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First Party vs. Third Party Flashes | Candid Chats

By Shivani Reddy on April 8th 2019

With the pre-order announcement of the Godox V1 (a.k.a Flashpoint Zoom Li-on X R2) inundating photo forums and facebook groups there has been much talk about its blatant copy of the Profoto A1. Chinese manufactured brands like Godox and Yongnuo pack a punch by offering similar product types for a much cheaper price point. However, it raises concern that no matter how hard R&D teams from original brands like Profoto, Canon, and MagMod work to create a unique and progressive product, there will always be a knockoff at the ready 6-12 months after their launch.

Although this is how competitive markets operate, one can make the parallel to when a photographer’s work is stolen and used without permission and uncredited. Is there a moral dilemma behind using Chinese third-party brands and the original designs from established companies? For this Candid Chat, we dive into question:

Which do you prefer: third party brands or the originals, and why? 

This series is designed to use their thoughts to formulate an open and honest discussion regarding topics, decisions, and situations we face as photographers daily. Here are some of the attributes photographers look for when dropping their hard earned money on lighting products:

Reliability & Performance

A whopping 50% of Twitter users chose reliability and performance to be the biggest determining factors when purchasing lighting equipment. Of course, this isn’t a surprising response, yet Profoto fanatics are quick to jump on Godox users’ throats regarding recycle rate and misfires. Much of that can be overlooked for the cheaper price point, and at the end of the day, one misfire doesn’t lead to a less successful path, just maybe a little more frustration.

A mixed bag of reactions came from Instagram as users mentioned the compromises you make for the price you pay. While some argue that the original models of these products offer a sturdier build and performance longevity, others are willing to overlook these aspects if the third-party light delivers what it promised.

Refuting all internet theories of reliability, Godox users came in full force to defend their pick when pit against Profoto. The obvious reason for this discrepancy is the price point, which we’ll discuss in our next point. You can see Pye’s review of the Godox AD200’s to see his thoughts after mainly using Profoto for years.

Comparatively, when asked which 600 EX-RT flash takes the cake, photographers chose to go with Canon over Yongnuo. Yongnuo‘s version is 1/4 of the price and offers radio functionality with Canon flashes and remotes, yet is likely one of the most unreliable when it comes to performance and usage over time.

Price Point

The easiest point of debate is the massive price difference between first party and third party brands. Reliability isn’t at the forefront of consumer minds when the price tag is as low as it is. The V1 vs the A1 has a $740 difference, meaning you could get almost 4 for the price of 1. On the other hand, people see the higher end lights as an investment just like you would look at buying camera gear and lenses.

Customer Service

Seeing that Godox/Flashpoint is a Chinese brand, customer service has been a hot topic for first party users to boast about. Canon is one of the most reputable in the business for their Canon Professional Services and it beats out Yongnuo by a landslide. If a Yongnuo flash falls to the ground, easy, replace it for $100 bucks and you are good to go. Here is what people had to say about how customer service affects their

More Expensive = For Professionals Only?

What did surprise us is the number of photographers that suggested to start with the third-party brands to learn and get familiar with certain products and techniques and then move up to the more pro version by buying into the original makes. Although we see this same thought process in investing in cheaper lenses with f/1.8 or f/4 apertures, many pros are quick to purchase higher quality glass and still learn the same way they would with the cheaper alternatives.

Product Lineup

Innovation and relevancy are two of the most important attributes for lighting companies to consider when creating products for their audience. In the history of cameras and photography, higher power lighting has never been so affordable and easily accessible which makes even flash beginners want to buy their very first strobe. See what some had to say about the innovation of products and how it made them switch over to Godox:

The Moral Dilemma

As soon as the Godox V1 was announced there was heavy discussion surrounding the intellectual property of the Profoto A1‘s round head. It’s par for the course for a competitive market to produce “similar” products but this seemed too identical for many to accept. To put it in relatable terms, when photographers find out their images are being used for advertising without permission, they throw nothing short of a temper tantrum. Is this the same or is there enough of a difference in design and tech to differentiate between the two? Currently, Profoto has accused Godox of patent infringement, which quite honestly makes sense considering the amount of money invested into Profoto R&D (they commit 10 percent of their sales to product development).

