November 6, 2013

review: Profoto B1 off-camera TTL flash – 500 Ws

I’m a bit of a fan of Profoto gear. When I first started looking at the more serious on-location lighting systems, my initial purchase was the Profoto 600R. I was drawn by their reputation for reliability and features such as consistent color balance even when you change power settings. The wide variety of light modifiers, as well as the ease of use and setup also had me favor Profoto, even thought it is the more expensive system on the market. Of course, the sleek elegant look of Profoto gear also counted. As far as lighting gear goes, Profoto even looks sexy.

Profoto just released the Profoto B1 500 AirTTL flash units (vendor). With 500 Ws output, and various features which make them exceptionally suited for on-location work, Profoto really brought something exciting to the market. I believe this is going to kick them onto another level with photo enthusiasts.

Let’s look at some of the spec, and then how the Profoto B1 flashes performed during actual photo sessions.

 

Profoto B1 specifications

  • 500 Ws power. How much light is that, you may well ask. I’ve used the AcuteB 600R for shooting wedding photos in the mid-day sun. It is able to dump light equivalent to the sun .. even through a large softbox. The 500 Ws head is just slightly under that. In other words, 500 Ws is a serious amount of juice.
  • TTL capability! This is quite unique in lighting gear of this calibre. Would you even want TTL with this kind of lighting? I think so. The way that Profoto has implemented it, might just save you a few steps when shooting under pressure. (More about this further in the review.)
  • No cables! Since the B1 has a battery in the head, there are no connecting cables to a power pack. Yet, the battery and the light itself, remain light enough that it doesn’t feel too top-heavy when you use a solid light-stand.
  • With the Air Remote TTL controller, you can set the power from your camera’s position. Often though, it’s still simpler to adjust the power on the back of the flash if you’re close-by. But when the light is further away, or up on a boom, then the remote control adjustment of the flash’s output makes life easier. If you already have the Profoto Air controllers, you can still use them with the B1 units, but without TTL functionality.
  • Modeling light. This can be switched on and off via the Remote controller as well. The intensity of the modeling light can also be adjusted, or set to be Proportional to the flash’s final output.
  • Light-weight. The bag with two of these units, are lighter than the Profoto Batpac alone. So the B1 units truly are portable.
  • The battery is rated to give 220 full-powered pops.
  • The power can be adjusted over a 9-stop range in 1/10 increments.
  • Flash Freeze Mode is available, where the flash duration can be as short as 1/19,000 of a second. (I didn’t test this during any of the photo sessions where I used the B1 units.)
  • For a more thorough description of the specs (and the price):  Profoto B1 500 AirTTL flash units (vendor)

 

These units are easy to use, and easy to set up. The controls are mostly self-evident, and a few minutes scanning the instruction manual, will have you up and running. As you can see from the photographs, the B1 flashes are near-identical to the D1 units. The flash-head is flat in the front, which might make the use of gels easier, although the heat might be a problem with a gel.

The battery is truly light-weight and compact. There is also a check button to see how much power you have left.

 

using the Profoto B1 on photo shoots

When I got my hands on two of the brand-new Profoto B1 units for testing purposes, I was quite excited to try them out on various photo sessions that I was shooting for my next book on portrait photography.

Currently, the  Profoto B1 500 AirTTL flash units (vendor) are only available for Canon, so for these photo sessions, I used both the Canon 6D (vendor) or a Canon 5D mark III (vendor) and the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (vendor) and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (vendor). For most of these, I used the Profoto RFi 1′×3′ softbox (vendor)  with the Profoto 50 degree 1×3 grid (vendor)  to control how the light fell.

So what was the experience of using the Profoto B1 units on photo shoots on location? In short, they deliver! I am very impressed. I want!

