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News & Insight

Profoto A1 | The World’s ‘Smallest Studio Flash’ Is Power On The Move

By Kishore Sawh on September 19th 2017

When we think of quality lighting in photography, perhaps no brand is as ubiquitous as Profoto. They were the actual pioneers of battery-powered TTL monolights some 4 years ago and since then have consistently sought to introduce new ways to not only assist the working professional photographer, but to provide new solutions to old and new problems. Case in point would be the introduction of the B2s, which reshaped how we thought about powerful lighting in a small package, and now they have redefined OCF with the new Profoto A1.

The A1 is being touted as an AirTTL studio strobe, or ‘the smallest studio strobe’ in the world. That’s a bold claim, but perhaps to match bold thought and bold performance. Looking more akin to a beefed up speedlite, the A1 looks to offer versatility and power through a heap of the top-shelf performance features associated with Profoto, in an adaptable and small form.

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

  • Built-In AirTTL, Use On or Off Camera
  • Recycling: 0.05 to 1.2 Sec
  • Li-Ion Battery: 350 Full Power Flashes
  • High Speed Sync, LED Modeling Light
  • 9 Stop Power Range, 76 Ws Output
  • Weighs 1.2 lb Including Battery
  • Optional Wireless TTL with Air Remote
  • Includes Bounce Card, dome diffuser
  • Wide Lens, Flash Stand, USB Cable
  • A1 Bag with Shoulder Strap

Immediately the first thing you’ll notice about the A1 that is a striking difference from speedlites is the shape of its head, which is round versus the standard quadrilateral. That shape is not so much a design for aesthetics as it is a form derived form function. The round shape provides a different look altogether, with soft and gradual fall-off, and generally a more natural looking light, lending well to use with and without modifiers when looking to mimic natural light.

Beyond the outward appearance, however, is where we get a better idea of why this is being referred to by users as a ‘studio flash’. With a 9 stop range of power with 76 Ws output (with +/- 3 stops exposure comp that can be remotely controlled), it’s significantly more powerful than top-shelf units from Nikon or Canon, and it has recycling time of 0.05 seconds to 1.2 seconds at full power, besting pretty much all standard speedlites. That power is drawn from a built-in lithium battery that the company states should be able to get 350 full-power flashes per charge.

Making use of that power, the A1 has flash durations anywhere from 1/8000 to 1/20000, and supports HSS for shutter speeds of 1/8000. If you’ve kept up with our creative tutorials you will no doubt have seen how much of a benefit this can be.

The A1 is even more unusual in how it can integrate into a studio setting, as it has a built-in AirTTL receiver which means it can be fully controlled by Profoto’s Air Remotes up to 1,000 feet away, and allows manual adjustment to light groups.

A particularly nice feature is the modeling light, which is not even something you’ll get on many ‘proper’ strobe units, much less something in this form factor. The studio light output can be controlled and adjusted at that, ad between the round head, studio light, and with the right modifier, the A1 may actually be something that can be used as a main light for small studio settings.

The price? Near-as-makes-no-difference $1,000. Coming in at $995, the A1 is prices more along the lines of a studio strobe than a speedlite as well, but for the reasons mentioned above it may have reason to. It also ships with a dome diffuser for omnidirectional soft light, wide-lens adapter (for use when you’re using a lens between 12-24mm), bounce card, shoulder strap, stand, cables, battery and charger. A Gel Kit with 3 CTO and 1 flourescent filter is available separately. Speaking of which, the A1 uses a magnetic modifier mount system akin to MagMod, which makes for fast and easy adjustment.

[REWIND: ZACH SUTTON RAPID INTERVIEW | PIGEONS, PORTRAITS, & THE BEST CANON GLASS]

We should be getting some in studio for testing soon, so keep an eye out.

Get the Profoto A1 here, and check out the videos below of the A1 in action, and some sample photos from Profoto’s gallery.

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Adam Palmer

    I think a side by side test with a standard shoe mount flash would reveal that the light is almost indistinguishable.  The round fresnel is nice.  I wonder if the flash tube underneath is round or just a horizontal tube like they all use. 

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  2. Cary McCaughey

    This is up for a heated debate.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a lover of tech, innovation and dreamy design.  The flash unit’s appearance looks awesome and a game changer for other flash brands but for $1,000 this is very overpriced.  Studio Strobe?  This is questionable.  If a speedlite with 60-80w/s isn’t considered a studio strobe why is this?  It is just like any other flash other than the fancy magnets(magmod has done this already) and a lithium battery(Godox has done this already).  Don’t forget the $400 price point for the transmitter.  Don’t get me wrong Profoto is a proven company that will last but having used the Cheetah/Godox/Flashpoint for 3 years and almost zero quirks I’d seriously rather have an assortment of AD200, AD600 and V860x speedlite renditions and have a fully-fitted studio.  Not to mention if a guest at a wedding has a “whoops” moment you won’t have to break your wallet.  Cudos for the tech but it has been done and for 1/5 the price.  It’s time to realize this is not “revolutionary” but rather keeping up with the market.

    People consider the notion of Profoto being the “Ferrari” of camera equipment.  Well I must have a turbo charged Miata because these godox flashes do all that and then some without breaking the bank. 

    PS.  $100 for a battery?  $100 for gels?  $150 for a diffuser?  Cmon.  By the time a wedding photographer fits out with their k they’re going to spend $3,000+ for flash units just to have a name imprinted on the side of the thing.  I’ll stay with Godox and Magmods and have the whole setup with spending under $1,000.

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    • Rodney Turner

      In my opinion, I feel it comes down to workflow.  Light is light.  I purchased my B1 last year and 5 Godox speed lights with 2 transmitters shortly after.  I was looking for a way to combine them and there may a work around, but I found it to be a small challenge.  When shooting weddings it would be a nice transition and less equipment to carry working with one system.  I would invest in at least one A1 because it comes with everything I need.

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    • David Kalonick

      Well said.  #godox4life! :)

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    • Hagos Rush

      well said. Not sure I would go down this investment route considering that I can get similar light for a lot less

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  3. Jonathan Brady

    Did that say “built-in lithium battery”? So… once it’s dead, you’d better have a spare $1k flash or you’re finished with flash for the day?

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      From B&H:

      “The A1 is powered by an included Li-Ion battery that has a capacity of 350 full power flashes and thousands of partial power shots. Power is topped up on an exhausted battery in about 80 minutes with the included 100 – 240 VAC charger. The battery doesn’t fade as its power is used, operating at peak performance until it’s exhausted. Purchase of an additional battery is recommended.”

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    • Rodney Turner

      A spare battery is $99.

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  4. Jonas yuan

    Well, companies like Cononmark( with K4T) and Nice and Godex are much earlier than Profoto in ttl studio light game.

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  5. Ryan Bartels

    Very cool. However, 76 ws for me doesn’t qualify as a “studio” light. But it’s a nice, expensive speedlight alt.

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    • Felix Wu

      It surly qualities itself as “the world’s most expensive speed light” ; P

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