PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS AND TUTORIALS FROM HURRICANE IMAGES INC.
POWERFUL INTIMATE VIDEOGRAPHY / PHOTOGRAPHY | www.hurricaneimagesinc.com

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nicefoto 680W Strobe Review: An inexpensive, muscle-bound, wireless strobe




I pretty much never review products.  Mostly, this is because I rarely buy the newest, hottest gear.  I’m a big fan of top quality goods that are already a generation old:  my bag is stuffed with gems like Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8, the 35-70mm f/2.8, and SB800s.  But I’m making an exception today, both because the product is fairly new, but also because I think it’s an exceptional deal.

I posted earlier about lighting alphabet soup, which was essentially a summation of my purchasing criteria.  I wanted a bigger strobe than my SB800s, one that could compete with the sun outdoors.  I settled on the Nicefoto 680W.  “Nicefoto” isn’t the most confidence inspiring name to emerge from the smoky factories of China, but I’d read some good things about it and the specs were excellent.


The Nicefoto 680W is equipped with a rechargeable battery that other reviewers have found to get 400+ flashes at full strength. It comes with both an optical trigger and a built in 2.4GHz radio trigger.  The power goes from full to 1/64 in full stop increments.  There’s a modeling lamp, and cooling system.  And it utilizes IGBT technology, which means the flash has a very short T.1 time (up to 1/7,900th of a second) for freezing the action.  Great specs, and at $420 a good price, but how well does it perform?


Features and Build
First, 680 watts is blindingly bright.  There’s more than enough power for most people.  The unit is built very well-- very sturdy, well thought-out, fairly heavy, and all the parts fit together snugly.  It feels, in short, muscle-bound.  The Nicefoto has a host of thoughtful little features, too.  There’s a handle that folds down for your human light stand, and a hole with tightening screw for attaching to a non-human light stand. It also has a second small handle that flips out from the top to make it easier to hold while attaching to said stand. There’s strap, a cold shoe to clip your radio trigger, and trigger input.  The LCD is large and bright, and the button-interface simple. The only misstep in the design is the umbrella holder, which is at the top of the handle. The reflector and the umbrella post collide, making it impossible to use both at once.  


Considering how much thought went into the rest of the unit, it’s baffling and there’s no elegant work-around.  The reflector is a Bowen mount, though, which means there are plenty of attachments available (including reflectors with umbrella holes).


Both the optical and radio triggers work well.  It would have been nice if you could control the output from the trigger.  Another odd over-sight.  The trigger appears to be universal (it works on both my Nikon and my Pentax) and has a pass-through, which is a great bonus. I can control my other strobes from the camera. The simplicity makes it easy to use, quick to set-up, and really a joy so far.  The modeling light is decent for checking your shadows, but too weak for anything else; it’s daylight temperature, just in case 35 watts is enough for your project.

Quality of Light
Independent testing by the folks over at www.lightingrumours.com verify that the color temperature is 5600; it rises to a slightly bluer 6300 as you decrease the power to 1/64th.  That’s pretty accurate in my book.  Recycle time is about 4.5 for a full pop, and the output is consistent.


Like your hotshoe flash, the IGBT flash times shortens as the power decreases.  In regular mode, the flash time decreases from 1/320th  at full to 1/7,600th of a second at 1/64th power.  There’s a FP mode for that clips it even sharper-- again with a commiserating loss of power.  There are five FP settings, the slowest (1/2000) is equal to about ¼ power.  The fastest (1/7,500) is pretty dinky.  Here’s the confusing part for me.  In my initial tests, the FB mode doesn’t appear to be any faster than the regular mode:  at ¼ power the flash fires at 1/1,600th of a second in regular mode.*  That’s virtually the same as the FB mode.  The FB mode appears to be a placebo for the most part, but it’s hard to complain because 1/7,500th of a second is very fast.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned HSS, only FB.  These two terms have merged into something synonymous and they’re not.  Frankly, I’m not sure what FB refers to anymore.  The 680W has an FB mode designed to reduce the flash duration.  HSS, on the other hand, greatly “lengthens” the flash duration by turning it into a serious of rapid pulses.  HSS is slightly more useful because it allows a faster shutter speed, thereby reducing the ambient light.  With “FB” (or a short flash duration) you use ND filters to reduce ambient light. The Nicefoto doesn’t have HSS capability, but it does have multi-flash, which allows you to program multiple distinct flashes for long exposure photography. It’s use, for example, is to show five distinct moments of a dancer’s movement without photoshop.

Conclusion
All in all I’m impressed with the Nicefoto 680W, and I’m looking forward to spending some time with it in the field.  The wireless design and handle makes it very efficient, and it performs just as promised.  Comparable strobes costs $100-$400 more, which is why I decided to post a review.


