Early Black Friday Starts NOW!

Your content will be up shortly. Please allow up to 5 seconds
Gear Reviews

Profoto B1 500 AirTTL Review: The Beauty of This Beast

By Pye Jirsa on June 17th 2015

Bigger, Better, B1

When the B1 arrived in our studio, the team immediately gave it the nickname, “The Bazooka,” and for good reason. It’s big, shaped like a cannon, and packs a punch. I’ve used the B1 on over 30 shoots, and now it’s become a staple in my lighting kit. If you don’t have the patience to watch the video or read the article below, then I’ll tell you right now that the B1 is worth the investment.

Profoto B1 500 AirTTL Review Video

Click to Subscribe!

Price

Profoto B1 500 AirTTL Battery-Powered Flash: $2095
Profoto Lithium-ion Battery for B1 500 AirTTL: $261
Profoto RFi Speedring for Profoto Flash Heads: $128
Profoto OCF Octa Softbox (2′): $149
Benro A38FD Series 3 Aluminum Monopod with 3-Leg Locking Base: $76

Profoto B1 Performance

04-performance-4.5-stars

The Profoto B1 has everything you would expect from an investment quality strobe. If power is what you desire, then the B1 will not leave you in want. The B1 performs with a quick 1/1 recycle time at 500 Watt-seconds, which is about ten times more powerful than a pocket strobe, at just under 2 seconds. The Profoto B1 also has excellent flash to flash consistency, which means if you’re shutter-happy, with the B1 you won’t have to worry about Kelvin discrepancies in your images. The only reason we don’t give it a solid 5/5 stars is because in high-speed sync modes, we are losing a bit of power, but that’s to be expected from any flash in similar modes.

Profoto B1 Features

08-features-4-stars

The Profoto B1 system just makes my life easier. The system has TTL, high-speed sync, rear curtain sync, user-friendly speed ring system, a self-contained battery, a fleet of light modifiers, and many more. I literally only have one request when it comes to features, and that’s to be able to directly power the flash from the wall for studio shoots. You have to use the Profoto B1 battery because there’s no AC input, but that’s not a deal breaker because the batteries charge quickly.

profoto-b1-500-airttl-review-3

Profoto B1 Design

14-design-5-stars

I’ve used many flash systems before and I always rate the design based on the ease of use (if I can get things working without the use of the manual). With the Profoto B1 system, I was literally able to unbox it and get everything set up without reading a word. Whether you’re using the remote system or setting up a modifier, everything is intuitive, straightforward, and easy to use, which is why we gave it 5/5 stars.

profoto-b1-500-airttl-review-2

Profoto B1 Quality

19-quality-5-stars

Quality doesn’t get any better than the Profoto B1. It’s sturdy, durable, and exactly what you would want from an investment quality strobe. I’ve taken this system to the desert, beach, and fields and the Profoto B1 has performed flawlessly. The overall build quality in the strobe, remote, speed ring, and modifiers all get 5/5 stars.

[REWIND: Lumopro LP180 Flash Review]

profoto-b1-500-airttl-review-4

Profoto B1 Value

23-value-4-stars

When you’re investing into the Profoto B1 system, you’ll be getting exactly what you expected, and then some. Simply put, it has made my life easier, and now I have a powerful location strobe that’s reliable and durable.

Profoto B1 Overall

33-overall-score-4.5-stars
This is a must have product for any photographer who’s looking for a high quality, portable, studio strobe. The Profoto B1 is a capable system that can make your shooting workflow easier, as well as open up new shooting techniques that weren’t previously possible with pocket strobes.

I hope you enjoyed this review. Is there another product you would like us to review? Let us know in the comments!

Images Shot With The Profoto B1

profoto-b1-500-airttl-review-7

profoto-b1-500-airttl-review-8

profoto-b1-500-airttl-review-9

profoto-b1-500-airttl-review-10

profoto-b1-500-airttl-review-11

profoto-b1-500-airttl-review-12

About

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. Karen Vaisman

    Can anyone compare the benefits of the B1 over the D1 if I mostly do studio shooting? The lack of a plug really bothers me. What would you choose and why? I do some location shooting but more studio. I have 3 B2s and love them but want more power for larger modifiers. Thanks for your help. It is a big investment.

    | |
  2. Deirdre Ryan

    I’d like to add, to change out the flash tubes, you need to send the units to Profoto, whereas with Dynalite, you can do this yourself, and it’s less $$$$.

