December 13, 2023
Neewer Q4 Strobe
Studio quality lighting that can be used in the field. The Neewer Q4 Strobe takes studio lighting outdoors with the QPro-C controller
There are generally two options for using off-camera lighting. Studio lights have tons of power to light a scene or strobe flashes that can be used out in the field. Flash guns, as we used to call them, are convenient by being battery-operated and relatively light. On the other hand, studio lights are large and bulky and need to be plugged into a power source. If you need all the power of studio lights out in the field, your options are limited.
I was approached a few weeks ago to review an outdoor lighting solution from Neewer. Whenever I am sent something to try for free, I like to be open and transparent about what has happened. However, I can also confirm that nobody from Neewer had checked my review before it was published. They have been great in responding to questions and queries while trying the lights out, but all my opinions are uncompromised.
Neewer Q4 – What’s in the box
The Neewer Q4 flash comes in a protective carry bag measuring 30cm x 20cm x 28cm. Clearly, it is bigger than a flash, so it isn’t something you’ll be able to pop in a bag next to your camera gear. But, if you’re looking for studio flash in the field, you can’t expect it to be as compact as a flash gun.
Inside the box is the light itself and a handle which allows the light to be connected to a standard light stand. There’s a lithium battery with a power adapter and power cable. The first light I was sent, which was part of the initial production run, had a US-style plug. However, a second light came with a UK plug, so I assume the power cable will be shipped depending on the country of purchase. There’s also what appears to be a thick manual. No need to worry, though. The 112 pages contain instructions in eight languages, so it only takes a few minutes to read the 14 pages in English. Everything should be familiar if you are used to working with studio lights.
The light itself looks basic but in a pleasing way. It’s 18.5cm x 21.2cm x 15.4cm and has nice, smooth rounded edges. The rear of the light has all the controls spaced for easy use and symbols that make what they do very obvious.
Neewer Q4 power
The Neewer Q4 has an impressive 400-watt power output. To put this into perspective, a typical professional camera flash would have around 76 watts of power. For a wedding photographer who often needs to over-power the sun, all that power will light up subjects in pretty much any condition.
The use case for the Neewer Q4 lights is their ability to be used with a battery instead of a power source. The lithium battery provided with the kit should give 400 flashes at full power. With a power output of 400 watts, it will be unusual to be shooting at full power most of the time, so the reality is you will get many more shots from a single charge time. The flash will recycle enough power within 0.01 to 1.2 seconds, depending on the power used. If you fully discharge a battery, it will take about 3.5 hours to charge it fully.
There is a capability to apply firmware updates to the Q4 strobe through the USB-C slot and an installer available on the Neewer website. At the moment the firmware updater is only available for Windows computers, but a Mac version is due out very soon.
As expected with any flash unit, the Neewer Q4 offers high-speed, front, and rear curtain synchronisation. This makes it easy to get creative using the lighting system. If you are new to flash photography, your camera will have a maximum shutter speed that can process a shot whilst synching with the flash of the light. It will usually be around 1/200th to 1/250th of a second. Using the standard synch setting with a light, if you use a shutter speed less than this maximum, the flash will be fired as soon as the shutter is opened, and the burst of light will have finished before the shutter closes.
With high-speed sync, the flash won’t just fire one burst of light when the shutter is pressed but instead will fire many bursts during the exposure, allowing the maximum shutter sync to be ignored. This is particularly useful when shooting outdoors on a bright sunny day with a wide-open aperture. The Q4 light allows shutter speeds up to 1/8000th second, which will be more than sufficient for almost any type of ambient lighting.
Rear curtain sync is a great creative tool to show movement with flash. Instead of the flash firing as the shutter is opened, the light waits until just before the shutter is about to close, triggering the burst of light.
While there is an option to trigger the Neewer Q4 using a 3.5mm jack cable from the camera to the light, most photographers will prefer to use a wireless transmitter to trigger the flash. With the QPro trigger, the light can be set to any of five groups, and within these five groups, there are 32 channel options. This means triggering the lights with five different power settings for complicated lighting setups is possible. The channels are helpful if more than one photographer is shooting simultaneously. Theoretically, 32 photographers could all be shooting at the same location and as long as they use their own channel, they won’t trigger anyone else’s lighting set-up. One thing to be aware of is that the QPro trigger will only trigger Neewer lights. You won’t be able to control lights from other manufacturers who also use a Group and Channel system.
The QPro is available for Canon, Sony and Nikon cameras, so ensure that you order the correct trigger for your camera system. They are easily differentiated with a suffix at the end of the name. The QPro-C is the Canon version, the QPro-N is for Nikon, and the QPro-S is for Sony cameras.
