Godox MF12 Macro Flash Review
Godox MF12 twinflashes
- The best twin flashes I’ve ever used to date.
By Bryce McQuillan
Over the years of doing macro photography, I have tried a number of flash units. For macro, I often opt for twin flashes (meaning two flashes close to the end of the lens), as having the flashes close to the subject means that I am able to light very small subjects with ease. For many years I used a 60 mm macro lens and the Canon MPE65 (recently I added a 100 mm macro lens to my collection), so having flash units as close to my subject helped with lighting. With this setup, I generally use a DIY flash diffuser.
Having flashes close to your subject has a lot of pros but just as many cons. Often having flashes up close, does not allow much room for the light from the flashes to spread and soften; it also reduces your ability to create a diffuser to help diffuse and soften the light. Not to mention you can often scare/or worse knock your subject (as per example of katydid below), resulting in a missed photo opportunity.
Canon EOS R, Canon RF 100mm macro, Aperture F11, ISO 250, shutter 1/200. Godox MF12 twin flashes -1 TTL, with clip-on diffusers – Katydid (Caedicia simplex).
I often prefer wired flashes. The main reason for this is quite simply that there are fewer things to go wrong; you only really have to worry about the main unit having charged batteries. However, wired flash units can sometimes develop issues with the wires after extensive use. The positioning of the flashes is also limited by the length of the wires. But with wireless flashes, you have the flexibility to use one or more flashes away from the front of the lens, for instance on a tripod a few metres away.
I recently had the chance to try out the Godox MF12 wireless flashes. My first thought was ok, I’ll have a quick play. But I didn’t really think I would use them much, as with most wireless twin flashes you have to wait 3-4 seconds for the unit to recharge between photographs and then the unit will be flat after 200 or so flashes. But after a little reading on the Godox website, I was surprised but also a little sceptical that these flashes can take a maximum of 500 full-power flashes and recharge in 1.7 seconds at full power.
When I got the MF12 flashes, I took around 700 shots over a number of days, I did not run the flashes at full power, and got most of these photographs were focus-stack images. I trialled the flashes in different modes, such as manual, TTL etc. To my surprise I ended up using these flashes over my normal setup, in fact, I have not touched my normal setup since using these flashes. These flashes hands down have been the best twin flash units I’ve used to date. They just work every time! I am extremely impressed with their recycle time, recycling faster than any other twin flash unit I have owned or used in the past (this is of course as a stand-alone unit, without battery back etc). I did try connecting a USB power bank to the flash via a USB C cable to see if it would work as an external power pack, but sadly it does not. Once you plug in a USB C cable the flashes switch into charging mode, and the buttons/controls become disabled.
I already own 5 speedlites, a twin flash unit, and three strobes, but I certainly see myself adding these flash units to my large collection. I could see them becoming my full-time macro flashes for when out and about photographing invertebrates in the future.
The Godox MF12 (K2) twin flash pack comes with quite a few accessories (trigger not included). I won’t go into all the micro details – if you’d like to know further information head to https://godox.eu/product/macro-flash-godox-mf12/
Images lit with a single Godox MF12 flash.
I used the Godox MF12 twin flashes mounted on the end of the lens with the mounting ring and adaptor that comes in the box with the flashes. I wanted to use these flashes straight out of the box as such, without any modifications or diffusers. I used the flashes in a variety of conditions and with a range of different lenses. I really wanted to see how they would perform for the kind of photography that I do most. I also wanted to figure out if they would be a flash unit that I could recommend to my friends and other fellow macro photographers. Because I do a lot of invertebrate photography, I am often getting questions from entomologists and the likes asking for recommendations for a good flash unit for their macro lens, particularly when they do not want to be carrying large softboxes and DIY diffusers.
During the day I also photograph plants, lichens, mushrooms etc. In these situations, I often want to use what available natural light there is and complement it with a little bit of fill light. I generally want to keep the subjects looking as natural as possible (as per example of the mānuka flower and purple flower below).
100 mm macro lens. Godox MF12 twin flashes.
I tested the flashes on a range of lenses and focal lengths from 180 mm right down to 17 mm. I was extremely impressed with how they performed with just the clip-on diffusers and the flashes at the end of the lens. The flashes gave soft light that I was more than happy with.
Godox MF12 twin flashes. 17 mm lens for pink flowers. 180 mm lens for purple flowers on the right.
I often like to adjust the angle of flash heads to allow for more direct light, or for a softer fall off of light. The Godox MF12 twin flashes are very easily adjustable while they are attached to the mounting ring. You can adjust each individual flash head up and down. You can also move the flash heads around the mounting ring that you attach to the end of the lens. There is also the ability to add on extra flashes if desired.
There is also the ability to adjust the power separately on each flash head. I found this feature really useful because it was straightforward to use, and enabled a lot freedom in the ways that I could choose to create an image.
100 mm lens. Godox MF12 twin flashes. Flowers were photographed during the day.
So how well do the flashes work for photographing invertebrates during the daytime? The lighting was probably a little harsh for my personal liking. Personally, I would still want to diffuse the light a bit more. But for the stress-free hassle of clipping the flashes on and away you go, this makes taking the flashes when hiking/travelling a lot less hassle. Due to the unit not being too large and bulky, I found I could get in nice and close to the subjects, but also had the freedom to move the flashes around the lens as needed.
Honey bee – Godox MF12 twinflashes -1 TTL. 100 mm lens. Example of photograph taken close-up to a small moving subject.
Godox MF12 twin flashes -1 TTL. 100 mm lens. Focus-stacked photograph.
But the big question for me was…. How do they work at night as bare flash units and the only source of light? To my surprise, they did quite well. Although I would personally prefer to diffuse the flashes for night photography.
Green&golden bell frog, F11 Godox MF12 twin flashes -1 TTL. Bare flashes with a DIY bounce card underneath.
I also added my DIY diffuser to the twin flashes to see what light I got from that. See one image below:
Green&golden bell frog, Godox MF12 twin flashes -1 TTL. Bare flashes with a DIY bounce card underneath.
A few things to note:
The Godox trigger (not included in the MF12 pack) has a simple display that allows the user to quickly and easily see and adjust settings. The large scroll wheel allows for very quick and easy adjusting of flash power and settings. I found it to be rather intuitive to use.
The twin flashes have very much the same buttons and control wheel as the trigger. I was quite a fan of the on/off lock (I have lost count of the number of times I have knocked an on button on other flashes, or devices and it has then run itself flat). How the lock works are when you turn the flashes on, it asks you to scroll the wheel; if the wheel has not been scrolled within three seconds, then the unit turns itself off.
The twin flashes themselves have a focusing light. This focused light is bright, more than bright enough to focus with. I would say that it is almost twice as bright as the focus light on other twin flashes that I have used in the past. The focus light also has a brightness setting from 1-10. The downside is that after taking a photograph you have to switch the focusing light back on. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to do this from the main control trigger or camera.
But to be honest I personally wouldn’t use and rely on the focusing lights from the twin flashes as this will have quite an impact on your flash recycle time and overall battery life of the flashes. This is something to be considered as you are unable to change the batteries in the flashes.
This brings me to the flash batteries:
The trigger takes two AA batteries and seems to last for quite some time. The twin flash heads themselves have a built-in 3.7V/1700mAh battery that is charged via USB C. This would probably be my biggest downside to these flashes because when it is flat it needs to be charged. It does not run on interchangeable batteries. Godox states that when fully charged, the flash heads support a maximum of 500 full-power flashes.
It is also important to note that the flash heads are not weather sealed.
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