 

For this photo session with Heather Berman, a New York actor and dancer (and previous Rockette), I wanted to use the dramatic sun and sky to off-set Heather’s vivid dress and elegant moves. I needed to match the exposure for bright sky. Unfortunately, I left my neutral density filter at home, so I had to shoot at f/14 … but the lack of control over the depth-of-field doesn’t  bother me here with the final images, since it really is about Heather, her dress and the blue sky.

Here I shot in manual mode, at full power.
camera settings: 1/160 @ f/14 @ 100 ISO
The light on Heather was softened (and controlled) with a gridded Profoto RFi 1′×3′ softbox (vendor)

 

I’ve previously posted these images of the photo session with Carina and Carolina - controlling off-camera flash for impact – gridded stripbox / softbox. The delightful twins were energetic and fun to shoot, but on this cold day, it was imperative to set up fast and shoot fast. I used a bare B1 unit behind them for rim light.

 

For this next setup, I also wanted that rim-light behind them, therefore I placed the one B1 flash on the ground, propped up by a lens case to angle the flash upwards.

 

Ger is a cosplay artist who creates fantastic outfits, and has published a book on Cosplay. With a gridded Profoto RFi 1′×3′ softbox (vendor) behind her as a rim-light, and a large Profoto RFi 3′x4′ softbox (vendor) to give very soft light on her. To minimize the amount of light falling on the wall, I feathered the main light away from the wall. I used the units in manual mode here. Initial exposure was via TTL mode, and when I checked and saw the test exposure looked good, I flipped to Manual exposure mode via the Air Remote TTL controller, it retained the TTL exposure … but as a fixed manual setting now. And that’s the beauty of using the Profoto B1 … you can lock the TTL exposure by setting it to Manual.

 

I met up with my friend Mike Allebach at an intriguing venue in Philly, Tattooed Mom’s. Ideal for a more gritty look. Shooting inside, I didn’t need that full blast matching-the-sun kind of power, but a more delicate touch of light. Camera settings of 1/50 @ f/4 @ 400 ISO retained enough of the ambience of the place, but allowing me to spot-light Mike with the gridded stripbox. Exposure was in TTL mode on the Profoto B1. This is where I became impressed with how accurate the TTL mode of these units were, since the darker tones didn’t affect the exposure as I had expected. Somehow it just worked. This is the straight-out-of-the-camera JPG.

 

Here I started off shooting in TTL mode, but with ever-changing compositions, shooting wide and tight, the TTL exposure did vary. So with one of the exposures which looked correct on the back of my camera, I then simply set the Air Remote TTL controller to manual mode, and that locked the desired exposure.

As mentioned in the article  on controlling off-camera flash with a gridded stripbox, I really like the smaller Profoto RFi 1′×3′ softbox (vendor) along with the Profoto 50 degree 1×3 grid (vendor)   to control the light, and thereby accentuating my subject and the mood.

 

I had very limited time with my friend David M, and when he showed me this artwork on a garage door, I quickly set up the two lights. The lights were set to TTL … and somehow the exposure was spot on, despite the predominantly dark tones. I angled the second Profoto B1 flash upwards by propping it up in the carry bag. That’s part of the beauty of the B1 units. No cables means it is portable and easy to maneuver like that.

 

The incredible  Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens was the backdrop for photographer Jaleel King and his wheels. The gridded stripbox and a 10 degree grid on a reflector made up the lighting here, helping to give a gentle spot-lit effect.

 

Mike Larose, is a New York actor & musician friend of mine. You might have seen him on the Tangents blog already in a completely different guise. This time, photographing headshots and promotional photos for Mike, we worked outside along a pathway in a wooded area.

The gridded stripbox on him lights him selectively, and a 10 degree grid on a reflector from behind gave the rim-light. This was the one occasion I shot with the Nikon D4 and the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II and triggered the Profoto B1 units with PocketWizard Plus II sets. (I had run down the battery of my Canon 6D, so reverted to my main system for the rest of the shoot.)

