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.

D800 Follow-up

After a month with the D800, I can only say. There is no such thing as too much resolution.

The camera performs great in low light situations, gives me sharp and big images, which are a joy to edit. Still good enough for the run of the mill action, unless you really can’t handle a camera, and need to take 40 shots of 1 action.

I love it!

D800: First gig and Impressions

After long consideration I bit the bullet, I ordered the D800. While it wasn’t advertised as a concert camera, I felt confident it could be perfect for my needs, and as of now, I’m still convinced of that. 

The Good: 

First of all, when I got it, it feels more ergonomic, and while the shutter speed is only 4 fps, the speed between the pressing of the button and the moment the shutter hits is amazingly fast. Even so fast that I need to adjust my timing. The 100% viewfinder makes me fall in love with my 14-24 all over again, and the 36 megapixel really bring out the details in the people. I could see myself in the reflection of the eyes of a girl I shot at a few meters away. Wow! 

The ISO feels around the same, which is an amazing feat.

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The way I will deliver for the paper will not change at all. Chances are that I will just give them a 15ish megapixel image. Still more than enough for printing. Magazines, they might get the bigger versions, I have more than enough.

The Bad: 

The higher file size however, will change the way I store images. Everything that is not good enough will be deleted, and only the best images that are published or used, or important, will be saved and copied to my archive drives. While that isn’t that bad at all, since it means I have to step up my game again. 

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The Ugly

Counting the pores in the skin. Eewwwww. ;) 

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For real now, having a much more detailed way of seeing what you captured really shows when you missed something. Something that looked sharp on 12MP looks blurred on 36MP. So, another reason to make even better images. A camera for parties this aint. If I will get another assignment for a party, I will set it to small JPG. Also, a 8 gig card holds roughly 150 pictures, so while shooting this might be an obstacle while trying to work your way to the look you are searching for.

Another sad thing, my amazingly fast MacBook Air now feels like a year old computer trying to handle the 50 MB Pictures.

Conclusion: 

It’s a BEAST! Sharp, fast, but big. If you can’t handle riding an elephant, and have no place to store it, stay away from it. If you think you can handle this, you will love it!

Setting sail with the new Nikon Flagships

Today, well, yesterday I had the chance to be at Photo Days, a photography fair, aimed at professionals and companies. The reason I really went was simple: Nikon. They had their new flagship models there to fondle, shoot and marvel at. The new D4, D800 and D800E.

While I won’t go in full detail, and won’t post every little thing they changed, I will more go in the way of how the cameras feel, rather than the performance.

I asked for permission to use my own CF card in the camera, and was granted for the Nikon D4, yet not for the megapixel beast, the D800. The pictures on this blog are all shot with the D4. The cameras are still demo samples, and the EXIF file did ask not to publish, however, many other media and blogs posted .NEF files and more. So I’ll just provide these samples. If there are Nikon reps here that will not agree, contact me. :)

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(See this on Flickr)

As a photographer, I notice little things, and I use a lot of the same technology day in and out. I wake up with my iPhone, go to bed with my iPad. And shoot my Nikon in-between. The grip of my D700 feels amazing, especially compared to my older D90, yet the moment I held the new cameras, they felt very light and ergonomic.

However, when I did the comparison test of the D700 and D800, both with grip and 14-24mm lens, I couldn’t say which one was which. Still, on its own it feels a lot lighter and more fun to carry around all day.

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Both cameras have an impressive spec bump, and feel very well built.

My problem is: Which one to choose.

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(See this on Flickr)

I’m a news and music photographer, with lots of art and and portraits in between. I could use the megapixels in the art, but they would be overkill at a party. And it will take a new skill set to learn how to handle pure sharpness with movement. But not something I can’t overcome

Yet the D4 is a work beast. Light sensitive, and FAST! I could use some extra light sometimes, especially at a concert. And shooting a burst at a fast-moving artist at high ISO could bring something extra to some shots.

But priced at double the price. 6k is something that I just can’t afford yet. Not that 3k is easy, but still doable over time.

So, I think it will be the D800 in the end. With a D5 in a few years.

I think.

Readers, feel free to comment!

Use Photo Booth and an iPhone to view negatives.

An English post for once. I just got back from the lab, getting y freshly developed Nikon F4 Negatives in Black and White. Or at least inverted.

But I have no scanner here. Now what? Sure, I can wait, but I still want to see how they look.

Well, que Photo Booth. With the standard X-Ray filter, you get a grayscale view of the world, but just a little bit inverted.

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So all we need is a backlight that serves as a backdrop for the negatives. In this case I used my trusty iPhone with one of the gazzilion free Light apps, and voila, an instant negative / positive viewer.

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There also are extra effects (More iChat Effects) that show a colored negative, but these are not really that effect. See for yourself:

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Still, for those quick grayscale views, it’s perfect!

Of Course, if you could set the iSight to manual exposure, it would be easier, but we can’t have all, can we? :)