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Monday, November 23, 2009

Choosing Big Lights: Profoto

If you are shopping for Big Guns, you cannot help but lust after consider Profoto. Among high-end pro shooters, Profoto is near ubiquitous. And there is usually a reason for that.

Several good reasons come to mind in favor of choosing Profoto, actually. And one pretty big reason not to -- inside.
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"The Light Shaping Company"


Those four words define a corporate philosophy that sets Profoto apart from many other strobe companies. They sell a bewildering array of light modifiers. And you have to respect a company that puts that much effort into trying to deliver such a wide range of light shaping tools.

The quality of light pushed into those tools is legendary, too. Which is one of the main reasons pros around the world seem to so often go for Profoto when it comes to choosing lights.

But another reason is the rental network. Profoto was very smart in engineering wide availability of their gear for traveling shooters via rental houses around the world. So you can rent what you need on location, or augment the specific Profoto tools you need for a shoot but do not yet own.

It is a powerful triple whammy: Quality light, shaped well and available everywhere. So what's not to like? Let's all just load up on Profoto and be done with it, right?

Not so fast, bucko. There is one little problem:


Profoto is Expensive.

Even the entry level battery pack and head is gonna set up back over three grand, absent special deals. And the fun just starts there. The packs are expensive. The heads are expensive. And then there are those beautiful modifiers.

The modifiers are as insidious as they are wonderful. They reach waaaay into your wallet, grab it by the short hairs and ask, "What kind of beautiful light would you like to make today, Dave?"

And that's a problem -- because you say, "Well, of course I want make alllll of the different kinds of pretty light today, Profoto!"

Then pretty soon you and your Chase Visa card are best buds. And shortly after that your kids are eating the dry, generic cat food because you can no longer afford to feed them the premium canned stuff.

Which of course would make this an easy "nossir, Profoto," except for then they start to work on your brain from the "logical" side.



"But my reflectors zoom, Dave. So each one is like having, say, three different reflectors."

So then you start to divide the price by three, and that oh-so-versatile "Magnum" reflector which costs like three hundred bucks or something starts to magically look like a mere $100 reflector. And now a hundred bucks for a reflector sounds positively frugal, like when you slow down to 70MPH from 100MPH and it feels like you can get out and walk.

And then who wouldn't want to belly up to the photo bar and buy one?

(What kind of reflector would you like to buy, sir? Oh, I'll be needing a *Magnum* reflector, please…)

And then there is the other value-added thing that starts to creep into your brain: The light mods work on all of the heads. Which makes this an investment into your long-term future, of course.


Know Thyself

So here's the thing. I am not exactly sure what light mods I am gonna be using most often, because I am only now starting to think more frequently in terms of big lights.

And if you do not know which light mods you will need, Profoto is a very expensive place to find out. With these prices, you need to have a conservative, go-slow approach to building a system. And even then, you are gonna have to have a plan.

My strategy if choosing Profoto would be to start with two basic light sources, small (zoom, remember) reflectors, and a Magnum. (Oh, and some gum, to not look too obvious when buying the magnum.)

Maybe grab two 7" grid reflectors, which presumably will take standard 7" grids. So the Magnum is your only real flyer here.


But What Pack and Heads?

Here, you have some choices. If you want to slide in bare bones and discover Profoto one light mod at a time, one relatively pain-free way is to grab some of the few remaining Compact-series moonlights. They can be had very reasonably -- especially in kit form. They are plug-in only, but some people have successfully powered them with Vagabond II's from Paul Buff.

But most important, you are in the door for not a lot. (The first hit of meth is always free or cheap…)

Your mods will continue to be useful as you get deeper into the system. And you have made a commitment to a system that is very much into non-obsolescence, which means that those dollars could be amortized over many, many years. Which means that your system could be a good value -- or downright cheap if you do not require a large number of mods or light sources.

(I know -- rationalizing…)


The Compacts are being replaced by the D1 system, which are smaller, more feature-ladened monos and are priced very attractively. They have great controls, and you can configure them with built-in remote systems for remote manual control, etc.

On a recent overseas trip, I met with a Profoto rep and asked him about battery power for the D1's. He basically winked and said that this is not something they have ruled out. Which means that there either is most definitely a battery coming out soon, or that he was blowing smoke up my skirt. Who knows.

But they are reasonably priced, and get you into the exquisite mod system with low damages. There is only one thing that bugs me about them: They have a recessed tube, with a small, "built-in" reflector.

I am sure they have their reasons, but this just seems counterintuitive to all of the advantages of the zoom light mods. I just don't get it. If you are already using D1's and can give us your thoughts, please educate us in the comments.


