Profoto B1X 500 Air-TTL Flash - Review

profoto-b1x-air-ttl-review-example-photo

The Profoto B1X is the off camera flash we were looking for.

In the first year of our photography business, we relied on more inexpensive alternatives in the form of speedlites by Yongnuo and Canon. While these were good options for us at the time, as time has gone on and money has allowed us, we really wanted to upgrade to a new flash system that could handle our approach to photography & make photography easier for us.

Profoto products are instantly appealing, but they also can be difficult to stomach when looking at the price tag. You need to do a lot to make your flash worth the cost when a B1X costs over $2,000 and you could buy 5 Canon speedlites for the same cost. Without a doubt, the Profoto B1X is our preferred off camera flash, and if we needed to replace it, we would purchase it again. Let's break down some of the reasons why it's so good.

pros and cons

Pros:

  • Well constructed
  • Long battery life
  • Powerful light
  • Good quality light
  • Bright modeling light
  • Consistent color output
  • Very easy to use
  • Long lifetime
  • Seamless integration with Profoto A1

If it's not apparent, the good qualities about the Profoto B1X significantly outweigh the cons for us. The reasons for this have been observed through consistent use of the B1X for photography - most particularly during weddings.

Some of the reasons we were led to upgrade our flash system to Profoto's line of products was specifically because we needed a flash that was easy to use, consistent, and wouldn't unexpectedly die due to abnormal battery drain. These are examples of challenges we ran into with our previous flash setups, and while workable, they did not feel sustainable to use in the long term. The overall quality of the B1X is what sets it apart for us, and as working professional photographers, it is an easier pill to swallow financially - especially given this is an investment product that will end up usable for years to come, and spare us many headaches that we used to have with our old flashes.

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Additional batteries are costly

The only con we can identify after our use with the Profoto B1X is simply the cost. We have often viewed Profoto as an "investment" brand. It's pretty obvious that your average photographer is not going to need the power and convenience of the Profoto B1X, however professional portrait and wedding photographers would benefit from this as we have experienced. We believe it is because of this fairly niche market (working professionals) that Profoto is able to make sense of their pricing.

Related: Profoto A1 Air-TTL Flash Review

tech specs

Below you will find an overview of the Profoto B1X flash technical specifications. It's also worth noting along with these elements that this flash works seemlessly with Profoto Air receiver systems, and in our case, specifically the Profoto A1 flash. It is very simple to setup to trigger the off camera flash on the fly - both in isolation and in conjunction with an on camera A1).

  • Energy range: 2-500Ws (9 f-stops)
  • Recycling time:0.1-1.9 (Quick burst up to 20 flashes/second)
  • Max modeling light: 24W LED (Output equivalent to 130W Halogen)
  • Flash duration normal mode (t0.5): 1/11,000 s (2Ws) – 1/1,000 s (500Ws)
  • Flash duration freeze mode (t0.5): 1/19,000 s (2Ws) – 1/1,000 s (500Ws)
  • High Speed Sync: Up to 1/8,000s with 9 f-stop power range
  • Guide number @2m / 100 ISO with Magnum Reflector: 45 2/10
  • Display: High-resolution display with a superior, intuitive interface.
  • Size:
    – 14 cm (5.5”)
    – 31 cm (12.2”)
    – 21 cm (8.3”)
  • Weight: 3 kg (6.6 lbs) including battery
  • Radio sync and control

how we use the profoto b1x

The Profoto B1X has many uses in the context of a wedding day. While we do prefer using natural light for portraits when it is available, sometimes the use of an off camera flash setup can assist with reducing blown out skies and to fill in shadows on your subject(s) faces. Unlike an on camera flash alone, the B1X as an off camera flash also provides directional lighting. This is what can make for more dramatic portraits. Most significantly, we use off camera flash in reception halls as a means to illuminating a location. While we sometimes will just shoot with our Profoto A1 on camera flashes as we tend to like the look - and this is especially true when there are other sources of light such as what you might find during the evening with a barn wedding - but the B1X pulls its weight when in an indoor location without much external light finding its way into the scene. Additionally, when it gets dark outside, this is where the effect of directional flash really becomes noticeable and cool for dancing shots.

Our use case is fairly simple and standard as you might find with other wedding photographers. The Profoto B1X really just compliments our approach to wedding photography as it provides more simplicity (simple menus, easy to toggle on/off remotely, etc.) and has beautiful and easily controlled light both on manual power and TTL mode.

presentation & Build quality

The Profoto B1X is a sleek and hefty flash unit. Unlike some other flashes we have used, this is not a lightweight device - from the weight alone you can tell it will pack a punch. As a result, you will not want to use a flimsy camera stand, instead opt for something more durable like this Profoto stand, and consider adding sandbag pouches to weigh it down further. This is especially important if you are shooting in a crowded dance hall (or similar environment). Also, while some people buy specialized backpacks to carry this monolight, we just use the nice bag it came with.

Getting back to the topic, the look of the B1X is great and professional. More importantly, the layout of the buttons and ability to navigate the minimal menus on the LCD screen is very easy. For older fans of Profoto's original B1 unit, this is seemingly very similar. At the front of the unit, you will notice the frosted glass covering the flash bulb. As we can attest to, this helps diffuse the light in a way that makes attachments like an umbrella unnecessary if you don't want it. In our own images, we have been perfectly happy with the outputted light without any modifiers.

high speed sync

One of the key features of the Profoto B1X monolight is it's ability to be shot in high speed sync mode. This is the function that will allow you to take advantage of the full power of this flash device, enabling you to fire flash into your frame with enough oomph to overpower the sun. This helps to get better portraits during the sunny hours of the day, and even during sunset when you want both your subject nicely illuminated (less harsh shadows on the face in particular) and the background sky properly exposed (instead of just whited out).

In order to activate high speed sync, you will use your Air Remote (or in our case - our Profoto A1 with the features built in), and toggle the high speed sync option to "on." Once this is done, you can increase your shutter speed to values greater than your camera's flash synch speed (often around a shutter speed of 200). As a result of increasing the shutter speed, you can also leverage high speed sync shooting to capture images with movement in environments that require this. During reception dancing photos, we will commonly increase our shutter speed in this way just to help further freeze movement in the frame.

is it recommended?

The simple answer is: yes!

The Profoto B1X off camera flash is easy to use and a quality product. For professional photographers looking for a quality, reliable, and simple flash - look no further.