Profoto B2: First impressions

Exactly a year ago, I held the freshly released Nikon D5 in my hands for the first time. It was a whole step up from semi-professional gear like a D800 or a Df to something that had no compromises. It enabled me to stop troubleshooting limitations, and just go and get the shot. (Not that I ever truly stopped problem solving).

2′ Gridded Octa camera right, Blue Gell illuminating the bridge.

Just a few months back, while looking into getting a more robust and powerful flash system, I walked into a Profoto booth at Photo Days, checking what they had to offer. I knew of the powerful B1, but it was seeing the B2 in action that I was convinced that this was the system that not only matched my way of working, it had plenty of power in a very well-built housing. Using it for the first time for a few days now, it has that exact same feeling of when I first started to use the Nikon D5. The images in this post all were shot in the last three days.

Since I already have an established way of shooting with off-camera flash, I plundered the shops for the following items to get me started.

  • Profoto B2 Location Kit (2 Heads)
  • Profoto Air Remote TTL-N
  • Profoto OCF Speedring (2x)
  • Profoto OCF Softbox 2′ Octa & Softgrid
  • Profoto OCF Softbox 1’x3′ & Softgrid
  • Profoto OCF Color Gel Starter kit
  • Profoto B2 3m Extension cable

Coming in a very handy bag, I have a full professional photo studio with me, without exceeding the size of my current Pelican 1510 speedlight-kit, housing 6 SB-700, 3 tripods and a whole lot of accessories.

As soon as you get it out of the bag, it’s obvious how everything connects. After figuring out which button does what (I mean, I am not about to read a manual, am I?), I managed to get it all working without a hitch.

2′ Gridded Octa camera right, Blue Gell illuminating the bridge.

The only confusing moment is that you don’t get direct feedback back from your lights to the remote. For example, if the power of the head on the pack reads 5.0, and you’ll add a stop on the remote, it will just show up +1.0, but on the pack it will update to 6.0. Just like if you enable a model light on the pack, you’ll have to repeat the action on the remote before you can switch it off from the remote. But  as soon as you’re comfortable with that logic, the AirTTL remote is a work of magic with a range of 300 meter! In fact, I wish there was a $99 Profoto slave unit talking to my Nikon speedlights, so I could use them to fill out a scene in the background and detail lights.

On to the pack and the heads.

What Profoto calls the B2 Off-Camera Flash is the module housing all the controls for two heads. So, the battery? Well, no: to add extra confusion is that the pack also houses a removable battery. But, you can charge that one while shooting, which is great. You can connect two B2 heads to a single pack, which with an extension cable can offer great possibilities.

The light that comes from the B2’s is just plain amazing. Even without a head you get very nice results, but the OCF series of light modifiers is just amazing. I mean, I love my 180cm Walimex umbrella, but the small light coming from that small 2′ Octa is just gorgeous. Put a light on a monopod, or even just a tripod and have an assistant hold it, and you can work quicker than before thanks to full TTL capabilities on a studio flash. Switch over to manual mode, and the flash freezes your settings, so everything stays exactly the same. Magic again!

Talking about freezing, the flash has the option for more power, or freezing items in the sky. (So it has a shorter flash duration). Just as it has High-Speed Sync. 🙌🏻

Woodworked Sam Ponette. Flash freezing all wood chips and sawdust.

The Profoto B2 Location Kit comes with the epic B2 Location bag. Do you remember those free crappy backpacks your first DSLR came in? Yeah, forget it. The B2 Location Bag houses two heads, the pack, two batteries, chargers, and then you have so many pouches and straps that my entire kit I bought fits in there. Even the extension cable, color gels and whatnot. It’s one of the finest designed bags I ever encountered, feeling more like a bag an SAS soldier would carry on a mission than a free bag that came with a flash. Miles away from that plastic pouch coming with Nikon Speedlights. Also a great shoutout to the designers that added elastic straps on the side of the OCF Softbox pouches, which perfectly fits the pouch that holds their Softgrid. That Softgrid also attaches with velcro by folding it over the edges. It’s all very high quality.

All by all, I can already tell that it won’t end with these two heads. But for now, lets see which adventures lay ahead for this amazing gear!

Thomas. Gridded Octa on a pole. TTL.

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