Acute Anxiety



But the choices don't stop there.

Besides the going-extinct Compacts and the new D1's, the other entry point into the system is the Acute system, which features a sweet, 600WS battery unit and AC packs whose prices won't give you a heart attack unless you actually stick your finger in a flash socket.

And they frequently run specials (there is one on now, until the end of 2009) wherein you can get a pretty good deal all told (free mods this time, free head other years.) So definitely cruise the specials if you are in the market.

If you want to go batts and AC, skip the smaller AcuteB head, and get the Acute/D4 head, which ships with the better reflector and can be used either battery or AC Acute packs. Then you can go for a 600B pack first and add an AC Acute pack later.

If you plan to use them heavily and for a long time, I would submit that there is excellent value in the Profoto system. If you choose to move up to the If-You-Have-To-Ask price levels of the 7B or other pro series gear, you can eBay your Acute stuff and all of your mods transfer. You could also use the two flash systems alongside each other, but they will not plug and play together.

The stuff holds its value very well, so think of it as rental fees over time and it starts to look palatable. See, I can rationalize with the best of 'em.


Head for the Light, Carol Anne…

I'll confess to having a major Jones for the Profoto stuff. The light quality, the mods, the longevity, the rugged build quality -- I'm getting' a little woozy just thinking about it.

The rental availability is not a huge draw for me, as I am almost always working local enough to drive whatever gear I need when shooting with big lights. But it matters to many others.

Going with Profoto for me would mean exercising some serious gear restraint at first. Not my strong suit, but it might be good for me for a change. Maybe two 600B value kits, and load up on free light mods with the special. I'd be in for about $6k.


[NOTE: The deal seems to vary a bit by region as to what purchases are required and how much free loot you get. Check with your home country dealers for best info.]


And I could always grab a few Profoto soft box adapters (which, um, cost as much as my soft boxes did) and transition in with some of my existing soft boxes. JoeyL did that, essentially sticking his 7B head into Paul Buff soft boxes. I am pretty sure someone in Sweden had an aneurysm over that one, but Joey liked the results.

Eventually, I might migrate to the "stimulus money" -priced neighborhood of the "pro" stuff. I must say it'd be a tad off-putting to drop $6k on the Acute and not get a "pro" label. My pro Flickr account cost me $25.00. Just sayin'.

Or I might be happy forever with Acute. Who can know for sure?

Either way, going Profoto for me would be a trip down the rabbit hole -- drugs priced separately, of course.

If you use Profoto and have sage words of advice for other readers, sound off in the comments. And if you have Q's, maybe you'll get some answers there, too.

Next week, we head back over to the cheaper side of the tracks.


__________

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54 Comments:

Blogger bobusn said...

...Oh, and some gum, to not look too obvious when buying the magnum.

ROTF.

LOAO.

Your. Killing. Me.

And the Missus.

Seriously.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...

November 24, 2009 12:30 AM  
Blogger Chris Rioux | Photographer said...

I have two ProFoto Compact 600R's and LOVE them. Color Accuracy, Recycle Time, BAD ASS Appeal. Oh yah, it's worth EVERY PENNY. I agree with you: I don't think I'm liking the design of the D1's built-in reflector. Namely when you think of how light bounces. I LOVE my ProFoto White Beauty Dish, and I can't imagine how the D1 could possibly give me the same look, since it would be shooting light straight at the rear side of the white disk, instead of everywhere. Same with a softbox and why SB-800's just don't look as good in them: the light is supposed to bounce everywhere, all over the insides of the box before it goes through the front baffle. The D1 would just shoot it straight through. I can't imagine that looking very soft. All of the images in my fashion gallery were taken with ProFoto lights: ChrisRiouxPhotography dot c o m

November 24, 2009 12:38 AM  
Blogger Shun-Luoi said...

This past summer I used a variety of Profoto equipment (mostly pack/head systems) and was amazed. Hard to consider other systems when I was using such great equipment. The downside? The equipment wasn't mine, which means now if I want to use Profoto I'm going to have to dig into my own wallet.

I figured I would wade into the pool by checking out the D1 Airs. But, like you David, I have some serious concerns about the built-in reflector that only gives you a 77 degree light spread. Seems like that would create some significant problems if I tried to use them with larger softboxes. I would be interested to hear from anyone with experience using the D1s, especially with larger softboxes.

November 24, 2009 12:44 AM  
Blogger Alex DiFiori said...

