Profoto B1 is battery-powered studio flash with TTL

Today Profoto unveiled the B1 500 AirTTL, a battery-powered flash head with wireless TTL control. The Swedish lighting maker calls it “the most easy to use yet powerful and versatile off-camera flash ever released”.

Completely wireless, the B1 is powered by a removable lithium-ion battery and remote-controlled by the Air Remote TTL-C radio trigger. At 500J (or 500Ws) the light has many times the power of a speedlight, enough to overpower the sun or illuminate a large group of people, according to the manufacturer.

Profoto B1 500 AirTTL

“The B1 concept was born from a simple idea,” said Profoto product manager Goran Marén. “We wanted to make it as easy as possible to use an off-camera flash, but we wanted to do so without compromising the quality and versatility that photographers have come to expect from us. All the features of the B1 and the Air Remote TTL-C can be traced back to this single idea.”

There is a 9-stop power range with adjustment in 1/10-stop increments. The B1 is also equipped with an LED modelling light, said to be powerful enough to work as a video lamp.

The Air Remote TTL-C slides into a Canon DSLR’s hotshoe and controls the settings of the flash from the camera position over a range of up to 300 metres. It runs on two AAA batteries and has its own LCD screen. Firmware is upgradeable via USB port on both flash and remote.

Profoto Air Remote TTL-C

Profoto says the Air Sync is “fast enough to provide a perfect flash sync down to the fastest X-sync speed of your camera”, which suggests there is no pulsing high-speed sync function — but then with 500J of energy would you need it? The Air Remote is compatible with all flash heads with Profoto Air receivers built in, but you need the B1 AirTTL if you want Auto-TTL mode: i.e. the flash adjusting output automatically to match the ambient conditions.

Manufacturer specifications

Model
B1 500 Air TTL
Energy500J
Guide number45.2 (Iso-100, Magnum Reflector)
Power control2–500J in 1/10 stop steps
Recycle time0.2–1.9s
Modelling lamp20W LED
Operating modesNormalFreeze
Flash duration1/11,000–1/1,000s1/19,000–1/1,000s
Colour variation20–150K20–800K
BatteryLithium-ion 14.8V 3Ah
Battery capacityUp to 220 full power flashes or 90 mins full power LED
Dimensions31 x 14 x 21 cm
Weight3.0 kg (including battery)

The product was teased last week as a “new revolutionary flash” that is neither a pack nor a monolight. The B1′s form factor is instead something more like the Priolite MBX or Nicefoto N-Flash — a self-contained flash head with an internal battery. The B1′s battery is interchangeable and provides enough energy for 220 full-power flashes from a single charge.

As for TTL, a similar concept was mooted by StroBeam at Focus 2013 earlier this year, but the company went out of business before their TTL flash head was ready for the public. This makes the Profoto B1 a one-of-a-kind flash, and also possibly the most powerful commercially available flashgun with automatic through-the-lens exposure control. Certainly it is the only one with a full-sized accessory mount compatible with “more than 120″ light-shaping tools.

Profoto B1 500 AirTTL

On launch the Profoto B1 500 AirTTL is only compatible with Canon E-TTL II cameras via the Air Remote TTL-C, but Nikon support will come eventually (we would imagine with an Air Remote TTL-N) in 2014. Sony and Pentax users, don’t hold your breath.

Available as a kit or a single head, the B1 500 AirTTL will be carried by Profoto dealers worldwide. One head, charger and bag will set you back £1,295 plus VAT. Add on another £260 for the remote.

Would you buy a studio light with TTL?

View Results

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  • Jason Bonello

    How much?

    • DanCarr

      Apparently $2000 per head. I think TTL in a light that costs that much is totally pointless. Who the heck is going to want to use the head in TTL on a proper job? I think these companies just aren’t listening to our needs. I do’t care if the flash has a 1/19,000 second duration at minimum power (yes you have to power down to 2w to get that) and I also don’t care for them using t.5 times to distract us instead of more accurate t.1 times. I want a flash with an output curve SPECIFICALLY designed for high speed sync. First company to do that wins.

      • JL Williams

        “Who the heck is going to want to use the head in TTL on a proper job?” The same professionals who now have to bundle together multiple camera-manufacturer speedlights when they need TTL and cordless operation. A system such as this will be much sturdier and much easier to use with lighting accessories.

