One of the only things I missed when I moved from Nikon to Fujifilm a few years ago was the quality of speedlights available for X-Series cameras. I never truly appreciated how good the Nikon Creative Lighting System was until I couldn’t use it anymore!
This is no longer a problem though: in the last couple of years, we’ve seen feature-packed speedlights introduced by manufacturers such as Godox.
In this review, I test out the Godox TT685F speedlight flash on my Fujifilm X-Series gear. If you’re not a Fujifilm shooter, keep reading anyway, as Godox makes a version of the TT685 for every camera system.
There’s a wide range of third-party flashes available for different camera systems on the market today. Ten years ago, I would only ever buy a flash made by my camera manufacturer and would generally avoid any third-party flash made in China.
How times have changed – the quality and range of features on third-party flashes these days are outstanding, and prices have fallen significantly.
I first heard about Godox flashes through word of mouth in Fujifilm Facebook groups. Godox is based in Shenzen, China, and has been around since 1993. They make photographic lighting products under their own Godox brand, and also under other names such as Flashpoint.
Introducing the Godox TT685
The Godox TT685 is a powerful, feature-packed speedlight at a very attractive price point, around $110USD.
It’s available for all major systems. If you’re looking at buying one, make sure you grab the right one for your camera. The last letter in the model number gives it away: TT685F is for Fujiilm, TT685C is for Canon, TT685S is for Sony, TT685O is for Olympus/Panasonic, and TT685N is for Nikon.
What’s in the box
The flash comes attractively packed in a sturdy cardboard box with key details of its specifications. Inside the box, you’ll find the flash, a small black mini stand for attaching the flash to light stands, a black protective case, and an instruction manual in Chinese and English. The manual is also available on the Godox website.
The specifications of the Godox TT685 are truly impressive. Here’s a summary:
- Runs on 4 x AA batteries. Each set will give you about 230 flashes.
- Recycle time varies between 0.1 and 2.6 seconds.
- It can be used as an on-camera flash, as an on-camera master to trigger other off-camera flashes, and as a slave flash off-camera.
- The flash head tilts between -7 degrees (slightly backward) to a 90-degree angle.
- The flash head rotates 360 degrees.
- Allows high-speed sync up to 1/1800 second.
- Full TTL (through the lens) mode for Fujifilm X-Series cameras.
- Manual flash can be adjusted from 1/1 to 1/256 power in third-stop increments.
- Runs on a 2.4Ghz radio connection – very impressive given more expensive flashes in the market run on optical line-of-sight only.
- Capable of firmware updates via a USB port.
The build quality of the Godox TT685 is very good. It looks and feels a lot like my old Nikon speedlights, especially the slightly larger SB-900. With batteries in, it weighs around 500g, a little on the heavy side on a mirrorless camera, but not too bad.
The TT685 has a familiar dot matrix LCD screen on the back, which displays all the settings and information you’ll need when using the flash. As well as the on/off switch, there’s a middle dial, which is useful in manual mode to dial settings up and down. It also has a number of buttons, including one for changing the flash mode, one for putting the flash into slave mode, and another that lights up red. This serves as both the test flash button and also an indicator that the flash is ready to fire.
Near the flash head, there’s the standard catch light panel and wide-angle diffuser panel.
Ease of use
Setting the Godox TT685 up is easy. Pop the batteries in and attach it to your camera by sliding it on the hot shoe with the dot matrix panel facing you. Rotate the circular lock ring on the base of the flash until it locks up. You’re ready to go!
It’s easy to move the flash up and down from an upright position to facing your subject head-on, but I found it a lot more difficult to rotate the flash 360 degrees. It’s not hard to do; it was just a bit stiff and felt like it wasn’t meant to rotate at first. I had to check that it did rotate in the camera manual as I didn’t want to break it.
Using the flash in all modes is pretty easy. It turns off after 90 seconds of idle use, but pressing your camera shutter halfway or pressing any of the buttons on the flash wakes it up.
The Godox TT685 has three modes: TTL, Manual and Multi. You can easily cycle through these by pressing the mode button on the flash.
Having a third-party flash that supports TTL on Fujifilm is wonderful; many other third party speedlights in the past did not.
TTL stands for “through the lens.” This is a way that the flash can work with the camera to determine the best flash output for any given scene and, therefore, the best exposure.
You can adjust this with the flash exposure compensation feature. This is similar to how you may shoot in full auto mode or aperture priority mode in your camera (allowing it to make exposure decisions) but then adding exposure compensation to suit the scene.