I've been shooting with profoto heads, mainly the compact monolights (300/600), for a few years and have nothing but good things to say about them. After maybe 4 or 5 years of heavy use, they start to wear a little, but you want have to worry about the green flames of death for at least 10 years.

I actually had great success shooting with the Vagabond II at this shoot (one 300w monolight at its lowest power setting): http://alexdifiori.blogspot.com/2009/11/if-only-portrait-class-week-7.html
(just the outdoor shots)
That was of course, until I forgot the sandbags and my light fell over.

Speaking of which, it'll probably cost about as much as a new monolite to repair.

My advice is if you want to be in the photography game for a long time and have patience, buy into profoto. Be aware though that when profoto comes out with new heads/packs, they often aren't compatible with older heads/packs (mainly packs, but also radio frequencies for the built in radio slaves if I'm not mistaken).

Most other pro-light systems offer comparable if not exactly the same quality of light, but only profoto lights last for 10 years before needing a checkup.

November 24, 2009 12:56 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

I recently invested in a four-light setup; two 300 + 600 monobloc kits w/stands and umbrellas, plus got a huge 4'x6' Westcott softbox (and of course the $200 adapter, ugh). All told about $3k, which is a pretty cheap entry into profoto. Sure these aren't battery packs and sure the flash duration is only 1/850th but they are absolutely fantastic.

November 24, 2009 1:12 AM  
Blogger djricepik said...

Very informative post Mr. Hobby. I have been using Profoto gear since the beginning of my photographic career. I partnered up with Profoto to show how the various light shapers work and turned it into a series of blog posts. Here is one on the flexibility of the standard reflector compared to the Softlight Reflector. Part two of the series was used to compare two very different modifiers - the Magnum Reflector and the Giant Parabolic Reflector 180. Thought these might help a bit explain about the versatility of the Profoto System.

Hope this helps add something to the discussion-

DC Chavez
http://www.dcchavez.com/theblog

November 24, 2009 1:54 AM  
Blogger Jan Klier said...

Provided the excellent rental availability you can actually try out most light mods before buying into them. Renting the small optical spot for $20 for example is a great deal.

The build quality actually not only applies to packs and heads, but also to how it fits together. If you've ever been frustrated by the speedring of the AlienBees and a large softbox, or had to extract a bent speedring out of an Elinchrom head by disaseembling it, you really appreciate the Profoto system.

And if you care for built-in radio triggers, most packs come in a version that has a built-in PocketWizard keeping things simple.

I've bought into it a while ago with the Accute series both AC and battery. I invested into one AccuteB head for the modelling lamp, but on the other battery pack I just use a D4 head. Then over time I added a variety of light mods. Never regretted my decision.

November 24, 2009 1:58 AM  
Blogger seenbox photography said...

They were expensive, but SOOOO worth it. I have the profoto compact set.

November 24, 2009 2:14 AM  
Blogger firkin13 said...

I had the same concerns about the D1 heads and their ability to spread the light around like a 'standard' profoto head. However after purchasing the glass domes that go on the front of the D1's I have to say that they work perfectly in both my 6x4 softbox and beauty dish.
Its only the price that lets profoto down.

November 24, 2009 3:31 AM  
Blogger Lari Heikkilä said...

Concerning the 77-degree built-in reflector of the D1's:

My local dealer, when inquired about it, sort of nodded into them not really working as they should with reflectors, unless you get one of these to go with your unit:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/605771-REG/Profoto_101561_Glass_Dome_for_D1.html

Apparently it won't be an issue with umbrellas and most softboxes, though. Still, I think it's a design flaw. I wouldn't want to shell out ~100e more for the glass dome.

November 24, 2009 3:52 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Something to keep in mind is that you can adapt Profoto heads for use on other systems, so you're not completely tied to buying their packs. Flash Clinic in NY is one place that can do the conversion. Want to use your Acute head on a Porty? Sure!

November 24, 2009 5:10 AM  
Blogger james said...

I bought a used b2 with two heads and a 600b battery pack with PW for location use. If I was to buy again I would go for two or three 600b's. Much easier to carry and working with ratios would be much easier to. Modeling light is much better on the 600b than 7b or b2 but I hardly use it if not connected to a wall socket.

All the hard material Profoto light modifiers like the standard, magnum and softlight reflectors are fantastic.

If you need softboxes I would rather buy into Chimera, the best build quality I've seen in a softbox. They also have Profoto speedrings.

If on a budget and you'll be needing a lot of stripboxes or softboxes I would order from overseas (I live in Sweden). I bought a cheap speedring (think it's a Rimelite) on ebay and have been using Chimera, Photoflex and various no brand softboxes with great success.

