Profoto B2 Review

Profoto B2 Review – First Impressions

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

About two weeks ago, I picked up the Profoto B2s after much debate.  While every photographer and gear junkie knows the struggle – do I get the B1 with one more stop of light and no cords?  Will I find the battery pack restricting? …maybe I will just buy both the B1 and B2!  – I ultimately went with the B2s for the following reasons:  Keep reading for my Profoto B2 Review

  • One stop of light can be picked up easily by changing the ISO
  • I liked how light and small the heads were…and I think my assistant will too.
  • I envision my assistant on a wedding day being more comfortable wearing the battery pack and holding onto a monopod or light stand with a tiny little light than the bulky B1.
  • It is dummy proof (so are the B1s, but anyone who is looking to jump from a speedlight to these should know how easy they are to use.)
  • B2s are cheaper than B1.  More Profoto B2 Review

Even more important than which ones I got, I should mention why I made the jump:

  • Speedlights (and I have tried several brands) didn’t have the power and recycle time that I was looking for.  This largely came into play when I was taking family formals at the altar.  I would fire off three or four shots with settings around 1/160, f/4 and ISO 1600 and I would wait a second or two in between shots.  The lack of consistency between the images was appalling (yes, I had fresh batteries in).  Could I fix it in post?  Yes, and I did for years.  What pushed me over the edge was at a recently wedding, I was shooting at those settings (under the sync speed) and I still got the “black bar of death”  anyway!  Luckily I had enough room where I could drop it out and still salvage the picture, but you can’t always be that lucky.  I love my Profoto B2 review.
  • Ironically, the cheaper the speedlight, the easier they were to use and the more reliable!  I used, and still will use, Nikon’s SB-910s for dancing shots because the TTL is very reliable (I am sure the SB-700s would be a fine alternative too), but when hooked up to $1000+ worth of PocketWizards, they wouldn’t work!  Upgraded firmware and everything.  I jumped over to an off-brand speedlight, no TTL, all manual, with built in transceivers, and worked like a charm everytime.  I ran into a few problems when the distance between me and the light got to be too far (60 feet), but that didn’t happen too often.   Here is the situation I am referring to:
Football Senior Photos

One light, camera right on the subject and one light on a light stand illuminating the goal post. I couldn’t move close to the goalpost or else the proportions wouldn’t make sense. It took about 60 tries to finally get the speedlight on the goalpost to fire.

  • I wasn’t happy with the quality of modifiers that I was using from off-brand companies.  The material was cheap, would stain or discolor easily, and was always being jerry-rigged it seemed.  Adapters would break, there would be wiggle room in a lot of contraptions, etc.  It served its purpose while I learned, but it was time for something that I could trust, appreciate, and truly understand the workings, behavior, and nuances of.

After many months of reading, watching, researching, and drooling, I pulled the trigger on the B2s.  Special thanks to Mike Allebach and Neil vanNiekerk who have have written some of the definitive reviews on the B2, which I read over and over.  If their photos don’t show you the capabilities of these lights and make you want to buy one, then there is no hope.  Now granted, this review isn’t nearly as comprehensive or glamorous as theirs – no pretty women to look at or cool shots of the lights themselves.  In fact, quite the opposite.  This review stems from my receiving the Sigma 35mm ART back from the factory after the rear barrel became loose (thanks for the free fix Sigma!) and seeing the light falloff from my porch light in my hallway and thinking “Wow, that is gorgeous!  Let’s take a photo there.”  Could the photo have been improved if there was a beautiful woman holding onto a bedsheet, looking through the window and the light highlighting the curves of her body?  Absolutely.  Unfortunately, all there was to photograph was a close second – me.

Profoto B2 Review

The shot was created quite easily:

Sidenote: I cannot endorse the ART series of lenses from Sigma enough.  I have never shot with such sharp and solidly built lenses in my life.  Shooting at 1.8 is just as sharp, if not sharper, than shooting a 5.6 or 8 on some of my other Nikon lenses.  It is just that sharp!  I currently own the 35mm and 50mm ART and am considering selling my Nikon 14-24 and getting the 20mm, 24mm, or 24-35 f/2 for wedding and dance floor shots.

I can see the Profoto B2s being implemented into all of my portrait work.  They are just that good and easy to use.  As a wedding photographer, I own and can easily see myself using the 2′ octobox and grids at every wedding to create moody and dramatic images of the couple.  I can also see myself using a one or even two umbrella set up for family shots at the altar.  A quick note about this – one of the reasons why I upgraded from speedlights to the Profoto B2 beyond the reasons mentioned above, was the workflow and perception.  Whenever I shot group shots, I would always have to take three or four images to dial in the light.  Then, if the light wasn’t fully recharged and I was changing my settings based on what I thought was consistent light, it was like trying to hit a moving target.  Now, I can just pop on the Profoto Air Remote, switch it to TTL if I want, and fire away.  Instead of dropping the lightstand and making adjustments to the back of the flash, I can control everything right from the camera.  This may sound petty, but when minutes count, it helps.  Also, I believe that clients remember the inconveniences of their wedding day.  They may not see or remember all of the behind the scenes things you did to make it flow more smoothly, but if you are fumbling around for 3 minutes to get the lighting right and you have 20 family members waiting, it tarnishes your perception as a professional.

This is one of those purchases where you research and research and research and research and then you buy it and say, “Man, why didn’t I buy it a month ago?  I could have used it for…”  I would say that if you are considering buying one, just do it.  Commit to the system and take the plunge.  I would only buy this if I was regularly shooting portrait work on-location, high-end weddings, and could rationalize that with one wedding or a few portrait gigs I could pay for it.  If you are a beginner with GAS – gear acquisition syndrome – than this isn’t for you.  Learn the basics on something much cheaper.

Two things I dislike about the system:

  • To be efficient, you will need at least two OCF Speedrings from Profoto.  One for each head.  If you are lazy or like to don’t like to slow down your workflow, then you will probably want one per modifier if you don’t plan on breaking down your modifiers.  That adds $100 per modifier.
  • The cord!  Not so much the cord itself, but the length of it.  Come on Profoto!  What is it?  7-9 feet?  That isn’t long enough, especially when you need to use two heads and you want to position the second light behind the subject.  The cord extension, which is only 3 meters, sets you back another $200.  I think the standard cord should be 15 feet.  For this reason, I could see myself getting a B1 and using both together.  First, I need to put this system through the ringer. Profoto B2 Review

Here are a few more from yesterday’s testing.

Profoto B2 Review

Nighttime self-portrait with the Profoto B2

Nighttime self-portrait with the Profoto B2

Notice how sharp the hairs of my beard are? This is shot at 1.8 with no refocusing, sharpening, or help focusing. I simply focused at the midpoint of the blinds and then stepped into the image.

Tomorrow I will be taking the B2s out for a test run with a dancer and seeing how they perform in an urban, daylight environment with no assistant to help me.  Last one, Profoto B2 Review.

Thanks for reading!  I know it wasn’t technical, but neither am I.  I will be sure to write a review for it after I use it in a wedding or two.  Thanks for reading my Profoto B2 Review!