A lot has been written over the past several months about the Profoto B1 Off Camera Flash system and I thought it was time to weigh in. So let me get right to the point. The Profoto B1 500 Air is a "game changer." It is the most significant piece of photographic equipment brought to the market in the last 2 years and has changed and will continue to change the landscape of photography in the years to come.Quite a statement I know, but I firmly believe this. And here's why.
The B1 system is powerful and portable. Gone are the cables that attached a head to a power pack. This means I can place a light virtually anywhere I choose - whether on a traditional light stand, on a Super Clamp mounted to tree, on a suction cup attached to a car, or entrusted to an assistant to hand hold for long periods of time.
The unit gest 200 pops at full power and I can change batteries with one hand, in less than five seconds. And the cost of a spare battery is a bargain.
I can shoot in using TTL, high speed sync, or full manual (which I prefer) inside a studio or on location. I can trigger the units, or change my lighting ratios with push of a button on the Profoto Air Remote - which by the way is the most reliable wireless triggering device I have ever used.
I have owned Profoto equipment for more than a decade. My inventory includes Profoto D1s, 7b's and the now the B1 500 Air. I bought my first B1 in the spring of 2014 and now have a total of 4 units. I use them in conjunction with my other Profoto gear, but most often by themselves. Below are a couple examples of recent assignments where I used the B1 units.
The beginning of every racing season requires portable studios to be set up on location. So in January of this year I found myself at the Daytona International Speedway, sharing a space with 4 other photographers in a large room. In addition to being used as a studio for 2 days, the room was also being used for meetings, so people would be coming into and out of the room. My original thought was to simply use my Profoto D1's. However, my appointed spot to set up was near a door that had folks walking in and out of pretty consistently. This a 5 light set up - 3 heads on a white backdrop and 2 heads on the subject. The power cords from the D1's, even if I taped them to the floor, where going to present hurdles and obstacles for anyone walking thru the door. So I switched to the B1 500 Airs to light the background, a 4th B1 as a kicker, and I used only one Profoto D1 as the main light. The D1 was placed on a roller stand, so it could be moved very easily when shooting or if needed to moved from the flow of traffic. The shot below is of BMW driver Jens Klingmann and was shot for Michelin North America.
In early February I was back at the Kinetic Racing shop in the suburbs of Atlanta to shoot an assignment for Kia Motorsports and their new driver Ben Clucas. I had been at this same race shop a couple of months earlier shooting their racing car with its new 2015 livery. Those cars shots were taken with 3 Profoto D1's and 3 Profoto B1 500 Airs. During one of the set ups, an employee walked past and accidentally caught his foot on the power cord of one of the D1's. It was knocked over, created a large bang and a bit of mess to clean up. I wanted to narrow the odds of this incident repeating itself on the latest assignment. So the B1 Air was the only option. Below is a shot of Ben - lit with Profoto B1 500 Air units.
The image below shows how I ship these units - 4 heads, 8 batteries, 3 chargers, and 2 Profoto Air Remotes - in a Pelican 1730 case. This system gives me peace of mind whether I am checking this case as part of my airline luggage or shipping it cross-country with FedEx. You may also notice from this image that I have my B1 500 Airs configured differently. Two of the units I have equipped with the Profoto Glass Domes (covers). The domes give a different quality of light than the recessed reflectors - not necessarily better, but different and gives me one more option when considering how I want to light a subject.
My final thought on the Profoto B1 500 Air is simply this: It is the best value of any lighting system on the market. Period. Why? Because it is the best engineered product, the best constructed product, and it produces the most consistent light output of any product in this category. And it is the most reliable of any portable flash unit I have ever used. Quality and reliability pay for itself the first time and every time I use Profoto gear. Knowing equipment is going to work and provide consistent results every time it is used is simply priceless. I love this gear. I rely on this gear. You should too.