Regarding alternative reflectors it's not that easy, the only thing I've been able to find is a beauty dish, a globe and a fresnel casing.

Third party brands to look for: Walimex, Rimelite, Aurora (internet rumors say Profoto softboxes are made by Aurora...rumors, rumors.)

If I had unlimited fundings I would look into Briese or Broncolor but as of today I'm sticking with my second hand Profoto gear. Quality, ease of use and reliability is top top top.

Sorry for my long post, just trying to help other people out.

November 24, 2009 5:27 AM  
Blogger Callum Winton said...

Is there a reason you're not looking at Elinchrom or Bowens instead? Still expensive, but they're fantastic gear and nowhere near the cost as Prophoto or Broncolor.

Bowens seem to have more of a range of modifiers, but are less reliable than the Elinchrom which are workhorses.

Prophoto and Broncolor tend to be used by big budget shooters (advertising/commercial) or those looking for silly fast(short) flash durations.

You planning on leaving the paper ... ;o)

CallumW

November 24, 2009 6:26 AM  
Blogger SW said...

So - I currently have 4 x Bowens heads and love them. What I'm not sure I understand with the lower-end Profoto systems is the number of power packs you need? The Acute B 600R only has 1 socket for 1 head. Would I therefore need 4 x packs to run 4 heads? Surely not?

November 24, 2009 7:22 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Here is a hands on review (with a video at the end as well) that may be worth checking out with regards to the D1.

http://prairiefireproductions.com/2009/10/busmans-holiday-shooting-with-hanson-fong-and-my-new-profoto-d1-airs/

It looks like the D1 has optional (yup extra money) dome glass to be put over the flash element to help spread the flash when accessories are added, plus Stephen had no problems getting a Profoto beauty dish on one of the D1 units for his work.

It's nice to see someone actually using these in a video and talking about them outside of the Profoto supplied information. The D1 system is SO tempting for me since their other solutions are still a bit out of my price range. However I really hope there will be a lot of feedback from owners (or prior owners) here to help with the decision.

November 24, 2009 8:21 AM  
Blogger Christophe Glaudel - Photographer from Paris said...

Hi David, If you saw the different movies online from the shooting cessions of Annie Leibovitz [including the queens one] you will notice that the octaboxes used with Profoto generators and strobe heads seems to be from Elinchrom ! So what about your argument for huge amount of light modifiers from Profoto ? And Annie seems to be not the only one to do this. Is that because Octoboxes from Profoto are craps ? I would like to know.
Chris

November 24, 2009 9:16 AM  
Blogger iintrigue photography said...

Question for you David:

Any links/references on how JoeyL moded his Softbox? I can't help but be interested in how he modified the AB foldable softbox/octobox to fit a profoto =)

Cheers

November 24, 2009 9:46 AM  
Blogger gwppk said...

"Then pretty soon you and your Chase Visa card are best buds.
"


typo: Then pretty soon you and Chase Jarvis' Visa card are best buds.

November 24, 2009 11:15 AM  
Blogger Ranger 9 said...

"Next week, we head back over to the cheaper side of the tracks"

You're going to have a helluva long walk back from Profotoville before you get cheap enough to be on MY side of the tracks [quoth the man with the trunkload of dented-up Novatrons.] Hope you keep this in mind as you plan the rest of the series.

November 24, 2009 1:33 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

wow 1200$ for a 500 Watt D1 ??The price/benefit Ratio is too skewed for me. I'll stick to my Travelites (Bowens) units.

November 24, 2009 2:17 PM  
Blogger NeinLivez said...

I have two Profoto ComPact 600R monolights. They're VERY sturdy and produce gorgeous light. This is great, except that, as David has mentioned, you need a source of portable power if you plan to work with monolights in remote locations.

I've heard time and again that the Honda EU2000iA generator is the way to go, because it won't ruin the circuitry within the lights and will run a long time. Obviously, using a gas-powered generator is only an option if you're working outside. I don't have firsthand experience with this generator, so maybe someone else could fill us in on how it functions. By the way, I've heard that using any old generator won't do. It has something to do with a pure sine wave inverter or something like that. I've heard that using a generator without a pure sine wave inverter will fry the circuitry in your lights.

November 24, 2009 2:20 PM  
OpenID yo-sarrian said...

I'm glad you're talking about the Profoto gear. I'm nowhere NEAR in the market for that kind of gear anytime soon, but it's good to have the info now while I'm just starting to build. I've heard so much about the line from gushing pros who get all weak-at-the-knees about it, and it's good to hear the info from someone who's at least rational about them, even though we all get gooey about the possibilities :)

And you had me laughing through this whole post. Great job! Keep it up, Dave!

