Last year, I made the shift in battery powered strobes to the Profoto B1 system including the TTLc remote control. Of course it does more than TTL, you have full manual control and access to the incredible assortment of Profoto light shaping tools. Reviewers around the world loved the system and pros such as Joe McNally, Dixie Dixon and Tamara Lackey have moved to the Profoto system from alternatives. Recently, Profoto announced a smaller lighter battery powered strobe called the B2. I want it. Let me explain why. The B1 systems are 500ws units with built in modelling lights and integrated reflectors. They even come as a pair in a handy backpack. But what if you need something lighter or pushing less power? Lighting on the go used to mean heavy battery packs and cumbersome heads and the like. The B2 uses an over the shoulder battery pack in a carry sling, that connects via cable to the 250ws B2 head. The head can be mounted to a light stand, or with a bracket, even attached to your camera.
The B2 system includes the B2 battery / controller and the B2 heads. The controller has two asynchronous ports (perfect for two light setups) and a 9 stop range, from 1ws to 250ws. Flash duration in normal mode is from as short at 1/9300 of a second to 1/1000 of a second at full power. There's also a freeze mode that reduces duration to 1/15000 of second at 1ws. You can get about 215 full power flashes out of a charge on the battery. With battery the control unit weighs only 2.2 lbs so you can carry it a long time without fatigue. The controller also drives a set of modelling lights in the heads composed of LEDs. These are very power efficient at only 9w power consumption but produce the same illumination as a 50w tungsten bulb. Recycle time runs between 0.3s and 1.35s depending on output. The battery charger that comes in the kits recharges the battery fully in just over an hour. Depending on the kit, you get one or two batteries.
The system includes Profoto's Air TTL receivers built in so when you add a Profoto Air Remote (manual - any camera) or Air Remote TTLc (Canon) or Air Remote TTLn (Nikon) you have complete wireless radio control. No line of sight nonsense, with range up to 300m. Moreover, the TTL controllers do more than just TTL, they do second curtain sync and high speed sync. Canon's radio system does not support second curtain sync with the flash off camera (boo hiss) but Profoto does (YEA!). I have used both the Air Remote with my D1s and the Air Remote TTLc with the B1s and have found these controllers super easy to use and work with. It's the best system I have ever used. Oh, and they are completely firmware upgradeable. When the system first arrived, HSS wasn't on the radar and now it's available on my Air Remote TTLc unit simply via firmware update.
Like the B1, it has an integrated deflector / diffuser producing a nice consistent light. You can attach most any of the myriad Profoto light shaping tools to the B2. Customers love the Profoto light shapers but have been asking for less expensive and lighter shapers. With the release of the B2, Profoto has also released a new series of light shaping tools under the acronym OCF (off camera flash). The tools include a series of soft boxes, a speeding, a grid set, branders and a snoot. They are all built for speed and weight reduction.
Like most Profoto products these are not entry level built or entry level priced. A To Go kit including one control unit, one battery, charger, one head, one cable and one carry bag retails for about $2,930 where I live.
The Location Kit adds a second battery and a second head, moving the price to $3,999. An Air Remote is about $410 and the TTL versions are about $540. So no one is going to consider this system cheap and you can certainly get less expensive, more powerful dual head kits such as the Elinchrom Quadra Hybrids. They use a similar asynchronous controller running on a lithium battery driving a pair of 400s heads. A kit can be found for around $2,999. You'll need to buy adapters if you want to mount standard Elinchrom modifiers but still less than the Profoto with more power per head. I presently own the Elinchrom system and like it very much, but the construction is plasticky and the light quality is not consistent over a range of power settings. And of course, there is no TTL capability in the Elinchroms. If I can make the case, I will sell my Elinchroms to fund the Profoto B2 system.
If you are on the road and need to rent studio strobes, wherever you go in the world the rental house will likely offer you Profoto. Their light shapers provide beautiful light and I find their heads extremely consistent throughout their power range. I worked for years with a variety of other vendor products but I am slowly transitioning everything to Profoto for simplicity and kit reduction. I have been extremely pleased with the Profoto systems I have bought and look forward to trying out and eventually owning a B2 Location kit.