Today, Profoto is announcing their brand new B2 monolights–a compact set that in some ways bridges the gap between speedlights and monolights. Incorporating full TTL control if the photographer wishes, the lights are very traditional heads with all battery power and control coming from the battery pack. This pack can easily mount onto your shoulder, over your chest, or even on the ground as the heads can go a fair distance away onto a light stand or even by using a flash bracket that can mount onto your camera–if you’re that type of photographer.
At 280 watt seconds of power, the B2 lights offer more output than your standard hot shoe flash but less than most monolights. In fact, we’re partial to calling them the perfect in-between solution.
From the Profoto press release
• With TTL and HSS (High Speed Sync).
• 2 fully asymmetrical outlets.
• Lightweight and compact flash heads with powerful LED
• Exchangeable high capacity Lithium-Ion battery.
• Power range over 9 f-stops (1-250Ws) adjustable in 1/10th
• Fast recycling of 0.03-1.35 seconds.
• Built-in AirTTL fully supports wireless operation with all existing
Profoto Air transceivers up to 300 m (1,000 ft) away.
• Battery capacity of up to 215 full power flashes or 90 minutes
of full modeling light in one charge.
• Built-in reflector and detachable stand mount.
• Intuitive and easy-to-use user interface.
• Compatible with most light shaping tools from Profotos
renowned light shaping system.
We tested the Profoto B2 monolight with the new Profoto powerpack, AirTTL transmitter, Canon 6D, Sigma 35mm f1.4, Sigma 85mm f1.4, Profoto 2×3 softboxes and the new speedring. We also tried it with PocketWizard Plus III transceivers.
The Profoto B2 monolights are these cylinder shaped heads and that look like a modern update to many of the older, traditional ones that have been on the market for years. Said heads have absolutely no controls on them, as everything is controlled via the battery pack.
The B2s are heads with a light stand foot, a cover, and a giant opaque diffusion disc underneath. Around this area is where you’ll also mount the speedring for your monolights.
The lights themselves connect to the battery pack using a thick cord. They’re easy to slip in and lock into place, but they’re not always the simplest things to get out.
On the battery you can see a number of variable buttons depending on the menu setting that you’re in plus dials to control other settings like the power–which can be adjusted in tenths of a stop.
The lights are controlled via the Profoto Air TTL transmitter that also controls the Profoto B1 monolights. That means that with the battery pack, you’ve got wireless control without the need of a receiver.
In the situation where you don’t want to use TTL control or control the pack from your transmitter, you can sync up to the pack using the sync port and transmitter.
Considering that this is Profoto that we’re talking about here, everything feels solidly built and designed. These light heads are considerably interesting though because I need to get used to the idea of not needing an umbrella reflector at all.
The heads have a giant thick piece of glass diffusing the front which I feel is a bit subject to breakage, but none of our lights took a tumble while reviewing them.
The power pack itself is well built and designed while being quite lightweight and pretty simplistic to use.
Ease of Use
Considering that all power and settings are controlled via the powerpack, you won’t need to find some poor soul to reach for the monolight and adjust it. It will be on the ground or over your shoulder when using it. The menus aren’t deep at all; they’re all very simplistic.
What makes this even easier is Profoto’s announcement of a new speedring where you use the color coded slots to insert the rods for a softbox or octabank, then use the rubber tightener on the side to affix it to a monolight.
With this setup, you can plug the lights into the powerpack, put one into a softbox and put the other into a softbox or other light modifier. I generally like bouncing the other one off of a ceiling or wall.
Though we had around half a month to test these lights, we were incredibly surprised by how well they could enhance the image quality of already great cameras and lenses. With these lights, we were able to get beautiful, crisp and clear images–but not much more what we can with other monolights. Sure, color consistency is better than most of the other offerings out there, but we don’t at all mind using the sync tool in Adobe Lightroom. Additionally, we’re all about a careful workflow vs a fast haphazard one.
In terms of image quality, Profoto isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel here. What they are doing, however, is trying to bridge the gap between monolights and speedlights–which Adorama’s Flashpoint Streaklight 180 series is trying to do. The Streaklight comes in a 360 watt second variety as well and will consistently give you beautiful and punchy light with pretty darned good consistency.
If there is indeed something else about these lights that makes them better than the rest in terms of image quality, we couldn’t really find it sans the color consistency.
Extra Image Samples
Over the two weeks that we spent with the lights, we felt that they were an excellent option for photographers who want something between a monolight and speedlights. In a portable package that goes into something the size of a small duffle bag, you’ve got a great two light setup. But the real strength of these lights comes in what you can do with two lights in just the right places and with a sufficient amount of power for most needs and uses.
We feel like in some ways they won’t replace your speedlights or your monolights. Speedlights have the versatility of being small enough to be placed anywhere but without the strength. Monolights can technically be placed anywhere, but you’ll generally want them on a light stand. They also pack quite the punch when it comes to power. With the B2 monolights, you’re kind of confined to a smaller area but you’ve got lots of different ways that you can configure the lights.
We’re going to have to give the lights a more thorough testing in our full review to come.