Whether you work in the studio or prefer to adventure outdoors, strobe lights for photography are beneficial to all! Emitting powerful flashes to illuminate your subject, strobe lights bring a whole new dimension to your photography.
But with so many types of strobes available, how in the world do you figure out which one is worth it? Lucky for you, we have this nifty list of the top eight best strobe lights for photography!
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1. Profoto B10 and B10 Plus
Everyone you could ever possibly want in a strobe exists in the Profoto B10 and Profoto B10 Plus, excellent for professionals and enthusaistic hobbyists alike.
Profoto is one of the biggest names in the world of photography lighting, thanks to their powerful array of lighting tools! As a company devoted to creating premium products, it would be a disgrace not to include a Profoto option in our strobe list.
The Profoto B10 is incredible in all aspects – from the studio to an on-location shoot. Combining the power of studio strobes with the compact size of traveling gear, the B10 was designed to give you all of the versatility the company could muster. The Profoto B10 Plus, an additional version, is a pound heavier and a bit longer but provides even greater power than the non-plus version, for those that need something brighter.
The flashing output is fantastic, with 250 watts of output on the B10 and 500 watts of output on the Plus. The rechargeable battery makes for about 400 maximum power flashes, which is plenty for most photoshoot sessions. The recharging time is between 0.05 seconds all the way to 2 seconds (at maximum power), making it possible to capture action shots with ease (and aiding the impatient photographer). A revolutionary feature added in is that you can actually charge the B10 while it is in use.
This flash does have TTL built into it and synchronizes nicely with Canon, Nikon, and Sony cameras. This makes the B10 great for new users as well as advanced professionals.
Another massive benefit to the Profoto brand is its compatibility with accessories; the B10 works with most of the brand’s light modifiers.
2. Neewer Vision 4
For the price, the Neewer Vision 4 is an absolutely oustanding choice for all photographers – loaded with features and power.
The model that appears on more lists than I can count, the Neewer Vision 4 keeps taking the win for a good reason: it’s the most brilliant combination of price, features, and user-friendliness.
This is a 300-watt flash, so although not as powerful as some of the others on our list, 300 watts is more than enough in many different lighting situations! This slightly lower output allows the Neewer Vision 4 to produce up to 700 flashes per battery charge, able to last you an entire session! The recycle time is between 0.04 and 2.5 seconds, so quite fast (especially for the price).
With a battery-operated and compact design, the Neewer Vision 4 is easy to take anywhere and everywhere. It only weighs a total of 4 lbs! The build is quite durable, being lenient on a few bumps here and there.
For even more versatility, the flash features a built-in receiver for remote control functionality, as well as sync ability with any camera that has a hot shoe.
The downside, however, is that this flash does not have TTL functionality – so you’ll quickly have to learn manual usage.
3. Flashpoint XPLOR 600
Comparable to the Profoto B10, this unit is more powerful and has TTL.
An impressive 600 watt strobe light for photography, the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 is pretty glorious. The tremendous output is bright enough to just need one light, rather than two or three which tends to be the more common arrangement with strobes at 300 watts! Wedding photographers, in particular, will enjoy the Flashpoint XPLOR 600. By bouncing the light from the ceiling, you can easily illuminate an entire venue!
Setting up the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 is as easy as can be with its comfortable built-in mount, just plop it onto any light stand and you are good to go! Pairing with light modifiers such as softboxes can soften and spread the output, making this monolight a great option for portrait photography as well.
For the action photographers out there, it’ll be pretty hard to beat the 0.01 recycle time for flashes.
This strobe is also jam-packed with features (and at this price point, it sure ought to be!). TTL is built-in and fully controllable with wireless capabilities, a large LCD screen easily feeds you all of the information you need to know, firmware that can be upgraded as needed, and a modeling lamp that doesn’t kill the battery.
4. Godox AD200Pro
The smallest strobe light for photography on our list, this little guy is great for the discreet photographers.
