First Impression: Profoto B1

November 12th, 2013 | Engagements, Photography Tips

When Profoto released the brand new B1, touting it as the Swedish company’s first “off-camera TTL flash”, it generated so much excitement

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that its website went down for a few hours. It’s not hard to see why. Profoto making a TTL flash? A premium strobe maker giving Nikon, Canon and a host of TTL flash manufacturers a run for their money?

Then came a variety of feedbacks. Some think it is the best thing since sliced bread, other bemoans B1’s size, bulk and price tag. So does Profoto B1 deserves all the hoopla?

Profoto held the B1 launch in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday. The South East Asia area manager, Flora Chen, was kind enough to loan it to me for a shoot the next day. Here is my first impression of the flash.

I have over 5 years of experience working with multiple small flashes off-camera. In the studio, I work with Profoto D1s and a couple of Elinchrom monolights.

I am comfortable working in TTL and manual modes. Profoto only has the Canon TTL triggers which does not work on Nikon cameras. I shot entirely in manual mode, triggering and controlling B1 with

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the Profoto Air Remote. So I can’t report on B1’s TTL

capabilities until the Nikon trigger is

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First of all, Profoto B1 identical to the Profoto D1. If you use

the D1, then you will be right at home with the B1, which is swankier and cooler with a futuristic looking LCD screen.

Then I

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experienced the consistency of the power output and colour temperature that small flashes often struggle to deliver. I would take 30 frames in a scene and judging from my laptop screen Profoto B1 delivered the same exposure and colour temperature for each frame.

Profoto B1

Profoto B1

I also love the recycling speed of Profoto B1. The flash is ready before I go

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for the next frame. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. Even without checking the spec sheets, I notice B1 recycles a tad faster than the D1. It is advertised B1 can do 20 frames/sec. I haven’t found the use for that feature yet. I also own the Elinchrom Quadra for 3 years; Profoto B1 is light years ahead of the Quadra in recycle speed, buy cialis consistency of output and colour temperature, and build quality.

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Slow recycling time had cost me many great moments. You saw a sparkle in the eyes of the subject in front of you, and you squeezed the shutter release. You were ready, the subject was ready, but alas the flash wasn’t. Nothing more frustrating than having a massively underexposed frame of great expression and moment. I had been there many times with various battery powered strobes. These disappointing experiences ended with B1 in my bag. I never had a battery powered strobe that’s so fast and consistent. Was told Profoto Pro 8a, B4, B3 deliver such speed, quality and consistencies too,

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yet with price tags starting at U$6000 a unit, they are priced beyond my budget.

Profoto B1

After being convinced of B1’s consistency and speed, I decided to push it to the limits. Set it to full power (500ws), so I could battle noon day sun at f11, ISO100. It chimed along effortlessly with a slightly slower recycling viagra for sale time. As the battery level drains to 66% and then 33%, B1 continues to recycle at the same speed it did when the battery was fully charged. This is in stark contrast to the Elinchrom Quadra which recycles slower when the battery level dips below 50%. What a welcome change. Again, the power output and colour temperature was consistent throughout the 100 odd frames I shot at full power.

Profoto B1

Profoto B1

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full power), B1’s LCD screen indicated it has 1/3 of power left. Profoto’s claim that B1 can power 220 pops at full power seems to be spot on. The battery was the size of my palm and it requires

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NO CABLES. When I used Profoto D1 on location, I also brought with me two drums of power cables. What a delight that B1 operates “cable-less”.

Profoto B1

For this shoot, I worked the B1 bare and with a shoot through umbrella. I can imagine the potential of combining 2-3

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units of B1 with an array Profoto light modifiers, and my existing collection of small speedlights to a location shoot.

Do I have any complaints? When working with small flash units and the Elinchrom Quadra, I usually get my assistant to hoist them on a Shureline paint pole. However hoisting the 3kg Profoto B1 strobe requires some serious

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a small trade off to change my work habits to gain power, speed and consistency of B1.

During the shoot, I also ran into intermittent wireless transmission issue. When the trigger was separated from the B1 unit by some walls, the flash had several misfires. It wasn’t clear what caused this. I was working with a beta unit of B1, so amount of kinks is to be expected. I shot about 700 frames, this issue showed up in about 20 frames.

