Photography News Issue 49

Photography News | Issue 49 | photographynews.co.uk

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First tests

ProfotoA1 £849 Profoto is promoting its A1 as the world’s smallest studio light, which considering it has a hotshoe fitting might just seem like marketing puff. However, while it is true that the A1 has a hotshoe it is not an on-camera flashgun in the sense of a Nikon Speedlight SB-910 or a Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT, and if you dig a little deeper into the A1’s feature list, you can see Profoto’s thinking. It is not designed for power, rather it is designed to give a high quality light ideal for shaping or sculpting, and it slots into Profoto’s line-up of advanced mains and battery-powered flash lights. Having used the A1 in picture- taking situations and performed some comparison shots with my old Nikon SB-900 speedlight, I can appreciate the difference and their respective performance benefits. We’ll get into the A1’s feature list shortly, but the key feature that differentiates the A1’s output and that of a speedlight is its round head. The head’s shape and the Fresnel lens on the front gives a light that is centre-weighted with soft, smooth fall-off towards the edges. It’s designed for modifying or shaping, in Profoto-speak. There is a magnetic mount around the A1’s head to attach light shapers – three are supplied with the A1 as standard and more are available. Supplied is a diffuser dome, wide lens and a flag/bounce card. These can be used on their own, or in combination with some power loss depending on what you are using. The magnetic connection method works well and security is good. How secure depends on the situation. I tried the A1 in a mocked up, two-camera/flash set-up and had no issues with the dome or wide lens, while the larger bounce card is easier to catch. The unit I tested was a Nikon fit, so I used it on Nikon D800/810 bodies. The A1 is powered by a rechargeable Li-ion battery with 350 full manual bursts claimed capacity. Recycle time at full power is just over one second. The round head can be adjusted for bounce at different angles and can be swivelled laterally 360°.

Specs

Images TheProfotoA1isstraightforward to set up, produces a lovely quality light and makes getting great shots which don’t look over-flashed very easy.

Price

£849 What’s in the box

Profofo A1, battery, charger, case, dome diffuser, bounce card, wide lens, flash stand, USB 2.0 lead and mains lead Availability Canon, Nikon. Sony due in 2018 Output 76Ws Power range 9EV, 2.0-10 in 0.1EVB steps Recycling time 0.05 to 1.2secs Modes TTL, high speed sync (HSS), manual Modelling lamp Yes, LED Operating range Normal sync and remote control, up to 300m HSS, up to 100m Interface Micro USB for firmware upgrades Power Rechargeable Li-ion battery that fully charges in 80mins, capacity of 350 full power flashes Dimensions 199x73x77mm Weight 560g with battery Contact profoto.com

Push the set button that the menu shows on the LCD. In the menu, you can set AirTTL functionality, modelling light output, how you want the zoom head to work and a few other useful things. Profoto quotes a 76Ws output for the A1. At full power, froma distance of 2m, the auto zoom head at 50mm and ISO 200 set, full power was metered at f/16.1. For interest, the Nikon SB-900 in the same situation gave a reading of f/16.7. On theunit’s side isaTTL/manual switch so you have the choice of how to work, whether you have the A1 on its own or working with other Profoto units. You can also have the A1 off-camera, too, if you have an AirTTL Remote trigger, Used with other Profoto units, you need to turn on the AirTTL function, and here you will find four groups available – three of which are TTL. With AirTTL on other Profoto items, units can be synched by the A1 using either TTL or HSS modes and output controlled wirelessly. The A1 can be used on other cameras by setting X-sync in the menu. Here, though, it is manual operation only and there is no auto aperture mode, so you just have

to adjust the output to suit your camera settings. I really enjoyed using the A1. Set- up is intuitive and getting great shots is easy. The light has a lovely quality that is less harsh than that from a speedlight. Of course, you have to do test shots and fine-tune but the A1 made this easy, so I just left it in TTL and let the flash and camera do the heavy lifting. I really liked the simple menu which isn’t deep and does not need much scrolling through to find what you want. The A1’s quality of light is lovely, whether the light source is flash only or if you want to supplement natural light to lift deep shadows. I am certainly looking forward to using the Profoto A1 more but it hasn’t made my speedlight redundant. If I was shooting a black tie dinner/dance and press-style grip-and-grins, I would use the speedlight to give bright, snappy results with edge-to-edge coverage and enough power for f/5.6 or f/8 for group shots. However, if I was doing a beauty shoot, editorial shots or character portraits where the quality of light was all important, the Profoto A1 and modifiers would go into the bag. WC

There is a zoom mechanism, too, that you can use manually or have set to auto to match the lens’s angle of view. There is a small mouth or u-shaped icon at the top left corner of the LCD panel. A shallow ‘u’ means wider overage and a taller; a tighter ‘u’ is a more telephoto setting. There is no actual focal length setting. Profoto makes great play about A1’s user-friendly menu and I can see why. Turn the unit on and you see an unlock icon after a second or so, and after that you are ready to start shooting.

Verdict

Pros Menu easy to use, high capacity battery, magnetic modifier mount, light quality, LEDmodel lamp, meshes with Profoto’s lighting systems Cons Price, TTL/manual switch could be firmer to avoid unintentional change The Profoto A1 is highly priced but it is a well thought out and very advanced lighting unit that works really well on its own on-camera or off-camera with an AirTTL Remote. To really fulfil its potential, an A1 as the master unit of a Profoto B1X or B2 set-up would be the business, and certainly something to aspire to.

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