If small is what you’re looking for, the Godox AD200Pro is swooping in to steal your attention! Likely the smallest strobe on our list, don’t let the size fool you – the 200-watt output is nothing to laugh about. This option is touted to give you the power of a strobe in a unit the size of a speedlight!
At 200 watts, the Godox AD200Pro is certainly not the most powerful, but delivers great performance for outdoor sessions where you might need a bit of light fill (think sunsets)! The TTL functionality is a nifty addition, and in true Godox fashion, the model is compatible with all major camera brands. The battery lasts a tremendous amount of time, so just one charge should be no problem for a full day’s work.
Being small and lightweight, it isn’t as durable as comparable models on the list, so be mindful of the usage conditions. You don’t want to take this light out in harsh conditions or subject it to serious battering and bruising!
5. Westcott FJ400
Westcott, like Profoto, is a long-standing resident in the photography lighting world with exceptionally quality.
Like Profoto, Westcott is another leading staple in the professional lighting world. Known for their own array of top-notch gear, the Westcott FJ400 lands a deserving spot on our list. Westcott is reputable for its light precision, and the Westcott FJ400 gives one of the most accurate color temperatures of the strobe options.
Featuring 400 watts of power, an incredible and unusual feature of this strobe is its ability to give you continuous flashes for a burst mode of 20 frames per second! If you’ve ever wanted to catch a sequence of a dog jumping for a bone, this strobe will do the trick! The battery can shoot off only 480 flashes per charge, so do be mindful of this.
What makes this model notable is its built-in cooling system, keeping the light from overheating. The fan is set to shut off automatically when needed, helping keep you and the strobe safe from harm.
The strobe light has a Bowens S-Type mounting system built-in, allowing you the use of any Bowen’s mount gear. From softboxes to beauty dishes, to everything in between!
6. Photogenic PL2500DRC
At an output of 1000 watts, there is absolutely nothing this strobe light can’t illuminate.
If power is what you crave, then the Photogenic PL2500DRC will rule the strobe world! With an insane burst of over 1,000 watts of power, you can illuminate a massive room and its inhabitants with just one strobe light unit.
The Photogenic PL2500DRC has a very bright modeling lamp as well, pulsing at 250 watts on full power. In some situations, you can use this modeling lamp as your continuous light instead of needing to let out a bright flash.
Included with the Photogenic PL2500DRC is a color-corrected flash tube which makes the front look like a lightbulb! This tube helps ensure that the light output is correct, minimizing your time in the editing room (always a plus).
7. Limostudio 200W
If you want to dip your toes into strobe lights for photography, this would be your best choice! Inexpensive and easy to use.
One of the first studio companies I had ever purchased gear from, Limostudio has a nice consumer-grade 200-watt strobe that won’t break the bank. Excellent for those that want to dip their toes into strobe lights but aren’t sure if this is the path for them, the Limostudio 200W is a very non-threatening product!
The Limostudio 200W is simple to use and certainly won’t leave you scratching your head. The easily adjustable angle is another great bonus, allowing you to light up your subject in a large variety of ways. The recharge time is also wonderful, sitting at between 0.01 to 1.5 seconds! However, the wattage output is a maximum of 200, with some reviews stating that the output felt even lower than that at times.
The Limostudio 200W is not battery-operated and does require a cable. However, the cable is very long so you can typically find a power source close enough! The unit is set to run for up to 8,000 flashes for its bulb lifetime.
8. Godox Smart 300SDI
Talk about stunning, this strobe light will certainly get your client’s attention.
Did someone say “aesthetically pleasing”? If you’re one who cares about the way your gear looks to a client, the Godox Smart 300SDI is absolutely gorgeous. With a lovely golden hue and sleek design, the strobe light itself turns heads even before turning on!
300 watts burst out of this snazzy unit with ease, lighting up most of your shooting conditions. The Godox Smart 300SDI has a flash duration of 1/2000th to 1/800th second making it able to sync up with high-speed cameras easily. This leaves you with a lot of shooting ability! The recharge time is quite fast, with its slowest charge being 2 seconds.