 

Ken Raftree is a musician and singer, and we worked on a variety of promotional photos for him. With this sequence I wanted that spotlight effect. A single Profoto B1 unit and a Profoto 7″ Reflector with a Profoto 10-degree Honeycomb Grid, gave that harder spotlight look, with the dramatic fall-off.

The pull-back shot shows again the sheer simplicity of the setup with the Profoto B1 – no cables. Just the unit on a light-stand.

 

summary

One field that I think this unit will be very appealing is wedding photography. The ease of use, and quick setup and easy control, along with the amount of light this can push out, would make photographing groups and families so much easier.

Getting an initial exposure via TTL, and then locking it with Manual mode, makes exposure metering easier (if you’re okay trusting the back of your camera’s preview.)

Finally, it says something when a  review sample of a piece of photo gear leaves you with that strong desire – I.have.to.have.this

 

more info

 

purchase Profoto B1 and accessories

 

{ 56 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Craig John November 6, 2013 at 8:31 am

Oh! I wanted this the moment I read it was cable-less. Good photographers will find all sorts of uses for this head. Fashion, portrait and wedding photography aside, one head and one extra battery would be the perfect on-location food photography studio (indoors or out) for an entire day. :)

Reply

2 Dustin Hoang November 6, 2013 at 11:29 am

It’s definitely a nice product but costs too much for non-profit and seasonal photographer like me, :). I wish I can afford it !

Neil, how does the soft box work with speedlite ? Does it give very nice soft and flat nice vs the Wescott rapid box and the Lastolite easy box ?

Thanks,

-Dustin

Reply

3 Motti November 6, 2013 at 11:54 am

I always compare equipment based on value for dollar (it’s just the reality for me, I have to watch my dollars)

Profoto B1 500WS: $2,000
Pros: TTL ability

Alien Bees Einstein 640WS: $500
Battery pack good for 400-500 shots in full power (640WS): $250
Total: $750
Cons: No TTL ability. So?

THE BEST DEAL OUT THERE.
You can buy two Einsteins+ two battery packs, two Paul Buff receivers and the CyberSync trigger for just under $1,800.

Reply

4 archie May 23, 2014 at 2:26 pm

I agree Motti, that it is a bit overpriced. However your “equation” doesn’t factor in the high tech and portability.

its like debating why a laptop is more than a desktop when they both do the same… in fact a desktop may have more capacity and be more powerful.

The profoto effectively has no cables, is more portable than the einstein, and offers higher tech like an LED modeling light that can run 90 mins off the battery. The modeling light off the einstein is traditional tungsten and can’t be run off the battery. The makes the profoto more of a complete portable solution.

that being said, the eisnteins are tremendous value that can’t be ignored, while the profotooffers a window into the future of what portable strobe technology has to offer.

Reply

5 James Hays November 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Trying to figure out who this is aimed at. Most pros I know and certainly no commercial photogs use TTL and with no HSS it leaves a big question mark for me. The pricing eliminates most wedding photos, which are probably the biggest TTL candidates. Two lights would be $4400 with the controller, the same for the Quadra would be about $2500. I’m still anxious to try it out though, it looks very well designed especially from a user standpoint.

Reply

6 ed November 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Gotta agree with Motti 100 %. It look s like a nice system but not for close to 2 grand.

Reply

7 Andre November 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm

“Getting an initial exposure via TTL, and then locking it with Manual mode, makes exposure metering easier (if you’re okay trusting the back of your camera’s preview.)”

How would you do that Neil?

Do the settings remain visible on the back of the units until you fire another frame? I always wanted to be able to use TTL to get a setting I liked with speedlights, but there was no way to tell what power the speedlights had pushed the previous frame.

Reply

8 Neil vN November 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm

In TTL mode, after you take the shot, the back of the B1 shows the power setting, e.g., 7.5 (of full output). If you then hit the switch on the controller to change the B1 to manual output, the setting stays on 7.5 … so in other words, the output is now “fixed” at that level.

