Flash system review
LEFT The main light was a B1 with an Octa while a stripbox threw light on the background.
Tour of the controls
The LCD info panel shows output settings on a scale from two to ten (full power) in 1/10 stop increments, plus there is a battery charge indicator. The TEST button fires the flash and doubles as the on/off switch – just hold it down for a second or so to turn it on or off. The big central dial controls power output. Hold this down and push TEST and you enter FREEZE mode, which gives a shorter duration than normal. Push MODEL and the LED modelling lamp comes on to help you focus. Hold the button down and you get options: PROP which is proportional output to match the flash output setting; FREE for 100% output – at this setting the lamp lasts 90 minutes from a full charge should you want to use it for video. A cooling fan comes on when the modelling lamp is on but this is really quiet so shouldn’t pick up during video recording. Its output is 3000K. The SYNC button gives the options of AIR for use with Profoto’s remotes, and SLAVE for triggering from the light of another flash and any mode worked with a PocketWizard (Plus III or Flex) plugged into the unit’s sync socket. This button, in conjunction with the main dial, lets you pick which group you want the head to belong to – the options are A to F. Push down the main control while the group option is flashing and you’ve the option of setting one of eight channels. The READY button turns on/off the audible fully charged warning and there’s also DIM. With DIM on, the modelling lamp stays off until the flash is fully recharged. With BEEP and DIM active, you get audible and visual fully charged warnings – or you can turn both off. Several key features can be adjusted remotely with the Profoto Air Remotes. On the TTL-C, you can switch from TTL to manual as well as adjust output, channel and whether you want first or second curtain flash sync.
either have to use an ND filter on the lens or move the light further away which means you lose the soft wraparound light of a softbox right next to the model. The B1’s power control range meant I could shoot f/22 one instant but go to f/1.8 the next without having to physically move the light unit. I loved that freedom. The verdict Using the B1 has been a great experience. Whether shooting TTL or manual, set-up and fine-tuning the lighting were really easy. The exposure in TTL mode is, of course, handled by the camera, and here the B1/Canon combination worked really well. If there’s any downside it’s the price. In terms of features it’s great value, but a two-head system with modifiers, spare batteries and so on is quite a commitment. A one-head kit with the TTL-C remote is over £1800 but it’s also the case that the B1 is a unique piece of kit that works really well and is built to last.
you can concentrate on the subject, leaving the camera to fire a preflash and determine the flash exposure for you. TTL flash can work really well but it often needs fine-tuning as the camera position changes or as the model moves around. Thankfully the Air Remote TTL-C does make tweaking really easy. I shot model Amber Tutton outdoors and indoors with the B1/EOS 5D Mark III combination and was delighted with what I was getting. Whenever I changed a set-up, I did a test exposure or two, fine- tuned the light and then carried on. Outdoors, I mostly shot with the Canon 85mm f/1.8 but also fitted the Tamron 150-600mm and retreated 25-30m from Amber, leaving the two B1s right next to her for soft light. Being able to adjust settings from afar was a big benefit. Indoors, the B1 let me enjoy shooting wide open on the Canon 85mm f/1.8. I like the effect of shallow depth-of-field but with many mains flash units you
PROS Build, easy to use, TTL control, fast recycling, brief flash duration CONS Price, but you do get a lot for your money The B1 is a brilliant piece of kit. TTL, manual flash, lots of power, a modelling lamp, control panel HANDLING 25/25 Delightfully easy to use PERFORMANCE 25/25 Performed well in all situations VALUE 21/25 Terrific for what you get – still a serious outlay for an enthusiast OVERALL 96/100
BELOW The LCD panel and the remote.
Calling all clubs
The Profoto B1 is aimed at a range of photographers from the keen enthusiast to the professional. For a future edition of Photography News , we’d like to bring a Profoto B1 set to one of your club’s practical portrait sessions to show what they offer the keen photographer. We’ll come along with two heads, remote triggers, including the Air Remote TTL-C for TTL flash shooting with Canon EOS DSLRs, and a selection of modifiers so members can have a good play. In return we’ll take a few pictures of members in action and get quotes about what they think, negative or positive, about the B1 system. If your club would like to be considered for this unique opportunity please email firstname.lastname@example.org in the first instance with some suggested dates if you have a forthcoming practical session coming up. The closing date for applications is 3 March 2014.
π For the full review of the Profoto B1, see Advanced Photographer , issue 41
Issue 5 | Photography News
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