If you have been using speedlites in your camera lighting setup for some time, there will come a point where you utter the Captain Kirk-like statement, ‘we need more power!’
Speedlites, or flashguns, are a great solution for most shooting scenarios, but they only have a relatively limited amount of wattage compared to studio lighting. Monolights are the next step up, but if you also want portability, then you need to check out what battery-powered monolights are currently available on the market.
Battery-powered monolights free these hefty lights from the studio environment to be used wherever you want to take them. This then blurs the lines between regular on-camera flash devices and studio lighting. There is then the consideration of size and weight, with current options ranging from regular sized studio lights with a battery attached, to very compact units.
The ideal battery-powered monolight for your own purposes will not be dictated by cost alone, but also the wattage, size of the light, and battery pack, along with built-in features such as TTL, Bluetooth, and ease-of-use. Thus, let’s have a closer look at the models currently available.
1. Profoto B1X (Overall Winner)
Profoto is one of the most respected brands when it comes to lighting equipment, and it’s no different with the Profoto B1X. The original Profoto B1 brought studio light output to a portable package and is now updated with to the B1X. It features a 500w/s output, with a fast recycle time of 0.1-1.9 seconds, a 1/1,000 flash duration time at full power, and 325 full-power flashes per charge.
The rear of the light shows a large, bright display, with simple to use controls, to quickly jump from TTL to fully manual mode. The modelling light is also bright and powerful, producing more power than its predecessor.
The unit also has a handy attachment to fit most lighting stands and is fully adjustable. This unit is a weighty piece of kit, coming in at 3kg, and it’s also pricey. But, in return, you receive a monolight that will last for years and is guaranteed to work every time.
When on a photo assignment you expect your lighting rig to instantly work and produce the goods every time. If a cheaper unit fails you, you will have wished you had invested in a higher quality unit. This is where Profoto has gained their reputation for a solid build and reliability.
2. Profoto B10
If you can’t justify the cost of the full-blown Profoto B1X, then the Profoto B10 is a good option. Coming in at 250 w/s, it has half the power of the B1X but also costs far less. This unit has a solid build quality, with a 1/1300 second flash duration at full power, a .05-2 second recycle time, and its battery can achieve roughly 400 flashes per charge.
The unit can be controlled via Bluetooth and a smartphone app, to control all settings and update the firmware. Output power can be adjusted over 10 stops, plus one great feature is the LED modelling light, which can be adjusted for power output and color balance.
Coming in at a weight of just 1.5kg, which includes the battery, the Profoto B10 feels relatively lightweight for a studio quality monolight which will serve you for many years.
3. GODOX Witstro AD400Pro
GODOX has been shaking up the camera lighting world with good quality products at affordable prices. The GODOX Witstro AD400Pro is no different, featuring a 400 w/s output, 1/230 second flash duration at full power, 380 flashes per charge, and a .1-.9 second recycle time.
TTL metering is available for Canon and Nikon, with also wireless functionality for Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony. There are plenty of features in this battery-powered monolight including HSS and stroboscopic mode, plus an AC input for an electric power supply.
A range of modifiers can be easily fitted with an S-mount adapter and while the light stand attachment isn’t the most robust, the whole unit presents good value for money with studio levels of output.
4. Interfit S1
For studio levels of light output without the high cost, the Interfit S1 AC & Battery-Powered HSS TTL Flash is a worthwhile option. It provides 500 w/s of output with a 1/500 of a second flash duration, a three-second recycle time, and 350 flashes per charge.
This unit can provide full TTL metering via optional remotes for Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras, plus a nine-stop power range and +/- three stops of exposure compensation. AC power is also available and weighing in at 2.85kg, this unit strikes a nice balance between price point and convenience.
5. Interfit Honey Badger 320Ws Compact Head Flash
The Interfit Honey Badger 320Ws Compact Head Flash is a cost-effective solution, which also looks very stylish. It features a 320w/s output with a seven-stop range, LED modeling lamp, remote use from up to 90m away, and a Bowens S-Type mount to fit a range of modifiers.
This unit provides plenty of lighting power with basic workings and a very light weight of 1.4kg. There are plenty of multilight setup options accessible through the rather small display, and the light also has added extras such as an AC power input.
For those out there who want a cost-effective monolight solution, with multiple levels of output, then the Honey Badger is a good fit.
6. GODOX AD200 (Budget Winner)
I have to admit that I got really excited by the release of the GODOX AD200. A light source with Speedlite size and studio levels of light output. The unit features a 200 w/s output with a 1/220 flash duration at full power, a recycle time of .01-1.2 seconds, and around 520 flashes per charge at full power.
The unit can be radio controlled and is available with wireless triggers for the most common makes of camera. It can also be used in multiples, just like a regular speedlite, with a bare bulb head option or traditional modifiers.
This unit may not have the output of a full-blown monolight, but for those who need the most portable option with studio levels of power, the AD200 is a fantastic solution.
Choosing Battery-Powered Monolights
As with most technologies, the cost and entry point of good quality battery-powered monolights has dropped considerably over the years. If you need total peace of mind of workings and the best build quality, then you can’t go wrong with the Profoto B1X. You will have to pay for the privilege, but this is one of the most solidly built units on the market.
On the other hand, the Goddox AD200 blurs the boundaries between a Speedlite and a regular Monolight with an affordable price point. If you don’t want to carry around the bulk of a full-sized Monolight, then this unit is a good option.