Reply

9 Andre November 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm

“James Hays November 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm
Trying to figure out who this is aimed at. Most pros I know and certainly no commercial photogs use TTL and with no HSS it leaves a big question mark for me. The pricing eliminates most wedding photos, which are probably the biggest TTL candidates.”

I have to agree with you James. Maybe one head will suffice, but that’s a lot of dough for wedding photogs and whats’ more, it places more emphasis on the need for assistants.

Also, I agree the absence of HSS is a disappointment.

Reply

10 Andre November 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm

A few questions Neil,

I read that the unit can also be plugged into a DC source, so can they be run of mains power for studio?

Also, as a dual system shooter, I am curious to know what the deal will be when they get around to supporting ITTL. Do you know if Nikon units require separate flashes or just a separate TTL Air Controller?

Reply

11 Neil vN November 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm

I don’t know any more about the Nikon version. I’m hoping that it would just be a different controller, and wouldn’t necessitate different B1 units.

Reply

12 Saud November 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Neil, You Mentioned you used Profoto B1 with PocketWizard. I thought they only work with Profoto Air, Can you please talk about it. does it have TTL capability with PocketWizard? HSS?

Reply

13 Neil vN November 6, 2013 at 10:23 pm

As mentioned in the text, as the shoot with Mike progressed, I had run down the battery in my Canon 6D, so I reverted to my main system, which is based on Nikon D4 bodies. So I then continued to use the B1 flashes, but hooked it up to PocketWizard Plus II triggers. This did mean using the B1 flashes in manual output.

HSS … it was strongly hinted that HSS capability is a future option they are working on.

Reply

14 Saud November 6, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Thanks Neil.

Reply

15 Andre November 7, 2013 at 3:45 am

Hi Nevil,

I spoke to the local Profoto rep and they also said the Nikon version would be a different controller only.

“HSS … it was strongly hinted that HSS capability is a future option they are working on”

That would be a game changer!!

Reply

16 Andre November 7, 2013 at 3:47 am

“In TTL mode, after you take the shot, the back of the B1 shows the power setting, e.g., 7.5 (of full output). If you then hit the switch on the controller to change the B1 to manual output, the setting stays on 7.5 … so in other words, the output is now “fixed” at that level.”

Wonderful. I wish speedlights worked like that.

Reply

17 denton November 7, 2013 at 6:36 am

People on DPR are saying that this won’t currently work with the 1x Canon series, but it will in the future via firmware upgrade. Strange, since being able to afford 1x would make it more likely to be able to afford these.

Reply

18 Quin Rickman November 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Andre wrote “I wish speedlights worked like that.”

A work around is to use FEL (Flash Exposure Lock) if your camera has that function. The Sony A99 allows you to adjust the off camera flash from the camera while using FEL by adjusting the FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation). The Sony system is line of sight which has its limitations.

Reply

19 Chris Allum November 7, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I think these are great units and would love to purchase the Nikon variation. To me the expense doesn’t matter if you are getting truly quality gear. I love Einsteins and would use them without a doubt but when I can afford better I will definitely get the B1 from Profoto. You can’t always look at things from a value standpoint. As wedding photographers my business is pretty good and I have no problem spending the extra money when I have it. If I don’t have the money I will use Einsteins until I do.

Reply

20 Andre November 7, 2013 at 9:40 pm

“As wedding photographers my business is pretty good and I have no problem spending the extra money when I have it.”

I agree, but the question remains whether they will be suited to weddings. These things are as big as a D1 and just as heavy, so they are not going to be that versatile when you are a wedding photographer running around. Some say they will be great for group shots, but it’s a lot of money to spend for just group shots.

Reply

21 Motti November 7, 2013 at 10:05 pm

@Andre

I almost never use big strobes at a wedding. Most of my work is done with speed-lights even group portraits (reception, family portraits etc,). The odd times I did carry a large strobe I found it heavy and cumbersome. Two speed-lights in a small softbox worked perfectly.