The TT685 range of speedlights also supports high-speed sync (HSS) up to 1/8000s, which is the fastest mechanical shutter speed on many X-Series cameras, including the X-T3.
HSS can be very useful in bright conditions outside, especially if you want to shoot shallow depth of field. Many flashes don’t support HSS, so their sync speed is typically only 1/200 or 1/250 second, which can be limiting.
In TTL mode, you can also select second curtain sync, where the flash fires at the end during longer exposures instead of at the start. This can be useful in night scenes to expose traffic trails or lights in the background while the flash lights up your subject in the foreground right at the end.
In manual flash mode, you are selecting how powerful the flash fires, from 1/1 full power to 1/128 power. You can use the dial to move up and down in 1/3 stop increments. This mode is very useful when you want more precise control over your lighting. It was also the way flashes were used for years before TTL.
You can also use stroboscopic flash in Multi mode. Use it to illuminate a moving subject against a dark background: each time the flash fires in rapid succession, the subject is shown moving across the frame.
Although I didn’t test this feature of the TT685, I’m looking forward to trying it out one day.
Using the flash in slave mode for off-camera flash
Off-camera flash (OCF) is something that beginning to intermediate photographers often want to learn. The good news is that it’s never been so easy.
Putting a flash in slave mode used to be a nightmare.
I remember being on a Nikon training course in London in 2006 with my brand new D200 camera and SB800 speedlight. At the first break, the trainer asked if we had any general Nikon questions. Before he could finish the sentence, three or four people asked if he could teach us how to set our speedlight up in slave mode!
We all wanted to trigger our flashes off-camera by the built-in pop-up flash, but the interface of the flash and user manual left us all scratching our heads. As he explained the process, we wrote detailed notes so we wouldn’t forget. It was a question I was then asked by a number of photographers over the next couple of years, as it was not easy to work out.
What a contrast we have to the Godox speedlights!
To trigger the TT685 off-camera, you’ll need to use another Godox flash or the Godox X1T wireless trigger.
The X1T is a small, light, wireless trigger made from plastic that sits on the hotshoe of your camera, triggering Godox flashes set up in slave mode. Like the flashes, there’s a different version for each camera system, denoted by a letter at the end of each model.
It’s so easy to use the X1T-F wireless transmitter. The first time I ever tried it with a smaller Godox flash, the TT350F, I spent about one minute reading the manual, and within another 30 seconds, I had the flash set up in slave mode. Voila!
The wireless trigger is excellent – you can fire Godox flashes from up to 100 meters away, which is quite amazing. In my test, I fired it from 50 meters away with no problems.
Using the flash for basic on-camera/off-camera TTL and manual mode firing is all pretty straightforward. You can easily cycle between modes, vary the intensity of the flash in manual mode, change groups and channels without having to work too much out.
For some of the more advanced functionality of the flash, you’ll definitely need to read the manual. I’ve played around with it by randomly pressing some of the other buttons, and I got lost a couple of times.
I’m very happy with the quality of the images I’ve taken with the Godox TT685. It certainly feels like it could compete with the best flashes on the market quite comfortably. I’m not sure it has the best recycle time on the market, but other features, such as its use of wireless technology, make up for it.
Value for money
Around $110 USD, the TT685 is excellent value for money. The range of features you get with this speedlight, notably high-speed sync, the ability to use it as an off-camera flash, and the fact it runs on a wireless signal, are all winners in my book.
The TT350 is a smaller, lighter flash that runs on two AA batteries. This was the first Godox flash I bought, and at first, I was impressed by the small size and good price point. However, over time, it proved not to be as powerful as bigger flashes, and the recycle times between flashes seemed quite poor.
The V860II is practically identical, except it runs on a rechargeable lithium ION battery, allowing faster recycle times. I chose the TT685 due to the cheaper cost, but also because I prefer using multiple sets of rechargeable AA batteries.
The Godox TT685 is a must-have piece of kit for photographers wishing to use a flash on-camera or experiment with off-camera flash. It has an excellent range of features, good build quality, and has a competitive price point.
Usability is good too, only with more complex operations will you need to read the user manual. Turning the TT685 into a slave for off-camera use is straightforward and done with a press of a button.
Using wireless technology, Godox flashes all talk to each other seamlessly, and you can trigger flashes in slave mode up to 100 meters away. This is vastly superior to much more expensive speedlights that rely on line-of-sight transmission.
If you’ve never used a flash or a speedlight in your photography, there’s probably never been a better time to throw yourself in the deep end. I highly recommend the Godox TT685F.
Have you tried out the Godox TT685F flash? If so, share with us your thoughts in the comments.