still being sold today, but the AD200 costs US$299 and the AD200Pro costs $399.

Godox introduced a few improvements with the AD200Pro, but most the product has remained unchanged compared to the original model. It uses the same battery, swappable heads are identical and the shape is mostly unchanged. From my observations there are four differences between the AD200 and the AD200Pro. These are:

  • It is now possible to change the flash power in 1/10 stop increments and the minimum power output has been reduced to 1/256 from 1/128
  • The AD200Pro features a colour stability mode which keeps the colour temperature within 100 Kelvin
  • Compared to the AD200, the AD200Pro has a different design on the back. This means that the LCD is better protected and the on/off switch is redesigned.
  • The included swivel locks into the body of the AD200Pro in a better way. On the original AD200 the swivel could more easily loosen and then the flash would rotate.
  • Recycle time has been reduced from 2.1 to 1.8 seconds

Are these differences are worth the $100 premium? you have to ask yourself. I am very happy with my original AD200 and do not see a reason why I would need to replace it for the newer model.

Conclusion

The AD200 quickly became my favorite flash and it still is. When people ask me for advice which flash to buy, 99 percent of the time I recommend them to buy a AD200. At $299 it is not much more expensive than a lithium-ion powered speedlight, but it can do so much more, and yet it still is the same size. For me the AD200 is the perfect trade-off between size and power. Bigger strobes, such as the AD400 or AD600 are so big that I think twice if I would really need it. With the AD200 you can just pack it, for just in case you need it.

I think that explains the reason why I and so many others love the AD200. It falls into exactly the sweet spot of power, size and affordability. To this date I think the AD200 is the best product that Godox has created and they deserve a compliment for that.

While there still might be things to improve on the AD200, it is hard to improve on something that is already so good. There are a few things that I mentioned in the review, but for most of these things I am just nitpicking. More important are things such as performance and reliability, which are simply said just great.

The AD200 was and still is such a good concept that it inspired many other brands to create products which look very similar to the AD200. When you consider that imitation is the biggest form of flattery, then you can understand how good the A200 is. I love mine and if you would have one you will do so too.