Let me rewind the clock by a decade: it’s the tail end of 2012, and the NYPD was in the process of clearing out Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. Over the last year, Occupy Wall Street had been picking up steam, with an encampment filling the better part of the park and protests regularly spilling out into the streets.
The police had closed off the streets surrounding the park and had pushed most of the press away, but I’d managed to find an area to sneak through and found my way into the park. It was a mass of humanity — on one side was the colorful array of protesters, and on the other was a sea of NYPD blue. The lights in the park had been shut off, but on my way out of the house, I managed to grab my SB800 and whatever batteries I had handy. As the police started moving in and making arrests, I brought my camera to my eye and started firing. After the third shot, the flash died, leaving me in almost complete darkness.
As luck would have it, there was a single television crew standing on the bench next to me, and their on-camera light provided enough illumination for me to capture the cops hauling protesters out of the park. The shots weren’t great, but I was able to keep my editor happy. But still, it could have gone much worse and I made a vow that day to always be prepared.
My camera bag is always a little overstuffed. It’s heavy with lenses and gear, but the advantage is I’m far less likely to have any single point of failure. Still, I’m always looking to lighten the load.
When Godox announced the release of their retro-inspired Lux Junior flash, I was intrigued - but probably not for the reasons you might think. Sure, I’m not immune to the lure of retro-themed designs - half the gear I carry with me these days was built decades before I was born - but rather it was the size and weight that caught my eye. Instead of the bulkier flashes I typically carry, this was small and light enough to fit in my bag without causing further strain to my already overworked back and shoulder. INSSTRO was kind enough to allow me the use of a review model, which I ended up taking on a 2,500 mile cross-country trip.
Let’s start with the things I liked about it. As I mentioned, the flash itself is relatively small - perhaps the width of a deck of cards, and even with the two AAA batteries it feels extremely light. The body is built from plastic with metal and leatherette on the exterior, which matches nicely with the Nikon FM and Leica M3 I brought with me. For some folks this is a big plus, though I’ll admit I’m more of a “function over form” sort of guy. Still, it’s pretty enough. The knob on the back controls the power output, while the power switch also allows you to switch from “Auto” to “Manual.” There’s a light on the top of the flash that turns from red to green when the flash is ready to fire, and another switch on the side for remote firing options. The flash tightens nicely down to the camera hot shoe, and there’s a cord that comes with the flash for firing from PC syncs. For older cameras with cold shoes like my M3, this was a big help.
My road trip started in Denver, Colorado, and snaked through the Midwest, Canada and New England. We went to the top of Mount Evans (somewhere around 14,000 feet) where snow and rain covered everything, to the wineries in Upstate New York. While the flash isn’t weather sealed, it seemed to hold up well enough - at no point did I have a weather-induced failure.
At this point, I should address where the flash did fail. Or at least, didn’t work quite as well as I’d hoped. First, the power output isn’t that great - at GN14 it struggled under bright-light conditions. Even at sunset I spent a fair amount of time fiddling with both camera and flash to get it just right. Second, it’s a battery hog - particularly when shooting at higher power settings, eating up AAA batteries at a rate faster than I’d be otherwise happy with. Third, no TTL or high-speed sync options.
This last part has been mentioned in other publications, and I’m on the fence on it. While it would be nice to have TTL and high-speed sync, it’s important to note that this is a budget, retro-designed flash. Its simplicity is a selling point, and a way to keep costs down.
Are there more functional options in this price range? Sure, there are actually a great number of them from a variety of manufacturers. Does that mean this one doesn’t have value or shouldn’t appeal, but you should know what you’re getting into. It’s an extremely simple design capable of working with a variety of both modern and classic cameras pretty much out of the box. The simple power-output knob on the back comes with a chart for appropriate camera settings, and with a little practice it becomes easy; really almost intuitive to use so long as you understand the limitations set out before you.
Would I use this as my main flash for a major assignment? No, probably not. During a recent assignment, I brought it out, and it simply didn't have enough power for dependable news work in uncontrolled environments. It would be interesting to compare this against the Godox Lux Senior, which has a lot more options and is significantly more powerful.
But that’s really not what it’s designed for. Its best use is as a fun, unobtrusive and uncomplicated tool for fun and casual shooting. And while it may not be the perfect piece of equipment for a presser or political rally, it wouldn’t be useless there either. It's small enough that it can fit in my bag as a decent backup in case my main flash goes down, and can stay in there without filling up valuable space or weighing me down the way my SB-900 might.
What I Liked
- Small, convenient, and lightweight
- Relatively easy to use
- Solid construction and reasonably weatherproof
What I Disliked
- Slight learning curve
- Slightly under-powered
- No clicks on the rear dial