Is This the Future of Portable Strobes? Introducing the Profoto B10

 250 watt seconds with 400 full power pops on a charge. Incredible!

250 watt seconds with 400 full power pops on a charge. Incredible!

When the folks at Profoto asked me if I was willing to do a look at a new product before it hit the streets, I leapt at the opportunity.  I want to be clear right from the top.  I really have used just about everything in the world of strobes. Several years ago, I made a business decision to sell all the rest of the stuff and standardize on Profoto. I’ve never looked back.  Profoto brought the power, the speed, the consistency and the reliability that I don’t just want, it’s what I require as a working imaging professional.

 While I do some of my work in a studio, I more often go on location to deliver on the needs/wants of my clients.  I need gear that can stand up to regular transport, that recycles extremely fast and because I typically work on my own, I need to be able to carry it.  And I cannot depend on the promise of AC power. My investment in B1 and B2 units has paid off.  Plus, I replaced a bunch of questionable light shaping tools with gear that stands up to constant use, and sad but true, a fair bit of abuse.

 In the last few years, I’ve been doing more video in addition to, not as a replacement for, stills work. My clients are typically corporate entities.  They have no time for messing around and have high expectations.  I wished for a portable, powerful strobe that could also be a video light, not because I don’t have good video lights, but because carrying two different lighting setups to a single shoot was not really practical.

Say hello to my little friend.  

 


 

 Simple user interface, and yes it really is that small

Simple user interface, and yes it really is that small

The Profoto B10 is an ideal all-around tool for me.  It delivers 250 watt-seconds of full power per pop, and recycles very fast, in my experience in under two seconds for full power pops and more like 0.5 seconds for a typical shot.  No one is standing around waiting for the flash to recycle and as I work predominantly with folks who are not professional models, that speed is a real advantage.  It works with every Profoto light shaping tool that I own, as well as plenty of others since I don’t own all of the over 120 different light shaping options. It’s got enough power that I can light a medium sized room with it, yet it’s small enough to fit in my camera backpack with the camera body and a couple of lenses, plus a Profoto A1 and Profoto AirTTL controller.  The Profoto OCF (Off Camera Flash) light shaping tools are small and light and very fast to get set up and torn down in a demanding time limited situation.  I can get up to 400 full power pops on a single charge, and really, I get a lot more because it is rarely running at full tilt. The fast swap Lithium ion battery goes from dead to full in about 90 minutes, and a battery change takes literally a couple of seconds.

A Single Controller for All Your Profoto Gear

 

 

 Profoto AirTTL Remote. This is the one I carry everywhere because it works with all my Profoto lights

Profoto AirTTL Remote. This is the one I carry everywhere because it works with all my Profoto lights

I use TTL flash a lot in the field because I am at my goal exposure in at most three test shots, most of the time though, I’m there on the first one.  The AirTTL sits in the hotshoe of my camera and the TTL exposures are consistent and replicable.  If I’ve got a long series of headshots, I can press a single button and have the proven TTL exposure flip over to manual mode, and never have to worry about different skintones or clothing resulting in different exposures because of different reflectivity.  It’s so good, that my flash meter hasn’t come out of the bag in a long time.  Once the strobe is set up, I never have to go near it until teardown.  I can do everything right from the AirTTL controller on the camera.  The receiver is built into the B10, just like on the B1, B2 and D2 lights that I own.

 I’ve heard all the sad songs about TTL flash and all the prescriptions that say “real pros only use manual flash”.  Bull. It’s 2018 not 1950.  TTL flash works, time to get onboard.

Work Like a Pro With True Mobility

 The strobe includes a standard 5/8” stand adapter.  I can strap a lightweight boom stand to my bag and I can now put the light wherever I want it to be and never worry about running a cable or having the strobe not be in direct line of sight.  The Profoto radio system has never let me down, even when I once had a single light positioned to shoot through a window over 60 feet away and behind a brick wall. Confidence may not be everything, but it sure makes your life easier.

 The Profoto OCF Beauty Dish White is a regular go-to light shaper for me

The Profoto OCF Beauty Dish White is a regular go-to light shaper for me

Perfect for Hybrid Imagers

 But what about the video? This is one of the places that the B10 really outshines (pun fully intended) other strobes.  The strobe modeling light is also a colour correct LED continuous light.  It pushes 2500 lumens and has a constantly variable colour temperature range from 3000-6500 Kelvin.  I’m always dealing with the challenge of the impact of ambient light.  I measure the colour temperature of what already exists, set the B10 accordingly and it’s time to start shooting video.  As a colourist, who is always looking to reduce time at the editing desk, this has been a huge time saver and quality enhancer for me.  No more gelling lights or flying a bunch of flags to get the light right.  Match colour and go.