However, bear in mind that due to its limited 300-watt output, the modeling lamp is quite weak at only 75 watts. Only usable to show the direction of your flash, unfortunately. Additionally, the build quality isn’t exceptional like the others on our list, so this really is more of a studio accessory than a strobe light that you take on shoots.
Strobe Lights Made Simple
If you’re reading this list because you’re a photographer wanting to dive into the world of strobes, this section is for you. Strobe lighting can appear complicated and daunting to navigate, but it’s much simpler than it seems.
To get started, a strobe is a type of external light that is much more powerful than an external flash. Although both emit powerful light synchronized with your camera’s shutter, the benefit of a strobe is that strobes are more powerful, in the sense that they emit more light. They have a shorter recycle interval, which means less waiting time between shots. Some strobes are even capable of being plugged into a wall outlet, allowing you to work for longer periods of time.
Monolights, the Superior Strobe
The most commonly seen (and arguably the best) strobes are monolights. On this list, that’s all you’ll find! Monolights are an all-inclusive system which contains the flash head and the power source all inside one unit. The major advantage of monolights is their portability. Being inside a single unit means you have an easier time transporting them and setting them up. As such, the majority of photographers are referring to monolights when they mention the term “strobe”.
Strobe Power and Wattage
Strobe lights differentiate themselves from one another the most in terms of power output, or watts. As you can guess, the more watts, the brighter the light coming from the strobe. But believe it or not, you don’t actually need to race out to grab the brightest strobe.
For perspective on wattage, flashlights are about 10 watts. Overhead living room bulbs are around 60 watts. A bright desk lamp is about 100 watts. The watt number refers to the maximum brightness the light can offer in a single second.
The majority of strobe lights are between 300 watts to 800+ watts. You want a strobe that has tremendous control over the wattage output because there is such a thing as too much power (or too little power).
If you want to preserve the shallow depth of field and shoot a lens at, say, f/1.8, 800 watts is far too much power and your shot will be far too bright! A 300-watt output is more like it. But likewise, 300 watts is not enough power to light up a full warehouse if you need a well-lit set, an 800-watt strobe light does the trick for that one.
TTL Versus Manual
All studio lighting that flash comes in two varieties: those with a TTL feature and those that are fully manual. This refers to how you set the distance output for your strobe based on the lens you are using and the distance from your subject.
Manual strobe lights are those in which you have to input the distance between the strobe light and the subject as well as the intensity of the light output by hand. This means that you have to actually calculate what settings are necessary in order to achieve the right light on whomever it is you are shooting! The benefit to this is that the light will always come out consistent, but the downside is, well, having to do the math.
TTL stands for “Through The Lens,” and this sort of flash is comparable to a camera’s automatic setting. TTL flashes use your camera settings as well as test flashes to compute the distance between the strobe, the camera, and the subject. This then calculates the required light power output. TTL does all of the math for you, but because it is an auto-setting on a machine, the calculation may not always be consistent.
Additionally, if you’re a more creative photographer who likes to go beyond the conventional, TTL might not let you get the look you’re hoping for.
That being said, TTL is just a mode, so you don’t have to worry about being limited if your strobe does come with TTL – you can still manually adjust everything.
Which Strobe Light Is Right for You?
So, what should you invest your money into? If you have the opportunity to do so, the Profoto B10 and Profoto B10 Plus are the best of the best; easy enough to use for hobbyists with a slew of incredible power for professionals alike. The inclusion of TTL makes it even more worthy. At a slightly lower price but also jam-packed with features, the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 is also a great choice for professionals.
However, when it comes to getting the most bang-for-your-buck, the Neewer Vision 4 is our overall pick thanks to its ability to not break the bank while providing everything you could ask for in a strobe light, except the lack of TTL. But, if you’re someone who just wants to try a strobe light and you don’t want to spend a fortune, the Limostudio 200W is the most budget-conscious investment.
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