“To me the expense doesn’t matter if you are getting truly quality gear”

There is misconception that you have to spend a lot to get quality stuff. The ONLY THING that goes for the Profoto vs. Alien Bees is quality and consistency of light (and even that is questionable). That would be very important if you shoot catalog in a studio. It has NO EFFECT on street photography and exterior shoots in general (bride and groom, engagement sessions etc.) One click you are at this angel and the next click you move a foot or two. Quality of light changes anyway and the AB are going to do amazing.

If you shoot schools and do three-four thousands clicks in a single day, constancy of light will matter for post processing. Saying that, I shoot small daycare with Alien Bees and I love it. Every image has the same exposure as the next. The Einsteins are apparently much better then the regular AB’s.

Keep your money and treat yourself to a European vacation :-) My two cents

Cheers

Reply

22 John E March 2, 2014 at 10:33 am

Neil,
I shoot school photography and school sports using green screen background.
I shoot in manual and make in camera adjustments during the shoot. I’d like to start sending someone to shoot these types of shoots me. from the descriptions I’ve read this light seems perfect for me, if it truly turns camera into somewhat of a point an shoot. If my shooter simply sets up the light and starts shooting with the equipment making necessary adjustments, I’d worry a lot less. We shoot green screen with the player about 6 inches from the background one light either ARB800w ,small moon unit used as ring flash or set up on stand glamour. The b1 would be set up as glamour. How would the b1 handle different colored shirts coming through or different colored skin tones? most of my kids are hispanic, but there are always a handful of white kids that have very very fair skin and would too blown out if adjustments aren’t made. I’ve never shot TTL but just from reading the literature on the b1 I’m ready to order three of them tomorrow. I use the 1dx but I’d be getting cheaper canon’s for my shooters anyway, so that wouldn’t be a problem. I also shoot dancers that are not always at their peak during a leap shot in the exact same spot. I usually use a three or four light set up for dancers. would the b1 TTL mode help me out in that situation? what about the freezing ability of the b1?

Reply

23 John E March 2, 2014 at 10:36 am

I meant to say, the dancers are not always at the exact same spot when they are at their peak during a jump. These dancers are kids 13-18 years old, not professional dancers.

Reply

24 Dan Carr November 7, 2013 at 11:56 pm

I read your review with interest and have many of the same questions as others. It seems that TTL is a useless feature for pros. I certainly don’t know of one that would use it and it seems that essentially you didn’t use it either. Even Profoto’s promo vid for the B1 shows the guy shooting the BMX is actually hardly ever using the TTL transmitter if you look closely. To release this with no support for Canon 1-series cameras is also a staggering omission. Of course hey will add it later…. but still…..??? I have to say I’m surprised by some comments that it is too pricey for wedding photogs though. Most of the wedding shooters I know charge many thousands of dollars per shoot, this would be a drop in the ocean for them so I think this is a reasonable market. I’d like to try them, no doubt about that…. but I’m not totally convinced yet.

Reply

25 Tim November 8, 2013 at 3:33 pm

“It seems that TTL is a useless feature for pros. I certainly don’t know of one that would use it and it seems that essentially you didn’t use it either.”

I agree, but then again, professionals can’t use a feature if it’s not available. Do other high end light brands use TTL? I would think that most professionals that buy Profoto gear use it for commercial projects that are carefully planned. For this type of work there is time and a necessity to use manual flash for the consistent results.

TTL is most useful for quick on-location shooting and faster paced sessions. Although, a skilled photographer could probably use manual just as well, but it would be more effort. TTL could also be used to get an initial exposure than then switch over to manual for the remaining shots.

Reply

26 Sally November 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Neil, thanks for the review. I use Profoto’s and they are consistent great light and performance.

Do you know if the Air Remote TTL on camera will also work with the D1 in TTL?