        • DanCarr

          So the same professionals that shoot their cameras on ‘P’ mode then? It’s all a marketing ploy so they have something to shout about. I don’t know a single professional that would actually want to use TTL for this kind of lighting. TTL has a place for on camera flash in photojournalism when you’re running around with changing situations and need a split second reaction. There’s no useful place for it in controlled environments where you’ll be using something like a Profoto head.

          • crustycharacter

            The TTL is icing on the cake to sell them to the DSLR crowd. I like the portability, belonging to the Profoto system and the modular batteries. I’ll shoot them with MF and DSLR’s on manual. Same price as Elinchrom Quadras, these are killers.

          • motionblur

            I’m with DanCarr on this. Couldn’t care less about TTL, except as a plaything and “nice to have”, but not something I would actually switch for. Also, the portability is not comparable to the Elinchrom Quadras, which BTW has a far better flash duration for freezing action when used with A heads – of which you can actually use TWO on one pack – so it’s far easier to travel with compared to two of the b1′s. In the Profotos favour is build quality and ergonomics, but the flash duration at the high power settings, which is what you’d buy it for anyway (otherwise you would use a speedlight) is nothing special. If they managed to figure out the high speed sync issue, then that would be a game changer and I would buy it in an instant. As it is, I would rather spend my money on a Godox 360 or whatsitsname – but I’m currently holding out, hoping that Profoto will get it’s act together and figure out HSS.

      • Mike Servis

        The nice thing when the add ttl the also add high sync speed, that is nice in bright sunlight. $2000 is high though unless this is a full kit with transmitter.

        • Joebbowers

          No, many TTL flashes do not have high speed sync. This flash doesn’t.

        • Andres Trujillo

          Also, transmitter sold separately (another $400)

      • Mihai

        One “high expectation” application I can think of for this flash are the fashion shows, wich are more on the photojournalism side than studio side of photography. Just set a few of these with desired modifiers and you should get some awesome shots on the runway at iso 100, with the crowd more or less hidden in darkness.

  • CatchlightFoto

    The “how much” question IS the critical one.

  • Brook

    Not being able to do a high speed sync is a HUGE deal breaker. The only difference between this and a standard profoto is ttl. Fine if you don’t own any but no reason to switch

  • ML

    This changes everything. TTL monolights! What we’ve all been waiting for! For years!

    This is the new direction of lighting. I’ll be getting two!

    Whatever the price, I’m sure it WILL be worth it. They’ll probably be the last lights I’ll ever buy.

  • JL Williams

    Finally, a fully cordless, remote adjustable, TTL capable studio light!

    It’s exactly what I need, except (1) I don’t shoot Canon, and (2) most likely it will cost more than I can afford. But now that someone has broken the ice, we can hope more manufacturers jump in.

  • Mark

    Being Profoto we all know this is going to cost mega $$$$ So one head and battery say £2000.

  • ML

    What is very interesting is that this light does 1/19,000 of a second. It can freeze action.

    One site had a price of $2000 USD for one head. Expensive to buy, but it WILL set the rental world ON FIRE! Remember: Profoto = rentals. Wedding photogs, indoor sports photogs, portrait photogs… this is where the game changes.

    I’ll be saving up for at least two. I’ll get them whenever I get them…

    • Enrico Quaglia

      1/19.000s is at 2W/s (oh c’mon!!) and is a useless t0.5 time. Sorry about that.

  • Äremis

    This is a nice add to an already fantastic line of lighting equipment. However, the TTL function is only a game modifier. When off-camera lighting manufacturers find a way to high-speed shutter sync their heads via ETTL, that will be a game changer. Controlling your light source is one thing. Controlling the ambient light and strobe light while wide open on the aperture is a completely different animal. It’ll happen, eventually.

  • JL Williams

    Amusing sidelight: I’m on the Profoto email list (apparently they don’t know I’m poor) so received an email earlier today about the unit. But just now I got another email apologizing for the fact that there is so much interest that it is crashing their website!

    The email instead invited me to click a link to download their brochure. I did… and got a message from Dropbox saying they have shut off downloads because of excessive demand on their server.

    So there must be a LOT of interest in this new flash!