November 24, 2009 2:24 PM  
Blogger cardboardface said...

Hi Dave, we met at your workshop in Geneva not (too) long ago.

I started out with an Elinchrom system (it's popular here is Switzerland, for obvious reasons) and got pretty deep in my wallet with the Ranger system, some monolights and a lot of modifiers. When I needed a studio generator, the best deal I could find was the Profoto Acute2r 2400, I found a great deal on the pack and two heads (and since added a third head). The thing that pushed me over the edge was the fact that you can use Elinchrom modifiers with Profoto heads, you can find adapters to fit the Elinchrom tools to Profoto at BHPhoto. I highly recommend this as you save a fortune. You can also get speedrings for Photoflex softboxes, but I like the Elinchroms better and they also have a good range of modifiers.

Of course, there are some Profoto modifiers I would like to have, but nothing beats my Elinchrom Octobox 190cm (or my two Rectalite 175cm) at full 2400 Profoto power. These Elinchrom beauty lights are far superior to any other softbox I have tried, as they point the head to the back of the box for extra soft loveliness.

Kind regards from Switzerland,

Bryon Paul McCartney
www.image-engineers.com

November 24, 2009 2:27 PM  
Blogger Fashion Welder said...

I was obsessed with Profotos when I was first looking at lights. I truly lusted after them. I saved every penny for a long time and purchased an Acute2R 2400 pack during the deal that got me three heads and a case for around $3200. I loved them.

Then I started shooting more out and about. The light was fantastic. Then (around 7,500 flickr member time) I stumbled across strobist. I purchased more SB's and really learned how great the mobility pocket flashes could offer. With the Profotos it was always the packs and multiple heads and reflectors and speedrings...

I wanted the big light, but hated the weight and set-up of the Acutes. So, 8 months ago I sold my Acute setup on E-bay and took the almost $3k I got for it (they do hold their value) and dumped it into Alienbees. Do you know how much light you can buy from Paul for $3000? I even got 2 Vagabonds. Now I'm much more agile and able to shoot and cover more subjects.

Are they as silky beautiful as the Profotos? No. They aren't as beautiful. Do I miss a shot that I would have gotten with the Profotos. I don't think so, because I'd probably be setting them up still.

November 24, 2009 3:04 PM  
Blogger Chris Bishow Photography said...

I made the jump from canon speedlights to Profoto about a year ago. I own an Acute B 600 pack and head, and still use my speedlights in conjunction with the Profoto when I dont have the budget to rent more Profoto gear.
The Profoto has changed the way I shoot. The beauty dish and Magnum are magical and worth every penny, plus you get to say "Magnum" all the time...

November 24, 2009 3:20 PM  
Blogger Merwen said...

Why profoto ? why not Alien Bees or White lightning ? Cheaper (so you can buy more stuff), great, and durable...

November 24, 2009 4:24 PM  
Blogger avenaim said...

I don't think I could live without them :) Truthfully they are light shaping masters and for me, it's what sets them apart.

You have many levels of investment, from compacts to acutes to the pro line. Either way, you get the glory of all those light modifiers for your arsenal!

Jerry Avenaim
Celebrity Fashion Photographer
Blog http://blog.avenaim.com

November 24, 2009 5:09 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

A word of warning for those looking to use the Profoto AcuteB 600R for sports/fast moving subjects. Flash durations for this strobe are measured in t.5 and are not fast enough at mid - high level power settings to freeze movement.
I recently sold my AcuteB 600R because the flash durations were too slow at the higher power outputs. So for example if shooting in the sun and wanting to underexpose the ambient and use the AcuteB to freeze movement there would still be motion blur.
My only other complaint was that you cannot turn all beeps off on this strobe. You can turn the misfire beep off but not the flash confirmation beep (which totally doesn't make sense to me - why have a switch that can turn one beep off but not the other. Just make it a 3 way switch, problem solved). This meant for me I couldn't use the AcuteB indoors for weddings or during speeches at conferences/events etc as the beep was too loud. Otherwise however the AcuteB 600R was a beautiful strobe - well made and beautiful light. I now use a Lumedyne Fast Action Pack. Quality of construction and quality of light is nowhere near the AcuteB but it has more power and much faster flash durations. Hope this info is of use to somebody - could've saved me a lot of money.