Profoto B1

Profoto B1

Does Profoto B1 deserves all the hoopla and hype? It depends on our starting points and expectations. I’ve can viagra cause heart attack already invested into the Elinchrom Quadra which cost U$1800 4 years ago, Profoto D1 monolights which cost about the same, and half a dozen of small speedlights. So from my standpoint, the Profoto B1 is a no brainer and a dream solution

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for my location lighting and a great addition to the D1s in our studio. Short flash duration, battery powered, 500ws, modeling light, fast recycling time, consistent power output and colour temperature…what’s not to like? To be able to use Profoto light modifiers in studio and on location with the B1s just add more value to my investment.

When Profoto advertises the B1 as a “TTL off-camera flash” I can understand why many expected a juiced up SB910 or EX580. Weighing at 3kg, it’s equivalent to the weight of 6 speedlights; priced at U$1999 a pop, almost the price of 3 units of SB910 speedlights. It can be discouraging and shocking to many small flash users’ biceps and wallets. Yet it can deliver the the power, consistency, flash duration

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and recycling speed that 3 speedlights can’t.

There are cheaper lights and higher quality alternatives out there. Yet I cannot think of anyone else who can put so much power, consistency in colour temperature, short flash duration, quick recycling time in such a compact package for under U$2000.

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in this shoot.

6 Responses to First Impression: Profoto B1

  1. Philip

    Thanks for sharing! Very fair observation I must say. The feedback on the misfiring through walls will be given to Profoto.

  2. Chicago Photographer

    I also have a Elinchrom Quadra set up as well as D1’s in the studio. My biggest gripe is the build quality of the Quadra’s for the price. Which is why as soon as the B1 is available, I’ll make the switch.

  3. Louis

    Thanks Philip. I just happy to pass on my findings to Profoto.

    Chicago Photographer: I agree with you views. You get an adapter so that you can continue to use any Elinchrom softboxes in your Profoto lights.

  4. Alan Dickson

    The D1 air is a wonderful tool. I have 3 of them in my studio. I used Photogenic monolights for years along with an old Venca flash/power pack system. What sold me on the D1 was the remote capability, consistant flash temp. and the simple design and use. I only use D1 air now. I have Lumedyne for location battery work. They are expensive, mounting a soft box is very weak and the power from the batteries doesn’t last. I have 2 400 watt systems and 3 heads. Lumedyne has not kept up for what the industry requires. I had bought a Quadra Ranger system, once I open the box and saw the weak head design i sent it right back. I look forward to adding these new B1’s to my system. They will be a welcome add on.

  5. Get Smart

    With many weddings now taking on aspects of a fashion shoot, the appearance of larger, more powerful, 2-outlet battery pack systems is no surprise. They allow you to bring the studio outdoors and they sure beat dragging hundreds of feet of extension cords around. Battery packs made by major lighting manufacturers offer the benefit of tapping into a considerable array of reflectors and other light-shaping tools and in most cases, modeling lights. The Ranger series from Elinchrom includes the 400W/s Quadra RX and the 1100W/s RX , both with symmetrical or asymmetrical breakdown of power. Broncolor has the 1200W/s Mobil A2L with built-in radio receiver, while Profoto has the 1200W/s Pro-B3 AirS LiFe with 300 full-power flashes, 1.8-second recycling and short action-stopping flash durations. The 600W/s AcuteB2 and 1200W/s 7b are also available. There are many more, including some reasonably priced lighter weight offerings like the Impact Mini LiteTrek and Dynalite Uni400JR that run on low-voltage Jackrabbit batteries. And speaking of Dynalite, the 1100W/s battery pack/inverter can power AC studio flash units. Broncolor makes one as well, called the Powerbox , which lives up to its name with Bron and Visatec AC monolights. Not to be outdone, Profoto offers the BatPac , which although intended to power D1, ComPact and Acute2 AC packs and monolights, will also drive chargers, wind machines, constant light sources and other electrical devices.

  6. Ryan

    Have been considering this as an option for location shoots for next year. But I would consider the PCB Einsten as a better alternative in every facet other than the brand name prowess. The cost of one B1 is the same as buying an einstein unit(640ws- more power), vagabond mini, 47 in octabox, 22in beauty dish, 7inch reflector, and an 86inch Parabolic umbrella. And many pro fotogs like Joel Grimes and Aaron Nace use the brand.

    The only downside is the fact that the product is only sold out of Aus in this region and prices are marked up. But that being said even with the mark up it proves to be a better bang for buck for pro location/studio strobe.


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