The Profoto B10 is the perfect tool for a working photojournalist and location photographer.
When I first used the Profoto B10, I knew fully that this was the perfect light for me for many reasons. It’s the size of a 70-200mm lens, capable of HSS, has 250 watt seconds of power, offers cross compatibility across many different types of TTL systems, can function as both a stills and cinema unit with an LED lamp that changes color, has an app that allows even further tuning and control via Bluetooth on your phone, and is simply reliable. I know that the previous sentence is long winded and offers a ton of features, but for a very long time I was searching for a more or less self-contained lighting option that does all this. An all-in-one light such as the Profoto B10 is perfect for a journalist.
Editor’s Note: The original Profoto B10 unit I used was a loaner. I later bought it in December of 2018 with an Editorial discount from Profoto. For transparency, our discount is good, but not as good as what a retailer might get, so I actually paid for this unit. My delayed review is due to months of use.
Pros and Cons
- Small size
- Lots of power output
- LED light can change color for cinema use
- Modeling lamp doesn’t drain the battery that often
- In nearly six months of use I had to charge it maybe three times with weekly use
- The Profoto Air TTL system works flawlessly
- I’ve never had a misfire as a result of the radio, only recycling and with Sony’s weird hot shoe
- App control is cool. The fact that you can update the firmware via the app is also nice
- It’s pricey, but it’s worth the money over Godox or anything else out there.
We’ve used the Profoto B10 with a number of Fujifilm, Canon, and Sony cameras.
Taken from our first impressions.
The Profoto B10 is a very small light. If I had to equate it to anything it would be to a 70-200mm f2.8 lens.
On one side is the battery pack. Profoto’s packs are pretty seamless in their design and don’t hang out a lot from the unit.
On the back is where all the action happens with the Profoto B10. You’ll find a big LCD screen, test button, power and main dial, and the dial for adjusting the modeling lamp.
Though we don’t tend to test lighting units to the same specs that we would cameras and lenses, I’ve tested the Profoto B10 while being splashed by the Atlantic Ocean. Now, I highly doubt that most photographers will be doing this–and it was just a small splash. But after the small splash, the Profoto B10 was still functional and operating. What this could mean is that photographers who need to shoot on the coast line or in rain will be okay. However, I’m not going to push or recommend to anyone to do something that stupid. You’ll see a bit later on in this review why I was using the Profoto B10 on the coast.
Ease of Use
One of the coolest things about the Profoto B10 is the fact that it has app control. This can be done with Bluetooth and your phone while connected to your Profoto B10. For the most part, what I see photographers doing with this app is updating their firmware, controlling the modeling lamp output and most importantly setting the manual lighting to a specific output. More than anything else, this has always been something that bugged me about the Profoto B10 and Air TTL system. I appreciate the fact that the remotes tell you how much you’re going up and down in terms of power output. But a situation where this would be useful is if you turn the light on and it is set to 6.7. Then you set the remote to manual and you know for a fact that you’re shooting something that doesn’t require power output 6.7. Instead, you only need 2.1. It would be nice to have this easily set up on the remote, but instead the app does it.
The Profoto B10 otherwise has buttons to control the light, cycle through menus, etc. For the most part, you initially work with the light, set it, and forget it. Many times I shoot in manual light output but there are times where TTL is easier such as with photojournalistic applications.
With Your iPhone
As of July 2020, Profoto updated the Profoto B10’s flash capabilities to also be able to work with the Profoto app on your phone. Specifically, we mean that you can use your iPhone to trigger the camera’s flash. However, at the moment, it will only work with manual lighting. You can set the shutter, flash output, and the ISO all separately. But we see most people possible using auto exposure and manual control of the light. At the moment of writing, TTL exposure isn’t available yet for the Apple iPhone. But apparently, it’s coming. Considering that TTL is little more than reading the aperture and ISO output, it can’t be all that difficult to do. But here is a shoot that we did with the iPhone 8 Plus.
So who would actually use this feature? Well, straight off the bat a photographer isn’t going to buy the B10 just to use with their iPhone. But instead, if you’re a B10 owner, you now have even more capabilities. There are times and places where it’s just easier to use your phone than it is to use your dedicated camera. It’s also just a lot quicker to deliver with at times. So providing that you actually know what you’re doing as a photographer and you don’t rely a whole lot on Photoshop, you’ll be fine using this feature. I have to say, it’s quite fun.
Photographers using the Profoto B10 will be very pleased if they’re the type that likes simple lighting setups. For years I haven’t liked to work with more than one light but I will if needed. Instead, the simplicity of a single light and a large light modifier bring me joy and add to the painterly look that I try to deliver in my photos. The folks over at Gravity Backdrops provided us with the backdrops you see here and Brooklyn Grain gave us a discount on the studio rental. The presets in these images are the Capture One Pro Editorial Style Pack. When using the Profoto B10, I already knew how reliable it was but I was shocked when Reviews Editor Paul Ip kept having issues with his Flashpoint lighting. Misfires and other problems arose, but the B10 only misfired as a result of not recycling fast enough at one point, which was partially my fault.
In this situation I used manual light output after putting the light in an umbrella. Paul stood in as a model after I shot just the background. After taking a photo, I adjusted the manual output to work at ISO 100, f4 and 1/125h. This was done far quicker than what Paul was able to do. I only used it as a modeling lamp when shooting and that made me think that it would be nice if the Profoto B10 had a special mode for the modeling lamp to only come on when shooting; it doesn’t really need to be on otherwise as it drains battery.
The images below were shot with a Lensbaby at ISO 2000 using the light’s constant light setting.
In the Field with HSS
One of the most fun assignments that I’ve given myself this year was at the Polar Bear Plunge around January 1st. I brought the Fujifilm GFX 50R along with the Profoto B10 and shot a number of images with HSS. The HSS kept firing off rapidly and reliably; I had no issues at all. The Profoto B10 is very light, so when using it I could hold the GFX with one hand and the Profoto B10 with the other and just shoot. What more can a photographer ask for when doing documentary style images such as what I shot here. The light had no modifier on it, which is how I honestly prefer to use it. Modifiers can make things complicated at times with transport on the subway.
I may be hung for this, but in terms of image quality, I highly doubt any photographer can tell what it shot with Profoto, Elinchrom, Einstein, etc. The only differences can be seen when zoomed all the way in and when judging the flash duration. But most clients won’t do that. Instead, it’s all about reliability and build quality. I haven’t seen or held anything from Godox, Flashpoint, or Impact that can match Profoto even though I’ve been involved in a ton of conversations with folks who try to degrade what this company does. I’d much rather not have a light fail on set than have to deal with it later by replacing a product altogether. When shooting with the Profoto B10 while getting hit by waves, I was shown firsthand proof that the Profoto B10 is the choice for me.
- Build Quality
- Ease of use
- Relative simplicity, though it could be even easier to work with
- Small size
- The Air system could use an update
The Profoto B10 deserves an Editor’s Choice award. It’s fairly priced when you consider what you’re paying for: reliability, a small size, power, and peace of mind. I’m perfectly okay with that as a working professional journalist who needs to ensure that things get done in little time. The Profoto B10 is for a photojournalist, but it can also work well for weddings, on-location portrait shooting, editorial work, etc. It can go from constant lighting to flash output in moments, although shooting at ISO 3200 vs 100 is a big trade off. When shooting with the flash output, you’re guaranteed lots of details in the scenes as a result of specular highlights (something any portrait photographer will attest to). I see myself using the Profoto B10 for many years. More than anything else, that peace of mind means a lot to me.
The Profoto B10 wins Editor’s Choice and five out of five stars. You can pick one up at Amazon for $1,695.