    | |
  3. Stephen Glass

    I was assisting a wedding photographer and he handed me a B1 and the Nikon remote and said quick go shoot… whatever it was. At first I was taken back because I’d never used the light. But it made perfect sense. It really is an incredible light. I wish I could afford one. If I could afford one or 4 I would. I’m making do with other pieces of gear but that I think it’s safe to say the Profoto B1 is the best out there for a portable monolight. It should be though.

    | |
  4. Trevor Dayley

    If they would cut the price of these in half they would be an instrumental part to every photographer’s kit and you would see them everywhere. But as the price stands now they are a luxury item reserved for a small group. I would love two of my own, but spending $5k on a kit is hard to justify compared to other lights in the market.

    | |
    • Justin Haugen

      It’s so difficult to weigh the pros and cons of such a big purchase. At some point there are diminishing returns on where the purchase will take my work and earning potential. I’d probably be better served using my current tools to their potential (my potential) before I ever consider an upgrade like this.

      It’s too bad it’s such an investment, even to get just one as you’ll need the remote system too, and it doesn’t integrate well with current speedlight setups from what I’ve read. With the Einsteins and the cyber commander remotes, I was at least able to implement triggers for the speedlights too, so it felt like the tools were integrating with my workflow, as opposed to changing my workflow to work with the lighting system.

      | |
    • Jim Johnson

      But cutting the price in half would hurt their “exclusive” branding. Of course, they’re no Broncolor with their $8000 umbrella. LOL.

      Although I’m always dubious of expensive equipment, these really do seem like an investment to me because they can be re-sold. I’m curious how the market goes from here, but so far, Profoto equipment has retained it’s value for resell. The up-front cost is really high, but you might actually get some of that back.

      | |
    • Stan Rogers

      Profoto also has a very expensive large parabolic, Jim – the Giant. And while they may seem expensive for what they are, that’s only true if they can find a way to mass-market them. How many people do you know who need an 11-foot focusing reflector?

      | |
    • Benn Raistrick

      I would just like to add my thoughts here too, I have recently made the upgrade to profoto, I purchased the b1 travel kit which includes x2 b1 heads the fast charge and a ruck sack for the heads, it did not include the air remote.

      so a purchase of $5500 initially but then what about all my reflectors, softboxes well they would need replacing too, as there is real adaptor for my current ones.

      The OCF octo box is great its not super expensive, compared with the two Rfi softboxes I had to get which did not include the grids for them.

      so $500 on 2 Rfi Softboxes now I really need to have grids but this is where I have had to stop because just for the grids they’re around $200 each.

      The quality I get from Profoto is phenomenal I love them they’re fast and easy to use and yes worth the money, however you really need to consider the other expenses involved in switching over to Profoto, I mean $500 just for the beauty dish alone.

      There is a port to add a sync chord under the B1 head so you can still use your existing remotes just not the TTL functionality.

      | |
    • Gabriel Michel

      In my opinion, talent is not the only means of differenciation in professionnal photography. The price of profotos is the price SOME photographers can afford.
      If everybody would be able to buy the profotos, there would be no differenciation anymore on the gear.
      It’s maybe a sad story, but I think it’s still important to have this kind of differentiations.
      For some who do not have so much talent, it could be very important (no joke, I’m serious).

      | |
  5. Cyril Charpin

    Stuning product ! I love it !!
    So easy tu use, so powerfull on location, and not too heavy to wilk with in bag.

    | |
  6. jozef povazan

    Makes completely sense for a large studio such Pye’s so they can justify the hefty pricing. The quality is there, portability as well but I just cannot see a reason why my Einsteins with bat pack attached to the stand, MC2, Mini TT1, and Flex TT5 would not do the same job.. It actually does amazing job for the 1/4 of the price :) Rest in peace PCB :) thanks for your innovations !

    | |
    • Moise Oiknine

      Price is a huge factor for small studios. I have done some preliminary testing on the alien bee B1600 with the TT5 and Ac9…buff inc says they have better hypersync results with the alien bee over the einstein and you also have the power control using TT5 as a reciever since the flash duration is longer at less power

      | |
    • Jim Johnson

      I’m all for using what you can afford, but high end lighting equipment may actually cost less in the long run. I had a buddy that closed his studio last year and sold off his equipment. He sold his 10 yr old studio lights for more than half what he originally paid for them. They were also well used and never had to be repaired (other than a fuse or lamp replacement). That won’t happen with Alien Bees or Einsteins, as great as they are.

