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Bolt VB-22 Medium Strobe Review

By Pye Jirsa on April 3rd 2015

An Affordable Medium Strobe

The Bolt VB-22 might look like something out of a 1930’s horror flick, but this medium strobe packs a monster of a punch. Its ability to produce power while still being lightweight and portable is the key to its success.

Watch the Bolt VB-22 Medium Strobe Video Review

Bolt VB-22 Performance

We are very impressed at how much power the Bolt puts out. At full power it delivers a guide number between 250 and 260, which is equivalent to 4 or 5 pocket strobes. This makes the Bolt very handy on location when extra power is needed (to overpower the sun perhaps). Keeping with the deadly weather-related naming scheme, the Bolt is powered by the Cyclone PP 400DR battery pack.

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However, there are a few things that drag the Bolt down to having an average overall performance rating. Ironically, the Bolt is not fast as lighting, it’s actually quite slow. In performance, the Bolt does what is expected for a mid-size flash but its recycle time is as slow as the walking dead at 7-8 seconds full power. The Bolt also lacks flash consistency, both in intensity and color. This most heavily comes into play when you are doing a fashion or highly professional shoot where perfect color and exposure is a must.

Being a manual flash you will also need a third-party radio triggering system. For this task, we suggest one of our favorites, the Pocket Wizard 3.

02-performance-3-stars

Bolt VB-22 Features

The Bolt is also only average when it comes to the amount features available. It has a 3.5mm sync port, PC sync, and USB connectivity which makes it update-ready for new firmware. The standard 1/4”-20 screw mount is both on the bottom and side of the body, making it very convenient. The UI is pretty easy to navigate as the buttons and its functions are simple to understand without reading a manual.

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While the Bolt is user friendly, it requires a little ingenuity to add modifications. The Bolt is soon to provide its own brand of modifiers but beware that it might not have the best relationship with your current gear. Prepare to do some “jimmy rigging” to get your existing modifiers to work with the Bolt VB-22. In our own diabolical experiments, we used the Profoto RFi Speed Ring and attached 2 Bolts making our own powerful creation able to produce 10 to 12 pocket strobes worth of power. Attaching a monopod, we gave our creation legs and affectionately named it “The Big Boom Stick”.

07-features-3-stars

Bolt VB-22 Design

As already said, the UI is pretty easy to navigate. Manual flashes are not that complicated to begin with and the Bolt is no exception. The Bolt’s most characteristic feature is its protruding bulb. This is designed for fast and easy bulb replacement when an old one burns out.

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While the bare bulb design gives the Bolt its unique look, it’s also unprotected with no cover included. The only possible protection would be the modifier that comes with your Bolt. This offers sufficient protection but at the cost of adding roughly ⅓ more bulk, thus making it less ideal for transport. However, this is only a slight inconvenience and still deserves 4 out of 5 stars.

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Bolt VB-22 Quality

The Bolt is very solid in it’s overall build with most of the body molded in high quality plastic. The mounts and all ports are made of metal. We have used these on countless shoots and not a single unit has stopped working or malfunctioned. They are simply built to work well.

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19-quality-5-stars

Bolt VB-22 Value

The Bolt starts at $500. Now, there are a lot of cheaper flashes out there, so why does the Bolt exceed in value? It’s what you can do comparatively, it beats the competition. This makes the value of this medium range strobe unprecedented when compared to what you would have to do to produce the same power output using pocket strobes. Even if you wanted to do a full set up using 2 bolts, the battery pack, radio triggers, cables, and the modifiers, it would still be less expensive and simpler than setting up 10 pocket strobes.

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Bolt VB-22 Conclusion

The Bolt VB-22 is an amazingly powerful strobe system. It offers power without breaking the bank with a portable yet sound design. Its ease of use as well as its value are unique to how high it outputs in terms of guide number. Simply put, the Bolt is an outstanding strobe and is definitely worth checking out.

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I hope you enjoyed this review. If you’re interested in learning more about lighting foundation and mastering on-camera flash then be sure to check out Lighting 101.

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

31 Comments

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  1. Rodrigo Unda

    can’t reply to your comment henry, but after buying the transmitter, I’ve  found that I must buy a special receiver. So I had this flash, a battery, a transmitter and no reciver (tought it was internal in the flash) and no HSS photo yet . boomer.

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  2. Rodrigo Unda

    A friend of mine own this one. but we still haven’t figured out if it has hyspeed sync features. does anyone here know?

