Photography News 05


Flash system review

Profoto B1 There’s more interest than ever in using flash off the camera. The Profoto B1 is the first flash system that combines the power and quality of studio lighting with the convenience and flexibility of full TTL flash control – we try it out ON TEST

Words by Will Cheung

IMAGE An Octa to the right was the main light, with a stripbox on the left aimed at the background.

Pick up a B1 and the first thing that impresses is build. The head has a heft that inspires confidence and the integral stand mount is positive and very secure once locked. The flash tube is under a piece of diffuser glass so protection level is high. Power is supplied by a battery pack – there is no mains option – and this allows a claimed 220 full power flashes. In our test we got a very impressive 236 full power flashes before the battery failed. The basic kit sells at £1554 and comes with one B1 head, case and a battery charger, the 2.8A version, and that takes two hours to give a full charge from flat. For faster recycling a 4.5A charger is available at £155. A car charger at £79 is an optional accessory too. The control layout on the back of the unit is commendably simple and it doesn’t take very long at all to get to grips with it. See the Tour of the controls (right). The controllable range is a massive 9EV in 1/10 stop steps so there’s the flexibility for shooting at wide lens apertures without having to move the flash further away from the subject. Flash output and flash duration are directly related. At full power, flash duration is 1/1000sec, but if you want to tackle something like action, the B1 in minimum power and freeze mode gives a flash duration of 1/19,000sec – around 1/11,000sec in normal mode. To test power output we used a Gossen Digipro F flash meter with readings taken without any extra modifier on the flash unit to give us an idea of the unit’s ultimate power output. Full power at two metres gives an aperture of f/20 (ISO 100) and this dropped to f/1.7 at the minimum output. At one metre I was getting f/40 at full power and f/2.5 at minimum. Put simply, there’s plenty of power when you need depth-of-field and the option of going very low for wide aperture shooting is available too. For the TTL element of this review I used the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. The Profoto website lists compatible Canon cameras – all those with E-TTL II capability work. We also tried the B1 as a manual flash set-up mostly with a PocketWizard Mini/Flex set. Using the B1 kit in TTL mode is really as simple as slipping the Air Remote TTL-C into the hotshoe. Turn it on, set TTL and make sure the group and channel settings match the flash unit’s and away you go. When I was using two heads, I had my key light in A and the fill-in on B channels so that I could adjust the outputs independently. Shoot a test frame, make changes to the power settings if necessary and then


PRICE £1554 for B1 500 head, battery, 2.8A battery charger, padded case AIR REMOTE TTL-C (for Canon) £312 LI-ION BATTERY £203 B1 CAR CHARGER £79 4.5A CHARGER £155 CONTACT FLASHDURATION 1/19,000sec at minimum power to 1/1000sec at full RECYCLING TIME 2secs at full power, 0.1 at minimum. 20 flashes per second, continuous shooting possible POWER RANGE 9 f/stops in 1/10sec increments, 2 to 500W/s BATTERY Rechargeable lithium- ion – two hours full recharge, tested to be 90mins BATTERY CAPACITY 220 full-power flashes (claimed), 236 (tested) RANGE Up to 300m with Profoto Air transmitters MODELLING LAMP LED, 90 minutes from full charge, tested at 99mins. 3000K COMPATIBILITY Canon E-TTL II – Nikon TTL due autumn 2014 OTHER SYNC OPTIONS

Optical and 3.5mm mini-phone socket DIMENSIONS

(WXHXD) 31x14x21cm WEIGHT 3kg (head and battery)

The B1’s power control range meant I could shoot f/22 one instant but go to f/1.8 the next

Photography News | Issue 5

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