There’s a reason why certain products become extremely popular or almost the standard when it comes to photography gear. One such example is the Profoto B1 portable studio monolight. It’s not the newest model on the market, but since its release in 2013, the B1 has been a consistent performer in both the studio and the field.
There are many things we take for granted with modern strobes such as TTL, high-speed sync., smaller units, and more powerful compact batteries. There’s also the big difference between strobes and regular flashguns. A strobe simply provides ‘more’ in every department. More power, more flexibility, and more settings. But, you will also have to pay more for the privilege. In this regard, we will take a look at the Profoto B1 and see if it’s worth adding to your lighting kit.
The B1 has a 500 watt per second power output fashioned into a rock-solid outer casing. These are two of the primary reasons why strobes are used in the first place. Loads of light output and a design which can take the knocks of everyday shooting.
If you consider that the average speedlight produces 60-100 watts per second of power, compared to the B1 with 500 watts per second, the B1 wins hands down. This means you have the peace of mind that you can produce enough light for most situations. The power of the B1 is also incremental by 1/20 stops.
The rear of the unit has an LCD panel providing all information needed from the light. This includes power levels, battery charge, modeling light status, recycle alert, and sync status. The rear also has a few buttons along with a simple power dial. The buttons are for the modeling light, sync. and test/on and off.
The light output and quality are easy to control within the strobe. The output can be controlled in 1/10 or 1-stop increments from 2-500 watts with the recycle time going from 0.1-1.9 seconds. The flash duration is split into normal and freeze modes, which can be controlled with different color temperatures starting with 5,600K.
The light angle itself comes out at 77 degrees with the built-in reflector. As for sync. speeds, these are up to 1/250 sec. in normal mode and up to 1/8,000 sec. in High-Speed mode.
Remote control of the unit is done via Air Remote TTL-C/N, Air remote, or Air USB. The ranges come in at 300m for normal triggering or 100m when used with TTL. The unit can also be powered via the mains or a battery which provides 220 full power flashes or 300 charge cycles.
Everything including the battery weighing in at 3kgs. Not exactly lightweight, but with great power comes great responsibility, sorry weight (Spiderman’s other saying…..ahem).
Profoto B1 in Use
The initial impression with a unit such as the B1 is that it feels ‘industrial grade.’ This means that it just simply works, time after time on location with all the facilities you need and a robust build to suit. Cheaper units may not have the same build quality, high-speed sync., TTL, as much flexibility, or even misfire. Something that simply won’t do when you’re on a commercial shoot.
Power is also a consideration. You’ll need three to five speedlights for an equal amount of power output. That’s more lights, more batteries, and more complication. The power output on the B1 is plenty for bright daylight shots to use in the studio. In other words, you won’t be left wanting.
The TTL performance on the B1 definitely saves time and hits the mark. It only takes a few test shots to lineup exposure. TTL is nothing new these days, but having a readout of power output gives a great start point if you want to swap over to manual mode. It’s having the options that count.
The other benefit is the recycle time and flash duration. The unit can recycle from 0.1 to 1.9 seconds depending on the power output and shoot 20 flashes per second when using low-power. The flash duration is also 1/11,000 of a second at low power and 1/1,000 of a second at full power. For capturing fast action there’s plenty of play room here.
As for light modifiers, Profoto sells their own versions, but they are quite expensive compared to other brands. Luckily, the front of the B1 is a standard size, which means there are plenty of options on the market from soft boxes to all types of diffusers.
The unit is also easy to set up, has easily adjustable angles and a handy plastic grip on the back for moving the B1 up and down.
How Does It Compare?
Just a few years ago, the standard for a strobe would have been the B1. Now, there are plenty of other units on the market with equal power. One such example is the Godox AD600Pro. Godox produces some fantastic kits for the money and with the AD600Pro it seems you get the same facilities for a lot cheaper on the surface.
However, the decision usually comes down to build and quality. If you want 100% peace of mind that your strobe will deliver on every occasion, then you can’t go wrong with the B1. For price point and general use, you can’t go wrong with the Godox AD600Pro, but it does lack the same level of build quality.
|Profoto B1||Godox AD600Pro|
|Power||500 watts||600 watts|
The only real downside to the Profoto B1 is price. This is an expensive unit aimed at the working photographer who wants the ultimate in reliability. It will deliver every time with fine-tuning in every area. Exactly what a working professional needs.
On the other hand, if you’re not a full-time professional or only need a strobe on occasions, then there are a lot of other options on the market. It really comes down to your individual needs, but for a strobe that is best in its class and works every time, you can’t go wrong with the Profoto B1.