Although you will not see me use one that often, I could not do without speedlites. Sure you can do much more with studio flashes, but speedlites are just too convenient. You can take them everywhere easily and they have enough power to deal with many situations!
The thing I really wish speedlites were, is more reliable. Maybe I just had bad luck, but almost every single speedlite I have ever owned stopped working at some point (for the most, pretty soon!). And I am talking here also about premium-brand products: actually the most expensive speedlite I have ever owned was also the one that stopped working first… On the opposite, no one of my studio flashes ever broke down (and I have owned many of them), well, except for one that was knocked down by the wind during a shoot… But that’s a different story 😉
And even before failing, at times my speedlites have been quite unreliable; overheating protection activating randomly, misfiring, settings changing by themselves: these are some of the issues I have experienced with them. Sometimes a firmware update made things much better and other times turning off and on the flash did wonders, but all these small issues are just hard to accept in a product whose main feature is convenience! Imagine for instance shooting an event and having your speedlite go into overheating protection randomly: not nice, right? Well, that happened to me more than once…
All of this just to tell you that when I had the chance to test the Pixel X900 I was not that much into features and power (many speedlites nowadays offer similar features for similar prices), I was much more interested to find out how reliable it would be!
The version I tested was the X900C (“C” means for Canon and there is also a Nikon version), kindly provided by the manufacturer Pixel.
Let us first of all see what features the X900C offers, as they are quite many:
- GN 60
- HSS to 1/8000s, 1st + 2nd curtain sync
- ETTL, M, Multi, Slave
- 20-200mm auto or manual zoom
- Master and slave modes for Canon wireless system
- 3200mAh lithium-ion battery
- Less than 1.5 seconds full-power recycle time
- 4W assist LED light
- AF-assist beam
- Head with adjustable angle, reflector, wide diffusion panel
- Ports: external battery, USB, PC Sync
- Compatible with King PRO wireless TTL trigger
The flash comes with carrying bag, lithium battery, battery charger, flash stand and flash diffuser. At the time of writing, it can be bought for around 150EUR.
Yes, you get here quite a lot for your money!
What I liked:
- Good built quality
- Easy to use
The unit I received, together with its accessories, made a good first impression and felt solid. The display is clear (even though pretty basic) and all controls work well and reliably.
As a speedlite should be, the X900C is very easy to use and you do not necessarily need to check the instruction manual (cause who likes to do that?).
The addition of a flash diffuser, although for sure not a deal breaker, was a welcome surprise too.
What could have been better:
- The LED light function is limited
I was a bit disappointed about the LED light: although it is actually brighter than I expected (but you should obviously not expect wonders from 4W), it is not integrated at all with the other flash functions. The only thing you can do is turning this light on and off at the push of a button (you can also set an auto power-off delay); nothing more, you cannot even change its intensity. Being able to use it as a sort of AF-assist light just while focusing would for instance have been nice.
And if you want to be really fussy, with 580gr (battery included) this is not the lightest speedlite around. But that is something I would happily accept in exchange of better reliability!
The flash is well built and feels premium. I was maybe expecting too much from the inclusion of a LED light, but this is anyway a welcome feature in a speedlite
In the field
What I liked:
- A lot of power
- Fast recycle times
- The lithium battery is convenient and lasts long
- The LED light helps in dark environments
First things first, this is for sure a bright speedlite: the declared output is GN60 and my testing showed that the real output is even a bit higher than the one of other flashes with the same declared GN!
The lithium battery is the best feature of this flash. On the one hand it is more convenient than 4 AA batteries, on the other hand it ensures better performances: recycle times are excellent and you can fire the flash up to impressive 700 times at full power with one charge (at least according to the manufacturer, let me come back to this in a minute)!
If you are planning to fire the flash more than 700 times in one single sessions, then of course you need a spare battery.
The LED light is also nice to have: it can help you focus, or see what you are doing, in dark environments (but do not expect much more from it).
What could have been better:
- It is not fully compatible with 3rd party remote controllers
- The unit I tested had reliability problems
The first thing I had to figure out is how to control this flash remotely. As mentioned, it can be controlled with the King PRO triggers but I did not have any. I hoped to be able to control it with a Yongnuo trigger + receiver combo (YN622C-TX + YN622C) but this worked only partially: the remote triggering works but TTL does not. The remote control of the flash settings (output intensity, sync mode and zoom) works just erratically (sometimes it does, sometimes it does not).
In order to reliably (and completely) control this flash remotely you do need a King PRO trigger.
The main problem I experienced with this flash is that it went frequently into overheating protection, even after just a few minutes of firing and even when firing at low power settings. And every time this happens, you need to pause for a few minutes… For this reason I never managed to use the unit I got very long. I am saying “the unit I got” cause it could very well be that I just got a defective one, or that a firmware update could solve the issue.
For this very same reason I also never managed to test how long the lithium battery really lasts.
The flash is powerful and fast, also thanks to its convenient lithium battery. But, and that is a big “but”, the unit I tested unfortunately had reliability issues.
The Pixel X900 is “on the paper” a very good flash, with all the features you could wish for (and even some more, like the LED light) and with the performance and convenience that a lithium battery can ensure. My testing indeed showed that with this flash you get a lot of “bang for your buck”
… but it also showed that you may experience some reliability issues. Indeed the unit I tested had a quite serious problem (overheating protection activating erratically), but it could be that I received a defective unit or that a firmware update in the meantime solved the issue. And, as mentioned at the very beginning, reliability problems are for sure not rare in speedlites!
All pictures are from the manufacturer’s website.