Profoto Upgrades Location Shooting - Again

Anyone who uses off camera lighting is familiar with the Profoto brand name; the Swedish company has been revolutionizing the market for years, continuously upping the ante with the products they release. When the Profoto B1 burst on the scene a few years ago, it was a complete game changer. With its 500 watts of power per second, streamlined design, and built-in battery pack, it was equal parts power and beauty. If you are not a Profoto user, you might not know that the system has continued to change, with features being added several times through downloadable firmware upgrades. Admittedly when I purchased my first one, I didn't even know this was a possibility, but the upgrades have made a world of difference in how I even look at the company. 

The Profoto B1 has now gotten a slight overhaul itself. Profoto unveiled the B1X over the weekend. The body of the light is reportedly more robust; as a B1 owner, I can report that the previous body was fairly sturdy, mine having taken a tumble before and coming up unscathed. 

The beauty of the B1 series has always been in its simplicity. A photographer on the move will find it an extremely useful tool. The ability to pull it from your bag, mount it on a sturdy stand, and have it operational in seconds is a God send. This will not change in the newest realization of the system, but you will be able to do it for longer. Profoto has improved battery life in the B1X to 325 full power shots up from 220. The modeling light has also been upgraded to be brighter than the previous model. The small LED light packs a whopping 135-watt equivalent, but without the power draining of an ordinary bulb this bright, this is 80% brighter than the previous model.  

TTL and HHS options still exist through the AirTTL computer system, which Profoto recently expanded to cover both Sony and Olympus systems. The HHS function allows you to shoot up 1/8000s in the full 9 f-stop range. With 20 frames per second of flash capabilities, the B1X is certainly capable of putting you where the action is. 

Profoto has been continually expanding the OCF line. Also in their release statement for the B1X, they introduced the OCF Zoom Reflector, as well as the OCF Magnum Reflector. Both have the ability to magnify the lights output and control its spread. 

The B1X is showing on B&H with a release price of $2,095. The same price for the B1 units, showing that Profoto has provided upgrades, without seeking to increase the price. 

Packed with tons of features, easy of use, TTL and HHS, a plethora of modifier choices, and coming in at a little more than six pounds, the Profoto B1X should be being eyed by any photographer needing a powerhouse machine, in a lightweight, portable package. 

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57 Comments
Sean Molin's picture

Still no ability to charge and use at the same time, I see.

The full-stop range for HSS is a big deal for me, though. I found myself using the B2 far more than the B1 just because of this limitation.

Caleb Kerr's picture

Totally agree, this is a huge improvement. They confirmed on a Facebook post that it is a firmware update that will enable it on the B1 as well, which is wonderful news.

michael andrew's picture

Can you walk me through a scenario when you would want "less" power with The current HSS B1? I am genuine here curious.

Sean Molin's picture

Currently HSS on the B1 is only usable at full/half power on Nikon, and full/half/quarter power on Canon. I shoot Nikon so this is additionally prohibitive.

Basically, you'd want lower power HSS in situations where you want to kill ambient (high shutter), but you might want shallower depth of field (large aperture), and also potentially want the light closer to your subject (tight portraits or flash composites). This shooting style affects some more than others. Personally, it happens to me a ton.

michael andrew's picture

Interesting, I shoot canon, and cannot recal having the need for less power in HSS, in fact I have found it almost useless for me, with the rare exception of shooting head shots or portraits in shade with a bright background. Would this not solve your problem with Nikon?:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=38380&gclid=CIfX...

Felix Wu's picture

It's particularly useful for low light situation (but the desire setting still require shutter speed faster than 1/200s) i.e. sunset sunrise lighting scenarios, where you still want to feature ambient light in the scene but need to freeze motion or shooting wide open.

michael andrew's picture

I have found in my attempts in those situations (with movement that requires a 1/1000th and higher) that HSS is way too weak and cannot throw the light further than 6-8ft, certainly much less with any modification. Hi-sync or Hypersync is the only real solution unless you are able to overcome the limitation of keeping your strobe relatively close to your subject. Like i said, portraits (no motion) its great, with a subject in motion I found little to no use for HSS in my shooting.

