This past week I had the pleasure of being the first photographer in the U.S. to field test the new Profoto B1 500 Air TTL Off-Camera Flash. What better way to do this than to take a two light kit out on location and put it through its paces during a full fledged shoot. Together with the team at Resource Magazine, Direct model Rachel Philipps, and Ennis Inc. H/MUA Mel Paldino we hit the streets of historic Dumbo Brooklyn to create magic with these game-changing lights.
There are so many things to love about the B1! First and foremost – TTL (through the lens metering) on a robust 500 watt second head. TTL does the heavy lifting for you, determining a rock solid exposure on the fly, allowing you to simply set up your lights and shoot. This means you can work intuitively without metering or worrying about technical issues. If you are technically inclined, no worries, the B1 has a full Manual Mode feature set as well. Profoto calls the B1 an Off-Camera Flash because it fills the void between handheld flashes and Monolights. By any name it’s a first of it’s kind and definitely a welcome addition. It would take approximately 10 Speedlights to equal the output of 1 B1 and Monolights don’t have TTL. Enter the B1!
One misconception I often hear is that by using TTL you’re forfeiting creative control, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Using ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and your camera’s Flash Exposure Compensation allows you to dial in exactly the look you’re after. That’s what I did during this shoot (see accompanying images and video). TTL just helps get you into the ballpark. It’s up to you to hit a home run. And that’s exactly what you can do.
With the B1’s Air Remote you can control up to 3 zones of light remotely from the camera’s position using either TTL or Manual. During the shoot I used 2 zones each comprised of one light each with a Soft Light Reflector beauty dish and a 25º grid. The number of lights you can use in a zone is unlimited according to Profoto. Switching from TTL to Manual is simple using the B1 Air Remote and Manual Mode picks up right where your TTL exposure left off. I did this several times during the shoot to manually finesse the individual power output of my lights. Ratios are super simple as well with the B1’s built-in TTL Mode. Do you want one light brighter the other by a stop or two? No problem, just dial it in using the B1’s Air Remote. I used a -2/+2 ratio between my key and kicker lights during much of the shoot. It was a snap to set up and created beautiful light fast and on the go.
Portability reigns supreme with the battery operated B1 thanks to it’s lightweight, compact form factor and onboard, swappable lithium ion battery pack – another first of it’s kind. No more cords, no more heavy generators. My back is already thanking the guys in Sweden for this. Batteries charge in about 2 hrs offering approximately 220 pops at full power and thousands at lower power settings. Charging options include a quick charger (full charge in less than an hr.), car charger, and a standard charger.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible with Profoto’s new Profoto B1 500 Air TTL Off-Camera Flash. With an action stopping flash duration between 1/11000 sec – 1/1000 sec in Normal Mode, and 1/19000 sec – 1/1000 sec in Freeze Mode, as well as up to a blazing 20 flashes per second, the sky really is the limit. Add to that the world renowned Profoto quality of light, 120 light shaping tools to choose from, a 9 stop power range, a built-in LED Modeling light equivalent to 70 watt halogen bulb, lightweight and long lasting battery power, and TTL at your finger tips…well, it’s like having all your lighting geek prayers answered in one fell swoop!
Profoto, never one to rest on it’s laurels, has built in a USB port on the B1 for firmware updates. What I’d love to see in a future firmware update is a High-Speed Sync option, for now ND filters will do the trick. Additionally the B1 Air Remote would benefit from displaying the power of each zone/light rather than just the amount of the power change being made at a given time.
I had a blast using these impressive new lights. Thanks to Profoto and Resource Magazine for inviting me to play. The new Profoto B1 really is a game-changer!
Finally, before we leave you to absorb all this incredible information, we have to thank a few of the awesome people that helped make this happen. First, thanks to Mark, Sara, Cliff, Andrew and Bill over at Profoto. You guys rock! Thanks for making us a part of this incredible launch… even if it was a bit early. 😉
Next is our fabulous model Rachel Philipps from Direct Model Management. Mel Paldino from Ennis INC. Our hang tough hair and make-up artist who managed to perform even after she couldn’t feel her fingers anymore. We also had 2 awesome assistants helping us on this shoot. A big shout out to Kelsey Tomlinson and Victor Velazquez. Soldiers, all the way to the end.