It’s rare that you’ll ever shoot this flash without some additional modifier. The light itself has a Bowens mount attachment built in. This is probably the most common modifier mounting system available, so an array of modifiers, such as snoots, beauty dishes, soft boxes, etc., will all be easily mounted. I do like the handle, which comes with the light, which allows the head to be tilted to 140° and has a single umbrella hole to mount a soft umbrella. The thing that makes it better than most attachments is the way it attaches to the light – the bottom of the light has a standard ¼” screw fitting. However, on the handle is a locking screw which, when rotated firmly, locks the light to the handle. It feels very secure, and I won’t need to worry about the light coming off the handle.
Neewer Q4 in use
Specifications are all well and good, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I’ve had a few weeks to put the Neewer Q4 lights through their paces in different environments. As I’ve said, the Q4 isn’t as compact as a camera flash. The light with a battery weighs in at 2.347kg, and when you add on the carry bag, it is 2.710kg. If you’re taking more than one light to a shoot, then I’d suggest you need to be able to park close to the shooting location or have an assistant help carry the gear for you. I used the latter option for the outdoor shoot, where I used the Q4 lights.
We were shooting at a coastal location east of Edinburgh with a single light and using a 120cm softbox that Neewer provided to me. We started the shoot on a grassy area above the shoreline and used the light with the standard sync mode to shoot a stationary subject. The ground was relatively flat, so we could use a heavy lighting stand to support the flash. I was shooting from around 10 metres from the subject at 1/32 power and was pleased to have no issues with the trigger not firing. For me, the reliability of lights is paramount, as I don’t want technical issues getting in the way of the creative work of shooting a subject.
For our second scene at this location, we went down to the shoreline where the trail biker would hop from boulder to boulder. It was impossible to set up a lighting stand in the space we were working in, so the Neewer Q4 had to be hand-held. We still wanted to use the 120cm softbox so the light spread would cover the entire subject. Holding the light wasn’t an issue for my assistant, but the softbox’s size provided a bit of a challenge for my 155cm tall helper! Nevertheless, even in challenging conditions, the lights were portable enough to be used outdoors.
Shooting in studio conditions
The second scenario to try the Neewer Q4 lights was at a corporate shoot. I have often worked with this client to shoot team headshots, and I can use the office as if it were a studio environment. I was working alone this time, again using a single light to illuminate the subject. My set-up time was just as quick as using a camera flash solution. I could still easily manipulate the light position using the tiltable handle and the convenient top handle on the light body.
Again, the lights triggered every time without any misfires, even with a significant amount of computer and camera equipment in the room, which can often prevent the transmitter and receiver from talking to each other.
Shooting on location
My final scenario for trying out the Q4 and QPro transmitter was at a shoot for a health spa. A large part of the shoot was shot in the hot and humid conditions of a swimming pool and sauna. The challenges are shooting with lights in tight spaces and relying on the trigger working in these humid conditions. The PR for the shoot also acted as an assistant, and by using the handle and the attached handle on the bottom, it was easy for them to direct the light exactly where I needed it for the enclosed area shots in the steam room. Again, the connection between the transmitter and the light was faultless, even when shooting from one side of the swimming pool with the light on the other.
As a professional photographer, there are two things that I look for in lighting systems. The first is reliability; I expect the light to fire every time I press the shutter button. The Q4 light had a 100% fire rate in all the scenarios I tried. Secondly, I don’t want to change batteries often throughout the shoot. Again, the Q4’s battery seems to last forever. Due to its power output, it should be pretty rare that you’ll be shooting at 100% most of the time. I was generally around the 1/125th to 1/64th power, meaning that I should be hitting around 2000 shots in a single charge – that should be more than enough for most snappers.
The retail price of £509.99 for the light and £65.99 for the transmitter puts them in a bracket where you need to be serious about lighting. If you are, the Neewer Q4 lights are a great flexible solution for shooting in a studio or out on location. A wedding photographer, for instance, will love having the power to shoot in bright and sunny conditions. However, the weight and size of the light might be restrictive unless you are working with an assistant (as many wedding photographers will do).
Whilst it shouldn’t matter, the appearance of the lights looks like they are professional quality equipment. A client will already have an expectation that the photos will look great before a single shot has been fired. Add to that the reliability of the link between the QPro transmitter and the Q4 light, and the only barrier to getting great shots is your capability and imagination.
Next week, I’ll take the Q4 lights out and try them in more creative scenarios.
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About the author
As well as running Edinburgh Photography Workshop, Rich Dyson is a professional photographer. His photographs are regularly used in newspapers such as The Times, Guardian and Daily Telegraph. He also had two solo exhibitions and was featured in a members-sponsored exhibition in the Scottish Parliament. You can see and buy his photography at richdysonphotography.com.