So, if you use multiple lights (say 2 or 3 B1′s), the Canon will adjust for all of them in TTL mode, not just when working with one?

Reply

27 Neil vN November 10, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Sally .. the Profoto D1 units aren’t TTL.

And yes, you can have multiple B1 units as TTL flashes.

Reply

28 Steve November 11, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Hi Neil,

These look really interesting, especially being able to lock in the TTL setting for faster editing later. I can picture using these bounced backwards into an open church to provide very soft lighting for big groups.

A couple of questions please:

1. You mention very accurate TTL above – how did you meter in camera for these shots? Underexposed a stop without flash?

2. Any way to use these with (my three) Canon 600ex flashes for 2 flash setups?

Thanks!

Steve

Reply

29 Neil vN November 11, 2013 at 7:31 pm

The usual way to use flash is to have the ambient a stop or two (or three) under … or to light the shadow side of someone … and then let the flash pick up the exposure. This is where TTL flash is super-handy and quick.

The Profoto B1 uses a propriatary wireless trigger, and it isn’t compatible with Canon’s 600EX-RT speedlights. You could of course go old-school with this and use PocketWizards or such as your wireless trigger, but you’d lose all TTL functionality.

Reply

30 David T November 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Hey Neil,

Thanks for an excellent review. I’m trying to get an accurate sense of how much power these put out. 500 WS basically tells you next to nothing about the true output of a light. Judging by the efficiency of the lights, and excellent design of the reflectors of Profoto’s other units, I’m guessing it’s going to put out a good amount of light. I would like to have 18 feet, and shoot f22 at ISO 400, does one unit have that much juice at full power?

Next question is what is the smallest amount of light the unit can pump out?

HSS and Hot shoe pass through on the controller would make this a dream for the wedding tog. Of course Michael Bass could probably create a pass through without much effort.

ETTL is a wonderful option in a very fast paced environment, the lock in is a fabulous idea!!

Reply

31 Neil vN November 21, 2013 at 6:58 pm

David … the best I can describe it, is as I have it in that section on power. Click through on the linked article:

500 Ws power. How much light is that, you may well ask. I’ve used the AcuteB 600R for shooting wedding photos in the mid-day sun. It is able to dump light equivalent to the sun .. even through a large softbox. The 500 Ws head is just slightly under that. In other words, 500 Ws is a serious amount of juice.

The smallest amount of power is 8 stops down from that. A wider range than the D1 units.

Reply

32 Saud Kazi November 25, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I am so much in love with this light. Neil, so one other thing, I am a Nikon guy and I am thinking of buying B1, I know the TTL is not working with Air system with Nikon as of now and they will have it soon. Meanwhile I do not want to spend few hundred dollars to buy Air w/o TTL just so it works with Nikon. You mentioned Pocket Wizard works with your Nikon D4. I have PW TT5 – so will they work manually with B1 and can you give me your opinion how so. Thanks in advance.

Reply

33 rob December 1, 2013 at 9:06 am

I love reading about this expensive equipment. it is fun to see high end super expensive lights in use. but, I started reading and believing in Neil for the super simple and super cheap setups he used to get outstanding images. you dont even need canon speed lites. I know these companies like Profoto are advertisers now but the heart of Neils beginnings for me was the simple no need for spending 1000s of $ on lighting and needing multiple assistants but still creating stunning images. honestly, Neil will confirm, you dont to spend money to get great images. you can do it with the flash on camera and bounce it. he did use to do this himself you know. :) But technology and expensive equipment is fun to!

Reply

34 Neil vN December 2, 2013 at 5:29 am

Rob .. there is only so much you can do with certain equipment, whether cameras, lenses, flashes and so on. While I’m often able to improvise and get surprisingly good images by applying technique and thought to it, (e.g. on-camera bounce flash), there are limits.