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    • Henry Rodgers

      I was in your shoes, searching everywhere for this info. Yes, it does hss. I pair it with the Flashpoint R2 i-TTL 2.4G transmitter and R2 Bridge receiver. Once set up, you’ll need to press the ‘mode’ and ‘set’ buttons together. Hope this gets you going. 

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  3. Vince Arredondo

    I think would be nice to revisit the review Pye, considering all the extra accessories mentioned below… What do you think?

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  4. Sean Tatalovich

    I have the flashpoint version and recycle times are not 7 seconds by no means I think the battery you were using was defective which has been a problem with a certain numbered batch. Recycle time is about 4 seconds at full power and if I used the 2-1 cord it cuts those times in half.

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    • Lawrence Smith

      Sean Tatalovich How has your experience been with using this to battle open sunlight?

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    • Sean Tatalovich

      I haven’t tried it but have read on forums other that have successfully easily enough.

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    • Stephen Casey

      Sean at half power and the y cable about what recycle times are you getting. And are you blowing out the bulbs?

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  5. Lawrence Smith

    Right now Adorama has their branded version for $399.99 including the Commander Transceiver Set,Umbrella Reflector, and battery pack.

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  6. Juan Kis

    You’re welcome guys, and I’m sorry, I’m not a native English speaker, and as I’m wrote from my phone the autocorrector made some changes.

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    • Lawrence Smith

      I understood where you were coming from just fine Juna. I have one of these in my Adorama cart right now, I think I am gonna take the dive!

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    • Juan Kis

      You won’t be dissapointed Lawrence. For me was a perfect fit between speedlights (pocket flashes) and a bulky studio strobe. Very portable, powerful, with a lot of affordable accessories. One great light modifier is the Godox AD-S7, is a small sofbox, but for me is a 19″ beauty dish. It will only work with the this flash. Is a umbrella type, collapsible, and it cost just $40 on Ebay.

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  7. Juan Kis

    Great review Pye, I’ve been using this flashes for a while and I can add more information to share with everybody.

    First of all, this flash are made by a Chinese company Godox and internationally is know as GODOX AD360.
    You can found it all over the whole under different brands and model names. In the United States, B&H are selling this units as BOLT VB-22, Adorama has their own brand, Cheetahstand has the Cheetahlight, in the UK are a couple more, etc. But everybody know and talk about this lights as the Godox AD360. Under this name you can find several videos on YouTube and very cheap accessories on Ebay.

    Power: 360Watts. To compare with a popular strobe is equivalent to the Alien Bees 800. I did a test with both using and this one is a bit more powerful. Around 1/4 stop more.

    Recycling time: This unit has two outlets, inside the battery you can found two separate cells. So, if you are using just one flash per battery like most of us, you are using only 50% of the battery. You have to buy an accessory called Godox DB-02 (around $12) This is a “Y” cable that take the power of both cells and join on one making the recycling time cuting by half. Using this cable, you practically don’t have to wait if you are on 1/2 power or less. Around 2 seconds using full power. THIS IS A MUST HAVE ACCESSORY.

    Bulb sticking out of the unit: Yes, if you only use pocket flashes this shape is kinda weird. In the market this type of flashes are called “Bare bulb flash”, some of you will remember the Sunpak 120J or the Quantum QFlash. This is the same with 360w and cheaper. Acording to the manual, you should remove the bulb for storage after your shoot. BUT I don’t want to even touch the bulb and fortunately you can find protectors, made of aluminum for $7 ON eBAY (Godox AD-S15). Problem solve! Well, it will take more real estate in your but your bulb will be safe.

    THEY DO NOT HAVE RADIO TRIGGER BUILT IN: Correct. BUT, they have two kind of triggers and just one kind of receivers. The received is connected on the USB PORT (yes, weird! but is great) . The USB port is just for the receiver.

    For Normal NON High Speed sync: you should look for Godox FT-16. A set with two or three receivers cost around $80. PROS: 16 channels, 16 groups, Power Control from the transmitter. CONS: No High Speed Sync

    If you want to use High Speed Sync, great to shoot outdoors with shallow depth of field WITHOUT AND ND FILTERS, you should buy (I you already have the previous set) just the Godox Cells II Transmitter (there is just a Canon and the Nikon version for now). I see how hard was for PYE to deal with the bright sun and the ND fader.

    So, you don’t have to buy a new set of triggers, if you are happy with your, just keep it.

    I’m very happy with this flashes and no longer have studio strobes.

    I hope that helps.