      Each person’s situation is different, but getting set up with a high end system that suits your needs is actually an investment if you can afford the loan to front the cost.

      | |
  7. robin saini

    Hey Pie,

    Can you suggest a good mono-pod for B1 as I tried a few but not worthy…I need something that powerful enough to hold B1 along with a softbox…

    which one are you using in the video ?
    Rds
    http://www.RobinSaini.com

    | |
  8. Jesper Ek

    Nice review!

    | |
  9. Felipe Buccianti

    As soon as I go over 320 shutter speed on my Nikon, the Profoto B1 switches over to HSS. Unfortunately, in HSS mode, the B1’s lowest power is 8/10. So far this has been my biggest disappointment because if I’m shooting wide open at f/1.8 the light coming from the B1 might be too bright with no way to turn it down past 8/10. I know there are workarounds but this is not exactly a cheap setup, especially when my understanding is that the much cheaper Phottix Indra 500 allows all power levels in HSS mode. What do you think of this limitation compared to other heads? Thanks so much!

    | |
    • Gabriel Michel

      The Indra 500 lacks reviews, but as I’ve read, at full power the flash duration is “only” 1/500s. So the Indra would be cool in HSS but not cool with this flash duration.

      It’s a real pain not having PCB stuff in Europe…

      | |
  10. Tom Johnson

    Great well thought out review as usual, thank you.

    | |
  11. Cameron Reynolds

    I would love to see this light compared to the Dynalite Baja B4. The B4 seems like a reasonable lower cost alternative.

    | |
  12. J. Cassario

    Great review Pye! While it is expensive, if using strobes is your thing, this is the cream of the crop. I don’t use them enough to justify a price like that, but you get what you pay for and it’s definitely a good investment if you can afford it.

    | |
  13. Kenneth Stjernegaard

    I cannot recommend the B1 enough. I travel quite a bit – usually only with a small backpack that isn’t exactly designed for my camera gear. The B1 was at the bottom of my pack on my entire trip backpacking Sri Lanka and it performed without a flaw. It took some hits and it has been moist days at a time.

    | |
  14. Benn Raistrick

    I have had the b1 travel pack for a while now and I can concur with Pye with the travel pack you can fast charge the heads, also you can charge them from a car, I only user them for posed pictures and reception due to the practicality. The downside is the weight, for an assistant its a lot to hold on a monopod, so in the future I may look at the b2’s

    | |
  15. Austin Swenson

    Hooooo wee does it cost a few pennies!

    | |
  16. Gabriel Michel

    1/1000s flash duration at full power ? Not enough for me. A deal breaker…
    It’s a shame because I like this battery system.
    Maybe should you make a disclaimer on this strobe for motion/sport photography ?

    | |
    • Stan Rogers

      That pretty much leaves you in Broncolor territory. (And you’ll need leaf shutters or a global — not rolling — electronic focal plane shutter to use shutter speeds above X-sync.) Note that the flash duration comes down as the power comes down, as it does with a speedlight. At half power and normal sync, this thing is still five speedlights. And you get actual high-speed sync, not tail sync (“hypersync”), if you want to use higher shutter speeds.

      | |
    • Anders Madsen

      Stan, the flash duration has no influence on the shutter speed – as long as you are shooting in a reasonably dark room, the flash duration will freeze the action, not the shutter speed.

      And, given your previous comments on this site, I’m pretty sure you actually know that and just mis-read the comment from Gabriel. :)

      | |
    • Gabriel Michel

      As far as I know, Einsteins are 1/2000s at full power, and action strobes of Elinchrom ELB 400 at 1/2800s (1/4000s with two strobes mounted on the pack).

      I would love B1s with this 1/2800s at full power…

      An interesting post to read about this :
      http://blog.michaelclarkphoto.com/?p=3886

      | |
  17. Brian McCue

    I really appreciate reviews that are real-world tested, very good info!

    | |
  18. Justin Haugen

    This thing haunts me in my sleep >_< It teases me even though I just got Einsteins

    | |
    • Moise Oiknine

      the einsteins are awesome, especially with the MC2 from pocketwizard. I use them almost every wedding I do. They also work well with the Flex TT5 and zone controller. The downside to them is the hypersync only works at 1/1 power.

      | |
  19. Rafael Steffen

    It is an amazing system, but you need to have high end clients to afford the investment which is over 2k.

    | |
  20. Moise Oiknine

    I have tried this out on a recent shoot…but for us wedding guys, there is no way to use their remote with a speedlight on my camera…bummer. The other thing that bugged me was that there is no option for AC when you have it available. On location it works superb. Otherwise for a portrait or studio photographer it is an amazing system.

    | |
  21. Thomas Horton

    I am afraid to ask how much?

    | |