Caleb Kerr's picture

Sean pretty much covered it, but shooting at wide apertures in low light, when trying to mix ambient and strobed light. I like to show the context of the scene (I do environmental athletic work mostly). If it was a simple studio shot, it's fine to drop to ISO 100 and f9, but when I need to shoot a fast moving subject at 1/1250 and ISO 800 at f2.8. The way I learned to use flash is to figure out the settings I need to expose the ambient scene, then dial in the flash's power accordingly after, and when 7-10 power is the only option, it's more limiting.

michael andrew's picture

If your flash is too powerful you can add any combination of Strobe ND, especially since it seems like you already know the situation you are going into. However now with this firmware update it looks like you wont have to bother with this solution.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=38380&Q=&gclid=C...

Michael Kormos's picture

Correct me if I'm wrong, but charging a li-ion battery at the same time as discharging it is inherently bad for the battery itself and causes a premature failure/shortened lifespan? Having used the B1s ever since their initial release on hundreds of our portrait sessions, I have not once encountered a situation where I needed to charge them at the same time while using them. There were, on a few occasions, instances where I wish they could simply be plugged into the A/C power, however. Though I understand running off a 14VDC battery vs a 120VAC would require two separate power supplies, further adding to the bulk of the unit.

I think this is a welcome change to the B1 line of products. Their HSS is outstanding, and I often use it during newborn sessions, which are shot wide open at f/2.8 in the presence of ambient light. The improved modeling LED is also a step in the right direction. The modeling light on the current B1s is much too dim once a light modifier is attached.

If you've found yourself needing to charge the B1 units while using them, they're probably not the right type of light for the work you do. Either that, or simply get an extra set of batteries. Especially these new batteries which significantly increase the number of discharges. There's really no need to be charging a cordless strobe unit while using it.

Teo Lab's picture

"Though I understand running off a 14VDC battery vs a 120VAC would require two separate power supplies, further adding to the bulk of the unit".

There is no need to integrate an AC power supply in the B1. It can be designed to be modular and accept either a battery, or an AC supply, just like the Godox AD600, or the upcoming Hensel Fortis (perhaps the first truly valid studio / on location combo strobe ever designed - the AD600 has some strong limitations has a studio strobe).

EDIT : on a pack and head system, I'm even wondering if it would be possible to design the AC adapter and batteries to be stacked, a bit like bamboo steamer baskets. Basically, the AC adapter would double as a charger for the battery. It could be used as a regular charger, with the battery stacked on top of it (no need for a charger with a thin dangling wire that's going to break), as a regular AC adapter at the bottom of the pack, or even stacked below the battery, sending AC power to the pack while charging the battery.

romain VERNEDE's picture

what are the strong downsides of the AD600 in the studio ? (I've got one but in my use, it's just a great budget flash)

Teo Lab's picture

Various reasons. But the modelling light, for example, comes to mind. It's low powered, not proportional, and extremely unrepresentative of the flash tube, even more so than the usual LED modelling lights we see on strobes like the Siros L or the Quadra.
The Foris, for example, will have a 40W LED, which will help closing the gap to the usual 300W studio strobe.
The AD600 was clearly designed first as a great battery strobe, then second as an AC power alternative. The Foris is designed, from the get go, to do both rather well. We'll know in a few months if they have actually succeeded to do so :D.

romain VERNEDE's picture

thank you for the answer!
you're right ofr the modeling light, can't wait for the Foris to come

Teo Lab's picture

Me too, if only to kick a little Profoto's bottom :D.

Caleb Kerr's picture

I think a great solution, if it was electronically feasible, would be to sell a separate device that clipped onto the battery spot and had an AC power cord. But realistically, it seems like a D-series light is a better solution anyway for studio photographers.

