Bare Bulb flash systems …. Part 1 Getting Started

I remember the first time I saw a the original Sunpak 120J I knew that they had me in mind when they designed it, but it just sold for crazy money second hand on E-Bay. Then a while ago several flash manufactures caught onto the idea and started making barebulb strobes in the similar style and you could say a few generation of flash was born…..

 $T2eC16Z,!zQE9s3stuR2BR)QD-oUIg~~60_57 Sunpack 120j with external battery and bare bulb



There are many reasons given for the bare bulb flash’s superiority. One is that the light can be sent in almost all directions whereas with a speedlight the light only goes forward.  When used with a softbox, the bare bulb flash will illuminate the sides of the soft-box, thus illuminating the soft-box face more evenly than a soft-box lit with a speedlight.  It has been said that a smaller soft-box lit with a bare bulb is the equivalent of a soft-box with a 75% larger surface area lit with a speedlight. A bare bulb flash also produces a round light pattern compared to the somewhat unnatural rectangular light pattern of a speedlight.  In a square or octagon soft-box, the bare bulb flash would theoretically spread its light more evenly in the soft-box than can a speedlight. The Higher end systems have a lot more power then a speedlight being more comparable with studio flashes, the only disadvantage being no modelling light .  There are other reasons for the superiority of a bare bulb such as the option to use it with a parabolic reflector, which is said to have better quality light compared to a square reflector of a speedlight.

 monday 24.11.2014_web-123180ws Bare bulb flash with a massive 180cm umbrella

There are several distributors selling the same system under different names around the world e.g The Godox Witstro system is also re-branded and sold as Cheetah Light, Neewer, or Genesis Reporter (to name a few) or the Triopo are distributed under the name Polaroid.






First off the Triopo/Polaroid system (pictured above with and with out the detachable reflector, but not to scale with each other) is a regular speedlite with a bare bulb head added, so its powered by 4 AA batteries inside like most other speedlites. The bare bulb should, at least to some degree, also reduce the overheating issue regular speedlites face, allowing more flashes in row or higher power levels to be used. The feature TTL for some makes and can also take a external battery pack to speed up recycle time, and have several other features.

  • High-power flash output <> GN 52M
  • Ultra Fast Recycle Times <> Flash Can Bounce and Swivel
  • High Speed Strobing (12 flashes per second) <> Battery-Saving Circuits
  • 8 Power Ratios From Full to 1/128 power
  • Rear Curtain Sync Function For Special Effects

They are actually a very cheap easy start into using a bare bulb Flash system, and are compatible with the light modifiers from many other systems. With a guide number of 52 they have a nice amount of power, but they are also cheaper then 1 system flash with the same amount of power so you can get a few for the same price and have a lot of fun. and IMHO is a nice entry point before you steep up to more powerful flashes like the 180ws or 360ws that I’m using at the moment.


61NK6uPfsNL._SL1000_Godox Witstro 360AD and Bettery

The 360sw and 180ws flashes made by Godox and distributed under many different names are defiantly my favourite choice of “bang for your buck”. Look out for them re branded as Cheetah Flash, Neewer, Genesis Reporter to name the few I see around a lot. There are several basic differences between the 360 and 180 other then the power output, you can replace the ISO hotshoe on the 360 with a standard tripod thread and the 360 is a lot larger. They both come use an external battery pack and have no ttl support  but you can shoot high-speed sync if you have a trigger that will support it. I Have seen people selling these online with out the battery packs, if you are getting one for the first time place get one with the battery it is useless with out it.

61yYugERfYL._SL1000_Godox Witstro 180AD

Model AD180 AD360
Max. Power 180 Ws 360 Ws
Guide No. (m/ft, ISO 100, with standard reflector) 60/197 80/262.5
Standard reflector offers approx.
28mm coverage.
Vertical Rotation Angle -15° to +90°
Horizontal Rotation Angle 0 to 270°
Power Supply PB960 lithium power pack
Full Power Flashes (with PB960 power pack) 900 450
Recycle Time (with PB960 power pack) Approx.
Color Temperature 5600 K ±200
Flash Duration 1/300 – 1/10.000 sec
Dimensions (flash tube & reflector not included) 205x90x70mm 220x95x75mm
Net Weight (flash tube & reflector not included) 550g 780g


Top of the line would be the Quantum Q flash, to be honest I don’t know a lot about them I have only seen 1 of them in real life and that was a while ago. What I do know is that have several model offering a variety of features including wireless tll support and different power output etc. I don’t even know if they can accept the same light modifiers as the other systems but I will find all that out fur a future blog. Speaking of which part 2 should be finished in about a week and will cover light modifier and other accessories …….