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Using speedlights instead of the B2

Neil, I feel like a sap for buying all your books and courses when you give out so much great info for free.  What was I thinking?

I just watched your writeup and video of the Profoto B2 test.  Loved the pix you got with the B2, and learned far more than just about the B2--as always with your lessons.  But I'm curious--seems to me you've done very similar stuff with speedlights.  And since I have speedlights and not a B2, I'm wondering how much differently the shots would have come out if you'd used them.  I'm guessing there were situations where the speedlights just wouldn't have had the power you needed, and without an external battery back similar to the B2's (like Godox ProPacs), you wouldn't have been able to get as many shots in due to a longer re-cycle time.  But would the quality of the shots been any worse with speedlights?


  • StephenStephen Member
    You would need a lot of speedlights to even come close to the flash power of a Profoto B2.

    Once you have enough light, it shouldn't matter whether that light source is from a speedlight or Profoto in most cases.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited May 2015
    6 speedlights (Nikon SB 910s) = around $3300; http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/832699-USA/Nikon_4809_SB_910_AF_Speedlight_i_TTL.html

    Profoto B2 = $2200.  http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1119632-REG/profoto_901109_b2_250_air_ttl.html

    I'd go with Profoto for that outlay. Even if you got cheaper speedlights at around $1800 all up, still not really good value, with all the batteries/external battery packs, bracket, sturdy tripod, with the added weight of that many speedlights, etc.
  • I think Strayshots's question isn't how the power output of flashes compares to the power output of the B2.

    I think he is asking how the quality of shots taken with the B2 would change if the same shots were taken with flashes, presumably one or two, not necessarily a bank of flashes set up to mimic the B2. I think he's saying 'I don't have a B2, can I get the same results with my flashes?' In other words, do you really need all that power all the time? I hope I'm right in how I read his question.
  • StephenStephen Member
    edited May 2015
    Neil did compare a single SB-910 speedlight versus a Profoto D1/B1:

    A single speedlight would have less light than a Profoto D1 overall, but if you compose for just the subject area, I personally don't think the image quality suffers that much, unless you don't want to shoot at f4.5 with a speedlight.  Then, something like a Profoto B1/B2 is going to provide more options.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Skip, yep you are right, it was just that I noticed the post by Rany with those speedlights, and thought that would not be a cheap exercise anyway.

    Quality of light depends on how it's shot, shoot thru, reflected, softbox, bare bulb, diffuser, umbrella, etc. so on that basis light is light as far as lighting them up, then of course, there is the white balance to consider, speedlights are by nature 'cold' so you have temp change to consider.

    I use Cheetah and they are rated around 5600K but I get a better result by stepping up my WB (Nikon) to one click up from that to around 5800K.

    My post, although not question specific, was an observation on price/setup, etc., but also relevant I thought.

  • Yes, definitely relevant Trev.

    I think I know where Strayshots is coming from….. you see great NVN photos with speedlights and great NVN photos with B2 and other more powerful lights and you think……. why did he use the B2 here when it seems like a flash would have sufficed……. Or …… I wonder if a flash or two would have produced an equally nice shot without shlepping a studio light and battery pack around? I guess the difference is knowing when you need lots of power (as you'd get with studio light) and when you don't. And I guess the size of the soft box or modifier comes into play also re the spread of light. I am thinking larger groups here rather than one or two people.

  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    The Profoto B1 allows me to get to the same place as a single speedlight, HOWEVER ... 

    1. with the Profoto B1, I can have a huge softbox and still deliver f/11 to match daylight. With the speedlight I would deal with the small, hard light source. 

    2.  Similarly, the Profoto B1 allows me a softbox when using HSS.  With a speedlight, I'd be back to a smaller harder light source. 

    Here's an example - that quality of light would've been impossible with the lesser power from a speedlight. 
    So while you can match the camera settings, when comparing a bare speedlight to a Profoto B1 (plus a softbox), the results are hugely different. 


  • Wow--thanks, all of you, for your thoughts.  I've been offline for a couple of days; just saw these.  Yes, Skipperlange, that's exactly my thought: can I get the same results with speedlights?  And Stephen, my experience matches your comment: yes, with a headshot, I can get by with a speedlight and still have decent quality.  Neil, your example pretty much nailed it: I need the greater power to get those effects on a full-body shot in broad daylight.  I've been suspecting that but wanted to hear it from better photographers.  There are times when I just can't pack my two new B1s onto an airplane, so I think I'll try the B2.  It won't take up much more room than two 600EX-RTs, and it'll give me much more power and, I hope, more flexibility and capability when I'm shooting promo shots of four-man bands outdoors.

    After the usual initial floundering, I'll try to post something useful.  Thanks again, everyone, for your thoughts.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Just double-check on the size of the B1 vs B2.
    The B2 has a pretty bulky battery pack, and I'm not sure you'll be saving much on space.

    My B1 fits inside my regular Think Tank shoulder bag ... something that surprised me.
  • That was good advice, Neil.  I checked the size of the battery pack and now realize it's much bigger than the Godox ProPacs I've been using.  The overall volume is less than the B1, but I was surprised to find a B1 fits into my 22-inch roll-aboard suitcase, and actually balances pretty nicely on the small Manfrotto lightstand.  The 15-inch Lastolite softbox I use just barely fit into that suitcase, so replacing that with the 24-inch Profoto OCF softbox will be a big space savings. 

    This morning I reviewed the pix I shot of a four-man band in London the other night.  I make these quick trips frequently for my day job and spend my evenings shooting bands in pubs and now, on the streets.  At the time I felt my single 600EX-RT wasn't cutting it but now I'm thinking it did OK, and it gave me the flexibility of switching to bounce flash when we shot in the tube station.  So maybe I should play with the B1s awhile longer before coughing up yet more coin.  Thanks.  I'll apply some of that savings to drinking your health tonight.
  • ViccoVicco Member
    or use this baby, that I now use:


    - supersync-capable (they call it HSS, but actually, it is supersync or hypersync)
    - 600 Ws (!!!)
    - (nearly) full power available on supersync (the B1 or B2 cuts the 400 or 250 Ws to 1/4 on HSS)
    - Bowens bajonet
    - fast charging accu
    - cheap (about 600 bucks I'd say)
    Yes, it has no TTL function, but I dont need that, so .... perfect choice, right?
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