Doug Levy's picture

Yeah, this is a minor upgrade...a real upgrade would have been 750 or 1000ws and charging while using.

michael andrew's picture

Deleted: wrong reply

Reginald Walton's picture

So besides the "X", what's new? I watched the video, but really didn't see anything new here. Was hoping for the ability to use an electrical outlet as an option.

Jay Jay's picture

50% more battery life and more range on the HSS, which was an issue on the B1.

Sean Molin's picture

Someone said that they are bringing full-range HSS to the B1 in a firmware update. In fact, it might have already been released?

So the upgrades are better battery life, a brighter modeling lamp, and supposedly less fragile construction. The B1 is pretty well-built, but there's a TON of people that complain about them breaking when being checked in luggage.

Reginald Walton's picture

Well, I did receive my email this morning from Profoto that I can upgrade my existing B1 via a firmware update and receive the new features - ummm, so why make a new model?

Teo Lab's picture

It's just a way to keep the B1 a bit more current with the times. I don't think that it's envisioned as a way to make people upgrade, just as a way to add new customers or at least not loose too many to the competition. Allowing B1 users to get the HSS upgrade is a great way to maintain customer fidelity in the long run.

Reginald Walton's picture

Well those lights aren't cheap (which is why I only have 1), so I don't think too many people will be running out to jump ship. :)

Caleb Kerr's picture

I think that's why it's the B1X and not a new model name. It's an incremental change. I believe it has a better (and LED) modeling light which is cool. Nobody is suggesting that B1 owners should sell and get B1X, but if you're in the market for a new one, you're getting a slight upgrade for the same price. No harm there.

Felix Wu's picture

What's new:

1. the X logo
2. the new tighening knob - better grip?
3. brighter modelling lamp.
4. New OCF zoom reflector and OCF magnum - surprisingly is compatible to D1/D2 when all other OCF accessories are not recommended.

And that's it. You can FW upgrade your B1 to enable full range HS, and you could buy new batteries which are reversely compatible.

There are missed opportunities here for Profoto. Really.
1. Increase power output to 1000w/s
2. Shortening the recycling time.
3. Shortening the flash duration.
4. Expose tube design. - Profoto will make tones of money buy selling this.
5. Providing AC adaptor to allow B1 to be used as a slow version of D1. - Profoto will make tones of money buy selling this.

Teo Lab's picture

"Expose tube design. - Profoto will make tones of money buy selling this."
Unlikely to happen anytime soon, according to a Profoto rep I've talked to. Too bad, the current recessed design is rubbish in beauty dishes and indirect silver reflectors.

Michael Kormos's picture

You can purchase an optional frosted glass dome that will yield your desired result: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/605771-REG/Profoto_101561_Glass_D...

Teo Lab's picture

The frosted glass dome is nowhere near as effective as a truly external flash tube - in fact in many situations it's just useless. In addition it doesn't interact well with the various ways that exist with Profoto's mount to kill spill (for example it can't be used with both an umbrella and the disc reflector, and the D1's dedicated spill kill reflector is rubbish). To properly pack the lights, one has to buy Prohead protection caps. And of course it's grossly overpriced.

Michael Kormos's picture

For someone who's been in business for thirty years, you sure do spend a lot of time arguing on the internet ;-)

Jay Jay's picture

Two quick things for the author: "Game changer" was the most overused cliched word in all of journalism several years ago, and should have ended then. Second, the term is actually, "godsend", not "God send". And really, three, you're just repeating the press release they came out with over the weekend. Not to sound jerky, but i guess i am. Sorry! :/

Isaac Redd's picture

I'll start by saying I'm a current Profoto user, and love the products (I have a B2 kit, and a pair of D2's). BUT... how is this a "overhaul", and how can they honestly throw around the word "power" as the main drive behind the new product? Its the exact same power output as the B1.... and with the firmware update released today the original B1 now also has the full 9 stop range in HSS. So the B1 and B1X both have the same power, the same power range, and can use the same batteries (the B1X higher capacity battery is backwards compatible with the B1). The only thing they changed is the power of the modeling lamp... which isn't something I ever really care about on a battery powered light like this (its still nowhere near powerful enough for most video applications or to even be seen outdoors). When I saw the announcement this morning my heart skipped a beat because I thought they were finally announcing a 1,000 w/s version of the B1... which is what I think the majority of users would love to have.... I don't really understand this update.