Have a look at the link I provided in this review article, where I used the Profoto 600R to dump a lot of light during mid-day to match the harsh sunlight … and was still able to soften the light with a double-baffled 4×3 softbox. You can’t do that with a speedlight. You need brute power.

Same with cameras – my walk-around camera is a Fuji X100s. Sweet camera. But my serious cameras – Nikon D4 bodies.

Similarly, at some point you need f/2.8 zooms or f/1.4 optics. Those f/5.6 zooms can only take you so far.

I equipped my studio with Profoto lighting gear, and I take the 600R on location with me when needed. So it really depends on the situation.

Now, about the idea that Profoto is an advertiser – they are not. Neither am I a Profoto sponsored photographer. These B1 units were loaned to me for two weeks as a beta tester, to try them out and give them feedback before final release. I didn’t get to keep them. There are no free stuff either.

In other words, I use Profoto because I like the gear. I paid for all my gear. There’s no sponsorship, and there’s certainly no obligation from either side.

Re the topics I post about – I do post articles on using speedlights .. but also other gear. And ultimately, this website is called Tangents. I can take it anywhere – there’s no limit in scope. :)

Reply

35 Andy December 8, 2013 at 12:36 am

Thanks for the review. I am very interested in these and I was wandering about using the B1s with a beauty dish as the main light? I have heard you must use the glass dome (limited availability) with the D1 and I assume the B1 otherwise you get a dark spot in the middle due to the nature of the recessed flash. Did you have any experience with this?

Reply

36 Neil vN December 8, 2013 at 1:01 am

I have the Profoto glass dome (Amazon / B&H) on two of my D1 heads that I used with large soft boxes. As you also have it, I think it helps with the spread of light. Tech support at Profoto told me that the flat face of the D1 / B1 doesn’t actually need that glass dome. I would agree for the beauty dish. That said, I haven’t done any specific testing.

Reply

37 keith payne January 12, 2014 at 5:48 pm

When testing the B1, did you find the unit to heavy to have on a pole with a soft box unbalanced or too heavy for your lighting person? What about gels, does profoto make them for the B1? If not any suggestions on how to gel them?

Reply

38 Neil vN January 13, 2014 at 7:15 pm

The B1 was surprisingly light. Of course though, the moment you add a softbox or such to it, it becomes top-heavy and you have to be careful. That said though, it really is light enough for an assistant to carry around.

I don’t think it would be a good idea to tape a gel to the flash-head – it gets quite hot.

Reply

39 John January 18, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Hi Neil, did you notice whether the air remote you tested moved a slight bit in the hotshoe? Mine seems to slide in good but once locked in, it still has a bit of wiggle room. In other words, it’s not fixed rigidly in place. Any thoughts?

Reply

40 Neil vN January 18, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Yup, there’s a little bit of wriggle room. Never been a problem for me though.

Reply

41 John January 18, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Thank you, Neil. Btw, how many B1s are you going to order? Just curious.

Reply

42 Neil vN January 19, 2014 at 1:38 pm

We’ll have to see when the Nikon versions arrive, what my budget will allow. Ideally, two of them.

Reply

43 Dino Airosa April 20, 2014 at 5:54 am

Hi! The B1 was very impressed, I’m planing to buy two, however I am a Sony user ( A99 & A900)
Understand there will be no TTL function, but worry can it fit for Manual mode ?
Any advise
Thank you very much

Reply

44 Neil vN April 20, 2014 at 9:46 am

While it will work in manual mode, I’m not sure if the pins on the Sony camera will match the pins on the B1 unit? There needs to be at least the center pin to make connection.

Reply

45 Gary Smith April 28, 2014 at 9:42 am

Hi Neil,

Thanks for a great review. I am very tempted by the B1, and was pleased that you reviewed them.

As a wedding photographer, what is your personal preference to lighting a groups and then the wedding couple during their romantic portraits? Would you opt for a lighter speedlight in a softbox on a light stand for the group shots, and then on a monopod for the romantic shots, or would you go for the B1 for both?