November 24, 2009 5:24 PM  
Blogger Sterling said...

i dont see the point of splashing that much cash when there are far cheaper alternatives that get the job done. ive used alienbees for quite awhile, they are very reliable, and they sure didnt cost anywhere near as much as profotos

November 24, 2009 6:16 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

"Why profoto ? why not Alien Bees or White lightning ? Cheaper (so you can buy more stuff), great, and durable..."

Seeing things like this multiple times, I guess people read individual articles without following along with all the articles to know this is part of a series.

Also, the world isn't all about cheap. While that may be a necessary top priority for some, others are looking for gear that meet a larger set of requirements. In the end, there are other reasons why people make decisions on what they buy. This is a great place to understand why people make other choices and learn from it, instead of just getting disappointed because your gear of choice wasn't picked.

November 24, 2009 7:36 PM  
Blogger Eduardo said...

There´s little to be said against the Profoto gear my only qualm about build quality is the material they use for their modifiers and the quality of it... they bend REALLY easily and a whole lot too!! and by a whole lot I mean I spent a large part as an assistant fixing all the bent reflectors, be it magnum, grid, umbrella, etc. they all bent :( I had nightmares of bent reflectors being brought by a truck so I could fix them LOL.

The 7b is the pinnacle of all the profoto gear IMHO that thing is rugged as hell (much more than the D4). with profoto gear.

There are still Profoto Compact 600 R (with PW inside) in the market and Innovatronix has a special edition Explorer XT that´s compatible with those, keep that in mind.

The D1 as you said are the village idiots of Profoto town, they have lots of nice features but they don´t take any advantage of the zoom features of the reflectors, sure they have come up with a diffuser but that´s extra money and loss of WS to get the zoom feature working again also the D1´s don´t like inverters at all (know of a couple of them fried because the circuitry doesn´t like the brownouts of inverters). The D4 is a nice piece of gear however there are other options (although from other brands) that are much better in the term of price-performance ratio.

The biggest con of profoto vs your income is (dunno how much you earn as a photographer though): Every lighing gear needs back up, even profoto, a blown/broken flash tube, damage to the connecting cables, etc. Profoto is rugged but it has the same weak points as other brands too (flash tubes and cables). If you don´t have the deep pocket clients that allow you to grow deeper in the profoto system allowing you to have backups ready then it is a no-no.


Tip: there are adapters so you can use the giant octabank from Elinchrom with profoto ;) but you have to buy again all your umbrellas because profoto gear only accept umbrellas with a 7mm shaft.

November 24, 2009 8:30 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

For those who continue to wonder why, why, why, and only see the $ signs, (to me at least), it's simple. Flash. Duration. Yeah, if you're shooting a portrait of a subject sitting on a chair indoors, you're not going to see a huge difference between an AB1600 (or 800, or probably 400) and a 7B pack.

Now try and shoot anything that moves.

I found this out the hard way last winter when I attempted to shoot a snowboarding event with 2 Alien Bee 800s. Everything was great...then there was just enough blur in my subjects that the photos were unusable. I realize (now) that that's a bit of taking a gun to a knife fight, but that's "why."

November 24, 2009 9:00 PM  
Blogger Sabrina Huang said...

You may all already know this but just in case. MAC group has a new modifiers line called Creative Light that are much less expensive than Profoto's modifiers but the quality are still very good, according to MAC group's reps.

MAC group work with many photography schools so students learn studio lighting with Profoto system. Therefore, when I save enough to buy lighting, profoto will be the first name on my mind just because I know the system (they also offer great student price) plus all our instructors who are pros recommended the brand too.

November 24, 2009 11:58 PM  
OpenID pFJLbCIftcItc7kEKKcq2FJ_BiE92d3Q said...

I still lust for Profoto but when I start looking for it I find the acutes lacking speed (flash duration), especially at the higher power part.

For this I initially got the Ranger Speed pack and lately 2 Quadra's. The 2 Quadras with 4 batteries and 4 heads fit in the same back as the single Ranger!

For studio use I still use RX but this is where I might consider the Pro8 Air if I ever get over the price tag.

Shame there isn't an adapter to at least use some of the Profoto modifiers on Elinchrom but than again I still have a long way to go before the possibilities of my current modifiers are my limiting factor ;)

November 25, 2009 4:22 AM  
Blogger mickeyjuice said...

Merwen said...

Why profoto ? why not Alien Bees or White lightning ? Cheaper (so you can buy more stuff), great, and durable...
---
Because "more" is better than "better", huh? Not as good? Get more of it, that's fix it!

November 25, 2009 4:26 AM  
Blogger Michael Quack - Visual Pursuit said...

If flash burn times are of major concern, Hensel offers the new Speed Max system, with flash durations down to 1/60.000 sec and up to 31 flashes per second. There is no other compact head even near that.