Sean Molin's picture

Supposedly they are mostly referring to more resilient construction when they talk about the "overhaul." This will please the people who regularly fly with them, but otherwise it's a pretty minor update to everyone else.

Felix Wu's picture

I guess the meant power as power on location. Don't forget they need to appeal to new customers.

Michael Kormos's picture

Modeling lamp is not for video applications.

Shane Castle's picture

Yeah. You can't purchase Paul C. Buff products outside the US and Canada. This is one reason Profoto and Broncolor are so popular in the rest of the world.

Also, let us know how well your White Lightning works outside on sets without power connections.

Graham Marley's picture

Eh, the vagabond battery system is pretty convenient, as far as external battery solutions go. And once you pass the 1000ws mark, you're beholden to powerpacks regardless of brand anyway. To his point, for around 1400 bucks, you've got 2640ws out of doors. The B1s are great kit for shooting fast on the go, but there are other systems that eat profoto's lunch in the bang-for-buck department.

Caleb Kerr's picture

Shot with PCB Einsteins for about 6 years, and upgraded to Profoto B1s a couple years ago. I recommend PCB (Einstein and Alien Bee) to anyone moving into flash photography, they are a great bargain. But it's worth being realistic about what Profoto gets you: the reliability and consistency that is required when you're shooting professionally and truly cannot afford gear problems. And true HSS. The set up time and quick portability of the B1 is much better than PCB.

Setting up Einsteins: put light on light stand, find power cord, find vagabond, plug in cord, find pocket wizard transmitter, plug it in. (If you're trying to raise the light to ~13 feet, figuring out how to not have the cord ripped out of the power pack).

Setting up B1s: put light on light stand, turn on.

The massive price difference means less fiddling, less gear getting in the way. It's not worth it for many many people.

Caleb Kerr's picture

Where a user finds value is going to be different for everyone, so I by no means think that PCB lights cant work for a professional. It sounds like you're confusing value with function (I understand that it's a balance). The number of lights also doesn't make someone a good photographer.

TL;DR - it 100% depends on your needs and style of work, but cheaper or more expensive lights aren't the defining factor in quality of end product. But don't knock expensive (or cheap) just because you don't need them yourself.

Graham Marley's picture

I totally get where you're coming from. I replaced my PCB kit with 3 AD600's (with the Adorama badge) and a Priolite 1000ws model. The Priolite was just as expensive, but twice the output of the B1 and I genuinely think their Hotsync technology is a revelation. The way I need to work, even with a simplified, less-fiddling set-up, I often only have time and resources to work with one light. So a beefier output than 500ws was crucial. Granted, it weighs a ton and their CS isn't anything to write home about, but the light has performed perfectly for what I need it to do. That extra stop vs the sun has been invaluable. Everything is a trade off, as we all know. If Profoto comes out with a 1000ws model for less than, say, 3500 dollars, I mightt feel a bit of a sting. But maybe not, I'll cross that bridge should I come to it.

I do think, in this context, output vs HSS (wrt B1 vs WL3200) is kind of a weird apples vs oranges comparison. If I'm lighting a small-ish area on the go, the B1 clearly wins. If I need f/10 (just spitballing) light over a wide area, the B1's benefits start to kind of fade. Eventually, if you want to start maximizing capabilities (shallow DOF, large area, multiple subjects, in a challenging ambient situation, etc) you start getting into goofy kinds of money where you might as well get a leaf shutter system, and then, what are we even talking about anymore?

Graham Marley's picture

I think PCB is a fantastic company and I'll always keep an eye on what they're doing. They always treated me, as a customer, extremely well and I don't easily forget that.

