A couple of thoughts on the current Profoto Battery units. Due to the cleaner digital capture and subsequently usage of higher sensitivities, we are using these more and more to compliment and augment available light situations instead of relighting entire room and setups.
Two years ago we finally added a couple of Acute 600B packs and heads to the kit. While i generally prefer the Pro line, these are great little units that travel well and pack incredibly small. We actually did a couple of shoots with just a Tenba 38″ rolling grip case, 2 stands and some Photek and Chimera light formers with great results, even outdoors.
I love the simplicity of just plugging the lights into the unit and setting the lights, no outlet search or power issues, all while only bringing one case, genius.
My only issue with them is the cryptic power adjustment and not being Pro head compatible.
Now in early 2014 we saw the introduction of Profoto’s B1 heads, basically a D1 mono head with a built in battery. I never actually worked with these mono blocks, so i wanted to give this a good look, and Fotocare set me up with a testing unit.
Basically it’s a great pro level product, but i found a couple of issues that i didn’t like at all. First of, due to the construction, even with the glass dome, the light distribution in my Photeks is different to the traditional Profoto heads. And for reverse mounts (umbrellas, Elinchrom Octa, etc.) the body is just very large and interrupts the diffusion pattern that aims toward the subject, not a good thing at all. Besides, all the controls are now under the diffusion. On the other hand, in Chimera boxes it’s actually impressively good.
Now my second biggest concern is recycle time and power, compared directly to the Acute 600 i needed much more power (about 1 stop) for the same results, aka meter readings. That means, slower recycle and more energy usage, both never a good thing, on batteries, a real concern.
So i actually decide against the B1 units and started looking into the Profoto B4 1000 Air pack.
This is on the opposite value scale of the Profoto line, but not by much. Considering that purchasing 2 B1′s, glass domes and 2 extra batteries is around $5000, the B4 pack is “only” $2900 more, the heads we already have…
We actually had the back to back opportunity to use the B4 on very different assignments, one was in an older, distinguished NYC apartment building with 15A wiring, not a good place to plug in a Pro8 pack, and the other a location shoot, partly in a garden and on the beach (yes, it’s summer in the Hamptons).
There B4 left us quit impressed, recycle time is quicker than our Pro7 packs, adjustments are spot on and don’t need a meter reread, battery lasts forever and it’s well built, the light quality, as i use my Pro heads, as expected, with an incredible short flash duration. And best of all, the unit can be plugged in and charge the battery while shooting, drawing less than 3A.
At 21lb, 9.8 kg it has a certain heft to it, but my 2 Acute 600B packs come in at 16lb, 7.2kg and 2 B1monos are 13.2lb, 6kg; not free either.
My only concern why the B4 cannot replace our plug in AC packs, is that the model light is drawing too much power (250W are done in 20min) and that it dimms while recharging (which is horrible in a dark room). The solution, as bron shows us, are LED lights, even an upgrade bulb with daylight balanced 250W equivalent would make this the ultimate game changer. Video and still light with he same head and quality, maybe for a limited, but much longer time on battery power, dimmable, with a color consistent model light. And NO auto dimming…
Anyways, welcome Profoto B4 to the studio (In it’s own Tenba 38″ roller), we just got an Air remote with it, as Profoto seems to be dropping support for built in Pocket Wizzards…