When a friend of mine told our flash repair guy that he intended to buy Profoto, he received a tap on the shoulder "You are my friend, you make me rich".

November 25, 2009 4:49 AM  
Blogger Kim Guanzon said...

I've synced to 1/8000th of a second with my profoto lights outdoors with the pocket wizard miniTT1 and the built in receivers of these lights... i really hate the idea of profoto going into the air technology. they should've stuck with pocket wizard.

here's a sample at 1/4000th:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jowchie/3601835241/

here's another one at 1/1250th:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jowchie/3628944113/

here's another at 1/8000th indoors:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jowchie/3676115325/

November 25, 2009 11:42 AM  
Blogger md said...

I have been working with the 7B kit with two heads at my work for over 4 years. I have also worked with the Elinchrom Ranger system. I love how easy it is to attach mods to the Profoto system. That is a huge mark against Elinchrom. I had trouble attaching even small soft boxes to the Elinchrom, while I can attach huge mods to the Profoto with no problem.

One issue with Profoto that I have not seen mentioned is the cost of supplies. Bulbs, cables and batteries are very expensive. There is nothing cheap with Profoto. We have broken a flash tube, had a cable extension cable fail and the typical flash bulb fail. It is pretty crazy that you can buy a Alien Bee for what Profoto bulb goes for.

November 25, 2009 11:54 AM  
Blogger Matti Vaittinen said...

I dont know much about high speed photography with flashes but as I read Patrick's comment about freezing movement with AcuteB600 it made me wonder.I found from the Profoto page that the flash duration in full power is 1/1000.Shouldn't that be enough for atleast moving people :) I have been taking photos of models and they arent usually that fast when moving around ;)

November 25, 2009 3:31 PM  
Blogger George said...

I got my first Profoto's in 1978 (when the company was still very young) for my commercial studio.

Since then I've tried Balcar, Brons, Bowens, you name it. To this day, I still just love those original Profoto's more than anything else.

Pricey? You bet, but build quality is there and the light is simply amazing

November 25, 2009 3:31 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

On the D1's not liking inverters, this is the first I've heard of it. These were pure sine wave inverters that damaged the D1?

I have a D1 1000ws studio kit on order and a Dynalite 1100ws inverter that I assumed can power at least one light. Anyone see any issues?

November 25, 2009 7:14 PM  
Blogger kirk tuck said...

I've used two Profoto 1200 acute systems for over ten years without misfire or failure. As to the mods, it's like buying a house. They all seem expensive when you are signing the mortgage papers but ten years later it all looks cheaper than dirt. Lights do become "obsolete" like digital camera bodies so it make sense using really good ones. We also have seven Profoto Monolights and two 600b systems and never have regretted spending a cent on the gear.

I've been thru Norman, Alien Bees and Dynalite and I keep coming back because there's nothing like it.

I recommend you get a couple of the standard, pebble finished reflectors. I think you'll get more use out of them than the shiny grid reflectors. The Magnum is my most used.

Finally, if you get 600b's as part of your system be sure to get an extra battery and battery holder for each unit. You'll be surprised how quickly you go through 150 flashes when you're shooting.......

November 25, 2009 8:51 PM  
Blogger John said...

For photographers who use softboxes, the Profoto speedring mount is much less fiddly than some competing brands. The clamp ensures softboxes (or heavier light modifiers such as beauty dishes or Molas) stay securely on the strobe head.

This also meant speedrings for Profoto heads used to cost twice as much speedrins for other brands.

November 26, 2009 1:33 AM  
Blogger norsk said...

I just bought 4 D1s, love the Air control and build quality, talk about the luxury monolight.

As far as the AcuteB beeps-you can certainly turn off the beep.

You do get a warning beep from the generator if it is not ready to shoot, but as long as you check the ready light, the beep is not an issue at all .
I actually prefer to have that warning and get a good exposure.

I would not trade my AcuteB for anything, since I have had it for 5 years without a single problem.
It certainly got dropped alot.

November 26, 2009 6:46 AM  
Blogger bearcat said...

While I really appreciate this series, I have to note that based on what you've written so far, I would not have the foggiest idea on how to choose between Elinchrom and Profoto. This subject really requires far more in-depth coverage. I would suggest something like multiple photographers going out in the field with multiple systems and a model or three, and pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each system and their subjective valuation, as well as showing us the shots.

I would also suggest adding Hensel to the list of manufacturers to check out, so Profoto, Hensel, Elinchrom, and White Lightning.