As far as Profoto's value, I'm sort of ambivalent, but I don't fault people who buy into the system. The AD600 vs B1 is a case study: Full stop, the Profoto is a "nicer" light. The speedring is fabulous, the remote is well designed and executed, the construction is rock solid, etc etc. The AD600 is awkward, a little rough around the edges, the remote is a Kafka-esque nightmare puzzle. But pop-for-pop, photon-for-photon, the AD600 has more output and major battery life advantage at 25% of the cost. So ALL THAT PREMIUM goes into "this is a nicer light." I personally don't want to pay that premium, I'd consider it at like... 66% of what it costs now. I do believe the intangibles effect how people use their tools, how they feel inspired in the thick of things. So to some people, it feels worth it, and it's their money and work, so, I respect that.

Caleb Kerr's picture

I think you touched on a very valuable point - that comparing a light proton-for-proton is virtually worthless because that's not the reality of real use. I almost never work with an assistant, so being able to handle the gear myself quickly, not worry about fiddling with it, and focusing on what I'm shooting is worth the price. Bear in mind, over the course of the lifespan of a light, if it's making you real money and gives the freedom to be able to focus and execute good work, $2,000 isn't an absurd price to pay. With my PCB, I spent too much time fiddling. Now with B1s, I don't. That's value for me.

Graham Marley's picture

I don't think 2000 is "absurd," I think the cost-benefit ratio between some of the internal-battery strobes explodes on the margins, and I think people on either "side" of the B1 can concede the reasoning of the other.

I mean, if PCB came out with an internal battery 640ws Einstein with HSS, made it out of metal, gave it a remote that wasn't a high school AV club experiment and charged 800 bucks for it... You know what I mean?

Robert Mariani's picture

Graham, I told Tech Support virtually the same exact things you pointed out in your 2nd paragraph. I love PCB as a company and their service is top notch. But they are stuck in old designs that are not addressing the current market. The need the Einstein 640X and def need to replace the Cybercommander, its unreliable and overly complicated.

They would sell a ton of HSS TTL Einstein 640 or even 840 ( hoping ) for $800!

Robert Nurse's picture

I don't think, however, you can do HSS with PCB without Pocketwizards. And, even with them, HSS/Hyper Sync isn't as straight a shot.

jeremy thomas's picture

I will stick with my Godox AD600s. They are a fraction of the cost of profoto and still get 500 shots on a full charge at 600w/s. Even if I get the Flashpoint version of them with TTL it's still a fraction of the cost of a profoto one.

Gary Matson's picture

I realize this article is just a notice of a new release but I cannot help but mention .... how many alternatives there are to a B1. I avoided spending the insane money required to use the Pocket Wizards. The alternatives I used ( with great success ) There are 6-8 alternatives to the B1 available now some of them that satisfy a number of things that people are looking for in the comments above. Some of us don't need HSS and TTL and there are companies that are offering B1 alternatives without those things for under 500.00. I wish someone would do a comprehensive article/comparison of this category of lighting.

Peter Mueller's picture

I posted it here before:
https://hensel.eu/en/project-2017-hensel-foris-400-800/

but this might stir up the market a little bit since there is 800Ws version and you can use it with battery AND plug it into an outlet. That is what I call a game changer ;)

Unfortunately Hensel told us that is only available later this year....

Lee Morris's picture

Why can't all battery strobes be plugged in at the same time??? I can't get a straight answer on this.

Peter Mueller's picture

I cannot give you a technical explanation but in the case of Profoto I have a hunch that they want to prevent cannibalizing their other products (D1, etc...). But I don't know for sure. Although in my opinion they should streamline their portfolio and create the "ultimate" product and people would rip it out of their hands. "B1 Mark2" (B2 already exist with this name) with 1000ws, with battery and mains connection and a "not recessed" bulb. Boom. I would buy it in an instant.

With the Hensel Foris I am not sure how they solved it but I guess they have a kind of cable/plug version that fits into the battery port. I think this is totally feasible with a B1 as well. But I guess that is a rather political decision. Hensel told us it takes a few more months unfortunately.

But I agree with you that this should be an option to any mobile device. Hell, iPhones, Macbooks and even now the Fuji cameras can do it. ;)

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