  • jefflivesinchicago

    yes, they make the easy part easier, (TTL… or walking over to hit the buttons) … but not the hard part… i.e. high speed sync…

    I might rent these … but this isn’t a game changer for me yet…

    1. no high speed sync iTTL

    2. 500 watt-seconds isn’t 1200 watt-seconds, i.e. not quite as much punch as a 7B for daylight-for-dusk images with a beauty dish and a few gels to make noon look like near-sunset… so maybe I’d have to rent 2, which kind of defeats the idea for me… I just use a speedotron 1500 + 103 head for most of this stuff now + an ND filter, but I’d rather go high speed sync, the ND + watt-seconds kludge is not as fun…

    I’ve used a couple of Quantum’s with TTL for not so much $$$, easily rentable, and they do iTTL with AOKATEC transmitters + a bit of gaffer tape quite nicely, but no High Speed Sync, which I could have really, really used on a gig last week outdoors.

    Hmm… getting some more AOKATEC’s and 4 or 5 more SB-800′s is looking more and more like a good idea….

  • James Hays

    Has anyone been able to verify that it does NOT do high speed sync…even in TTL mode? Not sure why anyone would release a TTL light without that function.

  • Keenan Butcher

    oopps typo $2000.00 it should read

  • crustycharacter

    You need the high speed sync to enable a wide aperture in bright conditions, its not about the power output of the light. Try shooting a model with f1.8 in sunlight and lighting them without high speed sync.

    With an MF camera you can use a leaf shutter lens, with DSLR, high speed sync is the solution. In HSS a Canon speedlite will strobe 35,000 times a second, the profoto can do 30 a second so not much use if the shutter is open less than 1/30 and you want more than one flash in the exposure.

    But apart from that scenario, these lights are very useful anywhere you’d end up with trying to stuff speedlites into a softbox or some modifier where they are just a pain in the bottom in a real shoot. These are a super convenient and powerful alternative to Hensels, Lumedynes, Elinchrom rangers etc. I just wonder if they will be at a price DSLR users will go for. Still I know quite a few top pros who now don’t see the point in medium format now there are cameras like the D800, they might love this gear. I know I would.

    • crustycharacter

      Oh yeah… and why Canon first? I don’t get it.

      • Robert Martinu

        Guess thats quite simple: market share. You cater first to the group that will buy the most units. The “D800/A7r is the new MF”-crowd still can use the Air remote and make use of battery power and the wide adjustment range, TTL is more for the journalistic approach.

    • Ken

      you can easily sync a d800 at 1/8000th with an elinchrom ranger Quadra with a simple trick. google it plz.

      • Robert Martinu

        Just don’t forget all the caveats involved. Like no more metering, or intensity shifts across the frame, just for starters. Thanks, I’ll take a LS lens instead.

  • Adam Montoya

    TTL for Canon only? Another product I’m not buying. How about compatibility with P-TTL and ITTL, then we’ll see. Till then, the word “revolutionary ” is marketing mumbo jumbo.

    • http://www.lightingrumours.com/ David A. Selby

      i-TTL support is coming next year.

  • James Hays

    Except that the Quadra can run two heads.

    • Martin Francis

      True enough, the Quadra has some advantages (though the asymmetric splitting of power never really appealed to me- and nor did the relative lack of native modifiers). I think I’d rather have the Profoto, overall.

      • Motionblur

        If flash duration, size, weight and portability isn’t your main criteria, but individual power controls and apro level modifier mount are, then I agree that the B1 may be the better option. I already have a full Profoto D1 kit and a Quadra kit, and they are both very good for their respective uses. For me, the B1 won’t be justifiable until it manages to offer something truly unique, like HSS. It would also be perfect if it could communicate with Canon’s 600RT flashes, as a B1 in a light-sucking modifier coupled with lightweight 600RT’s as rim- and hairlights would be a location photographers dream come true. Still hoping this may be possible someday with a firmware update. If/when that happens, I’ll buy one straight away.

  • Geoff

    I think the amount of criticism lodged against this light for its lack of High Speed Sync is a little bit harsh. I would imagine it’s very hard to make a flash this powerful capable of HSS. Also if you want to shoot wide open apertures in sunlight I would just put a ND filter on the lens and wind up the power on the flash.
    I think this looks like a pretty nice piece of kit, but I agree that TTL isn’t something that a pro would be looking for in a strobe. And it’s hard to see how any enthusiasts who might want TTL would pay what this costs. Cut some money from this and remove the TTL support and I think this could be a winner

    • http://jacquescornell.com/ Jacques Cornell

      “I would imagine it’s very hard to make a flash this powerful capable of HSS.”
      Godox’ Witstro AD360 does it at 360 Watts for $700.