I think you could get manufacturer support for this, although I also think that there are loads of professional photographers who would volunteer the use of their systems if they could have a fun day in-field and get to experiment with other systems.

As it stands, the current series is nice as an introduction, but it raises a lot more questions than it answers. You or somebody else needs to do something much more extensive.

November 26, 2009 8:14 PM  
Blogger Forrest MacCormack said...

I think ProFotos are wonderful, but also too wonderfully expensive for me, and a bit too large and heavy. I never like that about Profoto gear.. it tends to be HUGE. I'm a big fan of Dynalite - which before ProFoto came on the rental scene a few years back was pretty much the de facto rental strobe system in the US (Dynalite and those amazingly huge Speedotron 2400 watt/second "anvil" packs).

The Dynalites are made in the US - cost much less typically than the ProFoto gear, has a really good build quality. They have lots of light modifiers, an DC power source, a ringlight, and some other things ProFoto doesn't make.

I've had to have one of my packs repaired only once in the nine years of using Dynalite. I sent it to NJ to the repair center/factory and had it back in about a week. I even talked on the phone with the repair tech that fixed it.

The big advantage of the Dynalite system is weight and size over the Profoto. Even the travel stuff Profoto makes is big in comparison to the Dynalite stuff.
It is true about the rental situation with Profoto - Profoto equipment is pretty much everywhere at the more respectable rental shops.

November 26, 2009 11:24 PM  
Blogger David said...

Bearcat-

I can't tell you what lights to choose. No one can.

But what I *can* do is to walk through my thought process and hope that it will light off a more informed conversation for you, both internally and with other photographers.


-D

November 27, 2009 12:43 AM  
Blogger bearcat said...

Nobody makes my decisions for me. Not now, not ever. I just wanted more in-depth coverage to better inform my choices.

Thanks for your response.

November 27, 2009 8:37 AM  
Blogger aka skippy said...

love the poltergeist reference, one of the greatest horror movies of all time!

November 27, 2009 11:39 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

One word has worked for me in the last 16½ years: VISATEC.

I have a set of 3 VISATEC monolights (from the extensive Broncolor system; even more extensive than Profoto) that traveled around the world in all conditions with me; & are still going strong......& accurate.

Everyone was concerned with monolight color accuracy with the advent of digital; but all Broncolor products were always color corrected.

Sixteen & a half years.

That's a small cost of ownership......plus I got a great deal from a local distributor (Mediterranean area) that was •cheaper• than the Elinchroms, Bowens, Interfit, Hensel, & Barca of the time (!)

Make your choice well (whetever the band)......& buy ONCE.

Remeber you are buying into a whole sytem; not just with all its accessories & light modifiers; but also with its quirks & reliability issues, too.

Eg: I replaced my FIRST modelling light tube from that original 3-head set last year.......over 15 years after!!
(I'm a professional photographer that shoots 40-60% in the studio, do the math ;)


Thanks for this thought provoking thread, David.

regards,
JF

November 28, 2009 3:43 AM  
Blogger Vibrant Photography said...

What not 2x AcuteB600r's, then get the D4 twin head and you have 1200ws power in 2 splittable packs.

November 28, 2009 10:29 AM  
Blogger Chuck said...

My experience with the 600bs was that the amount of battery power left me short. I rented 600bs and extra batteries for a series of family portraits (about 25 families over three hours with a total of three photographers).

Trying to squeeze an F8 at 1/250 killed me. 150 full- power flashes per charge? Not in the case of the three units and extra batteries I rented. By the end of the shoot I was using my quantum set-up.

the reason I rented 600bs over 7Bs? Cost. Lesson learned but it's a lesson I'd rather learn with rental equipment. Spending the kind of money you are talking about without trying the equipment, in real-world situations, sounds risky.

November 28, 2009 3:20 PM  
Blogger Jhon said...

Thanks for sharing so many useful information about a quality light Profoto, I want to get some information about 1000w Twin Head Tripod Worklight. Thanks

September 07, 2010 1:08 AM  
Blogger MARTIN TURNER said...

Someone asked about choosing between Profoto and other brands. I used to shoot with Elinchroms and then with Bowens. I loved the light quality of both of these and never had any problems once they were set up. However, the exposed flash tubes and the relatively difficult fitting of modifiers always terrified me. With Profoto the flash tubes are permanently covered by domes, and the clamp style fitting makes it very, very easy to put on even huge modifiers and leave them securely.
There are a lot of other nice things about Profoto which you spot as you work with them, but it's the ease and safety of attaching modifiers which does it for me.

December 12, 2012 5:24 AM  

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