So, after hearing what the community has to say, what are your thoughts on third party vs. first-party brands? Do you think there is a line that should be drawn when it comes to copying


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Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Tarik Browne

    If money was no object, Profoto 100% but like many, the reality for me is that it is a real struggle to get to where you a happy price point justify that extra expense.  The realities Pye speaks about in his review of the AD200 are accurate, greater frequencies of misfires come as part and parcel of the step-down, but you can learn to deal with them, and plan around them.  

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  2. K. Adam Christensen

    I’m all over the place with this. I just got into Profoto, and I dig it. I also had Flashpoint before that, and I dig that. If it wasn’t for Godox though getting me into lighting in the first place (not expensive to get an OCF system setup), I wouldn’t have the Profoto.

    Next, I get where Profoto is coming from. Do this R&D and someone comes up behind to do the same thing – but I don’t really see that. Yeah, the V1 has that round head and 🔋, but that UI on the A1 is nuts smooth. It’s a different experience using Profoto gear. Plus I know I’m paying for the robustness in that gear can be rented from all over the place.

    But then I appreciate Godox lighting a fire under Profoto. With 10% for R&D, I would hope by now a Sony or Fuji A1 would have been released. Oh, and how about that Android app? So if you’re one of those users, Profoto has left you to be…so at least the V1 gives those users some support. This boggles my mind that Profoto just let those users hanging like that, now Godox is drinking their milkshake. 

    So yeah, I’m all over the place with this. There are so many angles. But I looked how this was framed. Good article

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  3. Constantin Malanciuc

    If a product is cheaper is categorised as a third party? I understand gGodox is a third party if we consider the on camera flashes, but for other battery powered flashes they have they are not a third party. Where is a Profoto AD200 equivalent or other lights godox has. 

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  4. Cary McCaughey

    I really enjoyed this article.  It tackles the ‘issue’ from photographers across the globe.  Opinions are great but not everyone will be on the same wave length.  Some photographers begin their wedding photography at $10,000 whereas on average many are around $2,500(by metrics of The Knot).  Some portrait photographers average $300 where others may average $5,000 a session.  Lots to think about and I could likely go on for pages about why its not as feasible to invest in Profoto….the “First Party”.  Round flash head or not, its a silly banter about “stealing”.  Godox had their lithium batteries in a flash first..should they go after profoto for theirs now?  You could make anything up.

    For myself the discussion ends at price of investment like Jared has stated.  As a wedding photographer growing a business was and getting gear that helped me make money was and still is the most important. Godox/Flashpoint have simply alleviated the need to spend nearly $10,000 just in lighting.  Now I can go purchase those Nikon 58mm 1.4’s, the 70-200’s the 24-70’s or primes! 

    I see people talking about quality and sure there can be a few issues with the Godox but I think you find them more prevalent because simply more people use them.  Why?  Simply Price.  Many of the issues can easily be solved and I think the ease of solving them is through communities like this which is AMAZING!  I love how we can all put our heads together as a community and support each other and help each other succeed.

    This fight is like a Apple vs PC.  I feel ashamed to say this but ‘Fanboy’ against ‘Fanboy’.   I’m seriously still questioning why a flash must cost $1,000 in 2019.

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    • Shivani Reddy

      Cory, thank you so much for reading through! Glad you enjoyed it. I also think that something no one mentioned is how some tend to treat cheaper products as if they are replaceable (specifically referring to cheap Yongnuo flashes). They know that they can get a replacement that is still cheaper than the competitors. 

      Thanks for offering your opinion! Stay tuned for our next one this week. I would love if you could join the Facebook group so we can include your opinion:

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  5. Jared Gant

    Great discussion. I can totally understand where both sides are coming from. I think both Godox and Profoto lights have their strengths. But, ultimately when it comes down to pulling out my wallet, Godox wins every time. 

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    • Shivani Reddy

      Thanks for reading through it Jared, and for weighing in for the article. I agree with you 100% and I think the community brought up great points about buying into both options. 

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