*I’m metering the light output and utilizing the flash duration charts supplied by Nicefoto.

14 comments:

  1. Does it work with high sync triggers ?
    if yes, HOW ?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'll confess I haven't tried, so I can't give a real-world answer. There is a sync input, but high speed sync is more complicated than that. And I don't know what role the different triggers would play in terms of compatibility and timing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm curious how this triggers. I'm already using the hot shoe on my camera to trigger some Yongnuo's. How would I trigger this at the same time?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are a couple of trigger options, Jesse. It comes with it's own radio trigger (option one). It has a pass through hot shoe, but I don't know how compatible it is with other brands (and if you're using TTL forget it). It has a built in optical trigger, but for I haven't found this to be completely reliable. For a final option it has a mini plug for a hardwire trigger sync. If your triggers have a (3.5mm?) cable out, you can trigger that way. Some $12 optical triggers have this ability, too. What I do, though, is set my other flashes to optical trigger (SB800s) and use the Nicefoto to trigger them.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Robin. I'm working strictly manual (no TTL), so maybe this will work with my Yongnuo trigger if I stack them. Doing mostly architectural and real estate, so need to avoid cords.

      I ordered one yesterday, so in a week I'll know how it all works.

      Delete
    3. I got my N Flash and love, love, love it. It triggers with no problem. I just stack my Yonguo trigger on top of the N Flash hot shoe trigger and it all works fine.

      Delete
  4. I would really love to buy either the 480 or 280 versions but can't find a supplier in the US:-( Aside from eBay and no warranty or order overseas and pay more;-( Would you mind sharing of a source in the US, I'm welcome to a good used kit as well?

    Thank you,
    Tina
    nijamajo38@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Tina, Sadly I can't be of much help. I purchased mine from eBay. I'm curious about your preference for the lower watt model over the larger? I had smaller flashes already when I bought this (so bigger made sense in that respect), but while I love the 680 it is less facile that my SB800s: bigger, harder to place, and can't be adjusted remotely.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Robin,
    My lack of knowledge is apparent as I'm not just new to the world of lighting but Photography as well:-) My reasoning in buying a lower wattage was from what I've read it would be overkill for my needs? I'm setting up a small home studio and want something I can easily use for outdoor Portraits (Senior pics, family, maybe pets). I'm also considering the Godox QT or QS300. At this point I have a SB600 so less options to start with and I figure buy what I want once rather than buying to resell and trade up? Any advice is VERY welcome!
    Thank you,
    Tina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, take my advice/thoughts with a grain of salt and two pinches of prudence, because I think your equipment should really fit with your shooting style and what's easiest for you personally. The 680 may be overkill in your studio (I rarely go above 1/32th power indoors, and it only goes as low as 1/64th). But outdoors you may want more power than the 480, and surely more than the 280. The 280 probably doesn't have any more kick than your SB600. I don't know the Godox, but it looks like the QS300 is wired; I can't tell you how convenient it is to have the Nicefoto be battery. If you want to shoot outside with the QS300, you'll need a power pack which will defeat the $$ savings. I'm really happy with the power output on the 680, but I also have three SB800s if I want something smaller-- both output and for carrying around... all of these big strobes are a box of stuff. A couple of 680 quirks: it comes with an umbrella mount in the light handle, but not the reflector-- you have to go bare bulb or buy another reflector; the optical trigger doesn't work all that well-- inconsistent and it was always firing at the same output, regardless of the setting. I have to use the radio trigger and set my SB800s to optical. Also, it syncs at 1/160th of a second. At 200 I get a black line. Not to make your decision more miserable, but you may want to consider buying two cheap knock-off TTL on camera flashes that better match your SB600. That wouldn't solve the shooting outdoors issue, but having a three-point lighting system you can control from your camera has a lot of advantages. I haven't looked at any of these flashes, but I'm thinking along the lines of this: http://www.amazon.com/Neewer-VK750-Speedlite-Display-Cameras/dp/B00GE4MNQA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461266839&sr=8-1&keywords=nikon+ttl+flash.

      Delete
  7. I love this light but HSS only works when on FULL power. I did have to purchase new triggers for it to work. As far as US Distributers, I bought mine at www.Cowboystudio.com located in Allen TX.

    ReplyDelete
  8. HI . . . i wish the unknown person would share what triggers he bought. I have the 680 and it has worked perfectly but that issue of HSS has troubled me. I may have to purchase a second strobe solely for HSS.

    If you get more info please do share.

    www.jesterpix.com is my site

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will do. I'm afraid I have no idea what he's using.

      Delete