Also, if you were to shoot a group outside with their back to the sun to prevent squints for exampe, would you use 1 or 2 softboxes, either with normal speedlights or B1s?

Regards,
Gary

Reply

46 Gary Smith April 30, 2014 at 2:10 am

Hi Neil,

I might be over thinking this but I hope to get clarification on this from anyone.

Putting the TTL capability to one side, is it possible to trigger the B1s with a handheld flash meter for example the Sekonic L-758DR Digital Master to get an exposure reading? Or is it as simple as doing test shots to get the exposure correct?

Thanks in advance,
Gary

Reply

47 Gary Smith April 30, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Actually I think I may have worked it out theoriitcally. The B1 has a modelling light that can be set to be the same as the main flash. Therefore you can use that to do any light meter readings.

Reply

48 Neil vN April 30, 2014 at 4:44 pm

For the romantic photos of the bride and groom, where we need the mobility, I usually go with two things:
Monopod + speedlight in a softbox
(either the Lastolite 24×24 softbox, or the Westcott RapidBox),

and / or

Monopod / handheld + video light

Reply

49 Neil vN May 1, 2014 at 12:19 am

For the group shots, I sometimes go with two speedlights and a shoot-through umbrella:
http://neilvn.com/tangents/simple-lighting-setup-for-photographing-the-wedding-formals/
http://neilvn.com/tangents/wedding-photography-positioning-flash-formals/

or,

the Profoto 600R (which is where you’d be using the B1 now)
http://neilvn.com/tangents/wedding-photography-lighting-large-groups/
http://neilvn.com/tangents/wedding-photography-big-bounce-flash/
http://neilvn.com/tangents/shooting-wedding-photos-in-the-mid-day-sun/

As you can see, when I am working outside, I use the big 3×4 softbox, but with the inner baffle removed.

In using the B1 units, you’d trigger the flash from your on-camera Profoto wireless trigger, and meter as per usual. (Or you can use the TTL function to get to your basic setting, switch over the manual, and then nudge the exposure to where you want to.)

Reply

50 Gary Smith May 1, 2014 at 2:11 am

Thanks Neil for the information. As ever, you’re informative and inspirational.

Reply

51 Dynamic Mange May 2, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Thanks for the review Neil, but how did you trigger the B1 with PocketWizard Plus IIs given that the B1 doesn’t have a cable port?

Reply

52 Dynamic Mange May 2, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Disregard my question Neil. My bad. :)

Reply

53 Neil vN May 2, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Yup, it does have a cable port. :)

Reply

54 Matt June 23, 2014 at 4:33 am

Hi Neil, thanks for writing up your thoughts on the B1. I’m at a bit of a crossroads. I have the opportunity to purchase a 600R at the same price as a B1. I’m not tied to needing TTL (and shoot Nikon so I’d have to wait anyway), so here’s my question:

Since you’ve worked with both, if you were had to choose one of the two, which would it be?

Thanks,

Matt

Reply

55 Neil vN June 25, 2014 at 12:47 am

I’m waiting for the Nikon version of the B1 to hit the streets, and then I will sell my 600R.

I just used the 600R at a wedding for the romantic portraits – super-bright light outside – and it was more clumsy to use than a speedlight in a small softbox. With the B1, it would be very similar again in ease of use. No cables. No battery pack in a bag.

Reply

56 Colin Cruickshank June 27, 2014 at 5:19 am

Hi Neil

Great article, currently I use the Elinchrom Quadra for wedding photography which works well but I can see instances where TTL would be an advantage. As I don’t usually have an assistant I’d be concerned about the light being “top heavy” on a light stand especially with a modifier attached at least with the Quadra the worst that can happen is a smashed flash tube in windy conditions if it went over, do you think the B1 would work with a decent stand and sandbags?

Kind regards
Colin

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: