Review: Profoto B2 250w Off Camera Flash

 

DSC03597

This review is the second part of my Profoto Review. Previously I covered the B1 here and this time I will touch on the Profoto B2 250w Off Camera Flash. The B2 is a pack and head system consisting of a generator and up to 2 heads connected to it. The B2 as per it’s description, is a 250w strobe. That is half of the B1 but in practical terms, it is equivalent to step 9 out of 10 on its bigger brother. Other then the power, it retains most of its bigger brother’s traits: TTL, HSS, fast flash duration with multi-shot and built in wireless receiver.

B2 Group

The B2 however has quite some difference between it and its brother. Weighing in less then 3kg with a single head, it is a lot more portable. It is also smaller, a full set taking up similar volume as the B1 without the battery.

DSC03600

One of the useful feature is the ability to plug two heads into it and running them asymmetry.  This means that both outlets could be of any power stepping as long as they add up to 250w. Ratios tested are: 9.0-9.0 , 8.0-9.6 , 7.0-9.8 .  This is really great since one could be a main light running at 2 stops above the other which acts as a fill resulting in little lost of usable light out of system. One thing to note is HSS as similar to B1 requires a minimum of power 7 and above. It does work in asymmetry so you can use the above ratios as long as both are above 7. An additional notable thing regarding power is the knobs that set them. In the B1, its a linear knob of 0.1 with a down press and turn for a greater jump. On the B2, its based on the speed of the turn: Faster results in greater jumps while slow turns will be for fine tuning. A little flick could be 3-4 stop jump or 0.1-0.5 depending on the speed.

ProfotoPicB2

The B2 heads come with modelling lights. I never went around testing the exact output but by specification they have similar output to the B1 per head. However one of the ability lost is to vary the modelling light on the B2 which is only on or off.

DSC03599

A really interesting small improvements in the B2 is the battery. The battery is smaller then the B1s and like it comes with a test light. However this time on pressing it once holds the light for a few second to let the users see its power level. It is also a whole lot brighter and in green for easy identification.

DSC03603

If you own any Profoto mods, the B2 is a good fit into your system. The heads accept all mods the B1 could. The only thing lost is the ability to zoom as the heads are rather short.

With all the above, how does the B2 perform out-field? It is technically a B1 in a pack and head system with just a touch less power. Everything great about the B1 is in the B2 and now in a lighter and easier to manage package. Some will say isn’t it a step backwards with the cables and all, but when you need to Boom in the open, B2 is really the saver here.

TifaRaw-38

Taken outdoor, the B2 acts as the main light on the boom and fill light at the bottom in a clamp shell setup. The generator acts as the counter weight similar to such systems.  The back light in this picture is a B1 with a zoom reflector.

The pictures taken from the B2 is as good as the B1 with the added portability. Below are shots taken with the B2 as Key Light. In most situation, its also running on HSS with a second head acting as a fill.

TifaSaku-9

Kobato

Homura

Tsubasa

TifaSaku-12

The B2 did had some issues when I first purchase.

  1. The first generator was faulty. It just did not work after a few pops. The distributor did a great job and replaced it promptly.
  2. The knobs on the generator needs to be redesigned. It catches small particles like sand or dirt and becomes jammed/hard to turn. Both my knobs could no longer rotate more then 180 degree without requiring significant amount of effort. The distributor offered to fix it but I have yet the time to do it.

One last comment about the B2. It comes with a great carrier that could be sling or hooked to a stand easily acting like a sand bag. This is much more useful then the case of the B1 which is more like a shoe carrier.

The B2 is a really great system. If not for the cost, I would have recommended it to anyone who needs a outdoor system with HSS and consistent lighting.

This ends my B2 review. Do remember to visit my B1 review here for more of the performance aspect such as TTL and HSS.

Overcoming the Sun: Clamp Shell Lighting

One of the advantages of using strobes is paring the sun. However sometime not only do you want to light up a subject, you want to have a effect that is hard yet with minimal shadow, similar to what large reflectors create. With recreating that effect using lights, I found the best solution: Clamp Shell Lighting

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 6.16.03 pm

 

The diagram doesnt depict it well, but technically one flash on a boom is above the other, the sun behind the subject back, lights are aligned to the side of the subject for a more natural feel with the camera between them or at the side of the lower light. One difference between the setup I use and a standard clamp shell is my ground light is not exactly below the first light but slightly more offset. This lower light job is to fill in the shadow for that extra spectacular effect, recreating a look similar to a reflector. Depending on where the shadows actually are, it is moved to fit the situation.

Also note, to over come the sun with a 500/250w light, I usually use a metal reflector or bare bulb for power. This is essential especially using high speed sync where even more power is lost. However if the sun is low or in semi sheltered area like a forest or the exterior of a building, umbrellas can be considered to soften the light.

Below are some pictures shot with this setup and their in camera settings:

YunaV2-3

Nikon DF: 28mm F1.8 1/4000 (B1: 10/10 B2:10/10 HSS Barebulb)

11am light is relatively strong. Full power on both lights at barebulb to overcome the sun.

Rae-3

Nikon DF: 28mm F2 1/500 (B2: 8/10 B2:7.5/10 HSS  Shoot Through Umbrella)

As the area was semi sheltered, I dont really need to fight the full force of the sun, as such 2 umbrella can be used to better diffuse the light.

Kobato Small

Nikon DF: 28mm F1.8 1/1600 (B2: 9/10 B2:8.5/10 HSS Barebulb)

Shot during the taiwan evening sun, B2 dont really have the full strength to over come the sun itself especially if done in dual head mode. More will be talked about B2 in the upcoming review.

This photos represent outdoor usage of clamp shell. Gives a nice light on the face thats spectacular yet not too harsh with the second fill light that is usually lower powered to fill in the shadows. Hope you learn something from it!

High Speed Sync with Profoto B1/B2 System

Recently FStopper wrote an article about high speed sync and the difference between it and HyperSync.

Demystifying High-Speed Sync

Pocket wizard also written a more technical write up here:

Understanding HyperSync and High Speed Sync

High speed sync is really one of the best thing that happen for flash photography. However the biggest issue is massive lost of power which from a speedlite results in a output that is insufficient for many purpose. Profoto B1 and B2 provide HSS with a much more efficient output approximately to just one stop lost of light. This is significant since they output much more light then any speedlite.

So before High-Speed Sync was available, I utilised the Rx-1 to get sync of up to 1/1600 using the inbuilt leaf shutter.

Yoshino-2

Juvia-22editSM

 

Both of the above shot is done in the morning around 11pm. Using the leaf shutter, you can not only kill ambient light, but also synchronise with a flash up to 1/1600. However do note that the speed of your sync also depends on factors such as the wireless trigger (I use a phottix Atlas) and the duration of the flash light.

The issue with leaf shutter: There is really not much cameras and lenses with it, limiting your choices. Also sync speed will reach a cap at around 1/1600. This limits how much ambient light you can kill. However the advantage is that you are utilising the full power of the light. Compared to HSS at 1/1600, you save more then 2 stop of flash power, allowing you to do some multi-shots that can best capture action moments.

Of course all this changed when Profoto introduced HSS and I love it.

Kaze-8Ed

Lux-1

HSS allows you to use any lens, any shutter speed, to capture things in the way it would have not been possible without using extensive ND filters. ND filters causes a lot of problems: Darkening of view finder, focus issues, colour tints. HSS allows you to bypass the restriction of the shutter sync and with any lens capture the image. Why do we want to capture something using HSS? The ability to use large aperture lens for the shot resulting in shallow depth of field while properly filling in the shadow with the flash at any shutter speed!

The issue is HSS results in lost of usable light. If you want to maximise your flash, a ND filter is still a more efficient solution. However if you just want to fill against daylight ambient but do not have a leaf shutter system, this is your best bet!

Christy-3

Akatsuki-1

For those who are interested what the Profotos could deliver: B1 in HSS is approximately the power of 8-10 SB910 in gang mode while B2 is half that amount. This allows you to use mods to further enhance the light. However for the amount of power they can produce in HSS, there are restrictions.

Min Power: 7/10 on canon system

Min Power: 8/10 on Nikon system for B1 and 7/10 for B2

At times this is just overwhelming!

 

Profoto B1 500 Air TTL Review

10524262_10203800652471035_1238531702696465912_o

This starts my 2 part review of my Profoto System consisting a B1 and B2. This post will round up the Profoto B1 Air TTL while in the next part I will be covering the B2. This review will touch on the key features of the unit, followed by field experience and some pictures. To me, on field performance is the most important part of any photography equipment and as such there will be no charts and more actual output in this review.

Before I start, the B1 has been with me for about 10 months and the B2 for approximately 1.  Before the Profoto, I owned a Jinbei and numerous speedlites which I use for outdoor shoots. In studio environments, I have so far come in contact with Bowen, Profoto and Elinchrome lights. Profotos’ had one of the best output and mount, as such when the battery unit appeared, I bought it without much hesitation.

10403645_10205586175667999_4003443183535000886_n

The B1 is an off camera flash designed for on-site flash photography.  The unit is relatively large as shown above, weighing around 3kg with battery attached. That puts it around 5-6 times the weight of an average speedlite and more then 30% heavier then the B2 pack and head system.

The great thing about the B1 is that it is a true all-in-one head. You can even call it a giant speedlite with a profoto mount. The battery is directly attached to the side, the flash is triggered remotely by the Profoto Air Remote TTL, making it a true wireless unit.

10547051_10204213226025116_2632805960195568884_o

You can control the B1 in 2 means: Via the back of the strobe or through the wireless remote. The B1 has a power settings from 2-10 (2-500w) with 1/10 increment. Residing within is also modelling light that could be used in various modes such as % power or proportionate to the current setting. The B1 comes built in with the Profoto Air system allowing it to be controlled and fired remotely via the trigger. The B1 also features TTL and High Speed Sync which I will cover in the field experience.

10551445_10203829603274787_4715751535793247290_o

On the output, Profoto claims the B1 contains the power of 10 speedlite. Maybe that is true compared to a 43GN unit. Compared to a 58GN (580EX, SB910), it is closer to around 7-8 base on my experience. In terms of flash duration, I have no meaningful way to test it but below 1/4, no motion blur was detected thus far on my photos. The reload speed, for all the light it outputs, refreshes in less then 2s from empty to full power!

One of the key reason of buying a branded strobe is for consistency. The B1 shot to shot has little variance both in color and output. This is great especially when in studio environment or doing multiple shots for merging. However when the strobe enters into HSS, exposure constancy based on field experience fluctuates up to a third of a stop.

One final note is the B1 is an IGBT strobe. In simple terms, it utilizes similar circuitry as a speedlite but on a larger scale. This allows multiple triggers as long as the unit is not on max power. The flash duration also gets shorter as the power is lowered.

Now the most important thing is how does the B1 work on field? To me: Fantastic!

10835437_792083867494289_2594045485808777234_o

The B1 is one of the easiest to work with in terms of color output. Blending easily with the surrounding natural light.

10835319_854632041239471_512644347140954184_o

It has lots of power too. The above shot was done around 10am in the morning with the light placed 3m away using a zoom reflector. The B1 on HSS can overpower morning or early afternoon sun easily affording much flexibility on its usage. Do note that HSS do lose approximately 1-2 stop of light compared to using an ND and reducing the light to the shutter sync speed. As such using a leaf shutter camera or ND filter still results in significantly more usable light per shot.

11078252_836838849685457_8865099165116600626_o

With the ability to trigger multiple times and a short refresh, shots with moving objects are a whole lot simpler. The above was done with a RX1 utilizing a leaf shutter and the B1 approximate at power 7.

10987410_816818365020839_7192558100062677970_o

As a full size light, it could utilize various modifiers while retaining the power to par the harshest sun if placed not too far from the subject. The above was shot with a softbox in mid-day light approximately 1m away from the subject.

10481920_760068337362509_3707107614903329104_o

It could mix well with speedlites, allowing the usage of 1 large light and multiple small ones to create the ambience needed without lugging multiple large units.

Homura-1edSm

As a wireless unit with the ability to be remotely controlled and fired, the light could be placed almost anywhere. The above shot was done with a B1 almost 15m away at a doorway utilizing a zoom reflector.

Such a great light do still have its issue. For one, at power 8, it cant do quick multiple triggers without significant variance in exposure. HSS only works from power 8-10, making it overwhelming for cloudy days or in the late evening. It is heavy so you need a pretty heavy duty stand and lots of weights. There is no way it can run off mains, which means you need 2 batteries if you want to use it for a studio environment. Luckily the batteries recharge in less then 2hrs with the standard charger. Lastly, it is costly, with a price of $2950SGD + $480SGD for the trigger today. However for all the above issues, it delivers in a way that changes the way outdoor shots could be done!

With this ends my first round of review for the Profoto B1. Next up will be the B2!