Have you ever noticed that really inexpensive LED lights seem to have amazingly high CRI ratings? That’s the manufacturer self-assigned rating for colour integrity.  I’ve noticed that professional gear is never so “optimistic” and the CRI ratings are much more believable.  This happens because a BS CRI rating will get your stuff tossed out of a professional video shoot because the colour is not consistent.  Have I mentioned how amazingly consistent the colour is out of the continuous light function of the B10?  Yeah, I thought that I had.  And when I am doing my video work, that same battery can give me 75 minutes of always on continuous light.  In my work, I’m often mixing stills with interviews as well as corporate presentations. One light gets it all done.

Of course, I can always add more B10s if I need them and control them all independently in different groups right from the AirTTL controller.  No up and down stepladders, no time wasted, and no frustration in the talent waiting for me.

Full Control from your Smart Device

What is also brand new for Profoto with the release of the B10 is the Profoto App.  I can control up to three B10 units independently right from the app.  Need to move the power in group B on a manual set up?  No problem.  I don’t even have to walk back to the camera.  If I’m shooting a one up video and want to warm up the skin a bit to save time in post, or give a bit of kick to Log footage, I can change the colour temperature on the B10 right from my smartphone.  I’m using an iPhone 8+ and this app empowers me to get out from behind the camera and spend more time working with the talent.  It changes the whole dynamic on set.  Heck I can even use the Profoto camera inside the app to use the B10s as the lighting for a smartphone test shot.  Talk about something that I never thought that I would ever do!

I’ve included some screenshots from the Profoto App.  The first shot shows the settings of the B10 including control of the continuous light and its colour temperature as well as strobe power level.  The next two screenshots detail the simplicity of configuration of all your settings.  The fourth screenshot documents how you can access the Profoto Academy direct from the smart device.  The final screenshot shows that you can manage your MYPROFOTO account right from the smart device including firmware management for the B10.

 I’ve used a lot of so-called smart apps.  Even when they work consistently, the user interface is often complicated and hard to see and use.  Not this time.  The Profoto app layout is designed for what I call the real world, where the light is crap and maybe your eyesight isn’t what it once was.  There’s no need to go menu diving to make simple changes.  My first use was so simple, I wondered what I was missing because it was just so darn easy.

A Long Lifecycle

One of the things that has stuck with me about my existing Profoto gear is the ease of upgrades when new firmware comes out.  Just connect a USB cable and run some software.  With the B10 and the Profoto app, I don’t even have to do that since I can update my B10s right from the app.  

Plainly I like this light. It brings me the single unit design of the B1X but in a package about the size of a fast mid range lens.  And the whole package including the stand adapter is only 1.5kg.

Mix Ambient and Strobe

The power comes in handy when I need to work with strong ambient light or even outshine it to use a larger aperture for shallow depth of field.  I like that.  I also like that I get HSS built right in and automatic integration with my camera.  So, if I need to run the shutter speed up to 1/4000 of a second to get an aperture of f/1.4, I can and there’s still good power for the shot when I place my light properly.  Company leaders are often very proud of their facility and their teams and want a shot done outside.  Power, radio, light weight and HSS aren’t optional in these situations, they’re requirements; for me at least.  I’ve even used my A1 on camera to provide a catchlight in the eyes while also using it to control a B10 as the main light.  Simple is a good thing.

My Closing Thoughts

If powerful, reliable and consistent light matters to you for both stills and video, then the B10 might be the lighting system that you’ve been looking for.  I’m using Canon bodies right now, but there are AirTTL remotes for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm and Olympus/Panasonic that fully integrate with the OEM TTL flash systems.  In my case, I love second curtain sync for night shots and my Canon gear cannot do this off camera.  No worries, my Profoto gear can, and I can drive everything right from the camera with the AirTTL Remote.

The B10 comes in either a single or dual head unit and both of them include a size appropriate carrying case.  My use cases and scenarios often require me to work with a single light, and nothing has been as flexible for me in real world shooting as the B10.

 This is the dual kit which includes this really solid backpack, that you can in practice stuff with gear

This is the dual kit which includes this really solid backpack, that you can in practice stuff with gear

 Yup, just like that. Told you so

Yup, just like that. Told you so

Do you need a B10 or a set of them?  Your use cases will tell you.  But if your use cases smell and look anything like mine, the answer is yes.  Do you shoot weddings?  You want a B10 kit.  Do your clients want video with their stills?  You need a B10 kit.  Are you tired of ganging up a bunch of speedlights to get the power you need and develop your stand-up routine while you wait for them to recharge?  A B10 is what you both need and want.  Get your own.  Now would be a good time.  Is the B10 the future of portable strobes?  Heck yes, and a lot more.

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