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    • Lissette Garcia

      Thanks for the additional information.

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    • Pye

      Great additional info Juan!

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    • Stephen Casey

      Have you worked them hard with the Y adapter at say 1/2 power. Canon 580exII are the only ones that endure my hummingbird photography. Generic speedlights are dead after 20 flashes in a few minutes.

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  8. Charles Magrin

    Here in France they are called GODOX Witstro! i own two of them and they are incredibly powerfull and reliable for chinese made flashes! and very simple to use! i sold my SB 910 without any regrets! nice piece of gear!

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  9. Theodore Nguyen

    As a “Review”, this article is missing the two biggest features of this light.

    1) The power can be adjusted remotely with an FT-16 trigger; branded as Godox, Neweer, etc. The receiver is the size of a large thumb and sticks to the side of the flash; no batteries required and no dangling trigger cable.

    2) The flash supports HSS mode for shutter speeds above the camera’s sync speed. Read this article for a myriad of ways to trigger HSS on this flash. http://flashhavoc.com/godox-v850-witstro-radio-trigger-alternatives/

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    • Juan Kis

      I agree with you Theodore, I wrote a comment below.

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    • Juan Kis

      One side note for those who don’t know this flash. In the past I’ve use studio strobes, and I thought since I’m moved to this lights I have to recharge the battery after each shoot. Well, big surprise! I shoot average 100 to 200 images with this light with power from 1/16 to 1/2 and I recharge the battery usually after 7 to 10 shoots.

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    • Stan Rogers

      If you want too stay in-house with B&H (and there are good reasons to do that from a customer-service point of view), the controller and receiver are sold there under the Impact brand name. (It also fits the Godox-manufactured studio strobes, and B&H uses the Impact brand name for their studio gear.) “HSS” is just a sort-of; it’s actually a tail sync, which loses a lot more power in the process.

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  10. Theodore Nguyen

    How is this considered news? There are half-dozen rebranding of the same light and battery pack manufactured by Godox. You do not have to wait for “Bolt” (or whatever) for accessories. You can look on the original manufacturer’s website for all the available accessories and modifiers that are available right now from your favorite online retailer.

    Original: Godox AD-360 (http://www.godox.com/EN/Products_Camera_Flash_Witstro_AD180&AD360_Powerfou&Portable_Flash.html)

    Adorama Flashpoint Streaklight 360 (http://flashhavoc.com/godox-witstro-ad180-ad360-review/)

    Neweer AD-360 (http://www.amazon.com/External-Portable-Speedlite-HVL-F58AM-HVL-F43AM/dp/B00FFYAVC8)

    Cheetahlight CL360 (http://www.thephoblographer.com/2013/03/19/cheetah-stand-cheetah-light-360-may-be-the-perfect-fusion-of-speedlite-and-monolight)

    Calumet Genesis GF400 (http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2013/12/03/best-portable-flash-kit-for-outdoor-photography-6-top-models-tested-and-rated/2/)

    Lencarta Atom 360 (http://www.lightingrumours.com/lencarta-atom-bare-bulb-flashes-are-coming-to-the-uk-in-july-4233)

    Interfit Strobies (http://www.lightingrumours.com/interfit-pro-flash-360-6169)

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    • Kurk Rouse

      Thanks for saying this Theodore was just about to write the same thing

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    • Pye

      I don’t understand what you mean. Where did we say this was news? This was a gear review after we had a chance to get the unit out on 15+ shoots.

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    • Kurk Rouse

      Should have added the point, that lt looks very similar to the cheetah light, which i’ve been thinking of getting for a while now. I own a bolt battery pack which works pretty great and now that I’ve seen this it seems like we have more options for bare bulb flash even if they do stem from one manufacturer and rebranded. Could all boil down to price point that will ultimately help me decide. Unless the price points are all the same then it will boil down the brand preference.

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  11. antti kappinen

    Mine are called Godox Wistro 360, and batterypack is BP960 .. And they are awesome!

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  12. Raquita Henderson

    Can we get a comparison of the bolt to the Cheetah Light CL-360?

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    • Juan Kis

      Are exactly the same, made by Godox. You can read my comment below.

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  13. Ankur Puri

    Since Adorama sells the same under the name “Flashpoint 360” – it might be better to score that deal setup by Flashhavoc.com. Head on over to http://flashhavoc.com/adorama-flashpoint-streaklight-deals/ to get Flashpoint-360 for $399.95 which includes a few extras (triggers and umbrella reflector kit) also.

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