      • http://jacquescornell.com/ Jacques Cornell

        And, their XEnergizer 400 & 600 Watt Li-Ion pack & head kits do it for $400. That’s what I’d be looking at if I didn’t already have a ton of Lumedyne gear.

  • http://jacquescornell.com/ Jacques Cornell

    Shooting Panasonic alongside Canon, I need flash systems that work with both. Flash makers’ myopic focus on CaNikon TTL seems backward-looking and ill-timed given the diversification of camera options that’s going on. The first company that makes an on-camera TTL or auto flash for both Panasonic and Canon that provides remote manual control of off-camera units’ output levels gets my lighting budget for the next five years. Godox looks to be the best positioned to pull this off.

  • Joebbowers

    I would buy the N-foto portable flash heads over these. 500-600 full power flashes on a single battery at 1/6 the price. No TTL but who would really use that on a professional shoot?

  • quasibinaer

    Well, that´s just what I waited for. I was originally going for Quadras, but the asymetric split and the “head+cable+pack* is a nightmare when you´re moving a lot during a shoot. Plus they´re not as powerful, I rented them for a few assignments and ended up having to shoot bare because they weren´t able to bounce off an umbrella…
    And since I´m a one-light-guy most of the time anyways, these wil be on my list for christmas ;) Having TTL is a nice plkus, although I don´t see meyself using it much. High speed Sync would´ve been nice, but maybe Profoto did the sensible thing and enabled Pocketwizard funcionality (like on other battery packs). Because this way we´d still get reasonable HSS via HyperSync. Or I´ll just plug another PW into the sync port and Bob´s your uncle. This way, I could also use speedlights with this. Look at it like this: It´s about 8 times the power of a speedlight, takes modifiers natively and costs no more than 4 big Canon speedlights. I´m sold.

  • AE

    Looks like a lovely product. Given the power it compares well with multiple EX600′s. However the review says “the Air Sync is “fast enough to provide a perfect flash sync down to the fastest X-sync speed of your camera”, which suggests there is no pulsing high-speed sync function — but then with 500J of energy would you need it?”

    Well, unless you have a leaf shutter everyone needs HSS above 1/300 (approx!). I think Profoto have missed a trick here. HSS is essential.

  • scott

    ” which suggests there is no pulsing high-speed sync function — but then with 500J of energy would you need it?” This is a statement that comes from a lack of understanding of why people want HSS in a powerful light.

    There are 2 reasons people want HSS:

    1- the ability to shoot shallow depth of field images in bright ambient light. Yes, you can use an ND filter to achieve the same result. Sub optimal, but workable.

    2-The ability to freeze action in bright ambient light. Regardless of the speed of the flash duration, if the shutter is set to …..1/250, and movement blur that can be caused by that shutter speed in that ambient light without flash, will still be apparent in a flash image.

    “Hacking” highspeed sync, ala HyperSync and similar methods, is fraught with pitfalls, like uneven exposure, and vastly different results among models of flash and cameras. I expect Hyper sync to not work well with this flash.

  • johnny

    HSS is the most important whereas TTL is useless in pro photography. I never liked the TTL result from my 580EX. It is stupid and usually overexposed.

  • iphoto27

    Save all your money.

    Just rent this out when you need it.

    ATG, Broncolor, Profoto, Rime Lite and Cononmark are made for elites and pros.

  • Olo

    TTL mode doesn’t work when Av is set on canon’s camera. :(

  • Olek

    Does Profoto B1′s TTL work in selected mode of Av’s priority?

  • reginald von longdong

    People suck! these are amazing. they are expensive because they are made for professionals.
    If dont like spending money on quality gear go and buy some Chinese piece of crap that will fall apart while you are waiting for it to recycle, then take it and stick it in your japs eye.
    Ps i hate myself for being a part of this discussion, but i hate you more so fuck off and die

  • assistant88

    from an assistants POV, i’d rather lift a prohead above the photographer all day than this heavy ass mo’fo.

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