Profoto have released their first speedlight, in the very nicely designed Profoto A1, with all important Profoto AirTTL radio transceiver built inside.
The A1 are available on release for Canon and Nikon, with a Sony version to follow in early 2018.
Some of the A1’s major features include –
- 76Ws Power, TTL, HSS
- Exchangeable Li-Ion Battery Providing 350 Full Power Flashes
- 1.2 Sec Full Power Recycle Time
- AirTTL Radio Master Control for 6 Groups (3 TTL, 3 Manual)
- AirTTL Radio Slave Modes For Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, & Fuji
- Large Hi-Res LCD, with Fast Simple User Interface & Master Control
- TTL / Manual Switch (Fast Hybrid TTL)
- Round Flash Head, Providing Smooth Natural Fall Off
- Auto Zoom 32-105mm, Also with Manual Zoom Ring
- LED Modeling Light, Also Zooms with Flash Head
- Fast Magnetic Modifier Mount, With Stackable Gels & Light Shaping Tools
- Bounce Card, Wide Lens, & Dome Diffuser Included
- Laser AF Assist Light
- USB Port For Firmware Updates
The A1 now provides the all important missing piece of the puzzle, which allows wedding and event photographers an on-camera master flash, which also controls the full range of larger off-camera Profoto flashes, including the B1X, B2, and D2, TTL and HSS enabled strobes.
Profoto may be keen to expand the appeal of the A1 by marketing it as a small studio light, though the primary reason this flash exists is due to the need for an integrated on-camera master flash for their larger strobe system, and a wedding photography market otherwise still starved of professional integrated solutions with larger off camera strobes.
And the A1 certainly appears to be a very well designed flash for this purpose, breaking the traditional mold, and likely setting some new standards for radio speedlites to come.
One thing curiously missing from any mention whatsoever though, is the A1’s heat protection limitations (which often forms the real limitation to recycle times and frame rates etc). When this has been the major refinement in the latest Canon 600EX-RT II. And the Nikon SB-5000 Speedlight now even providing fan cooling. If the A1 can keep up in this fundamental area, Profoto are strangely not promoting that.
A major innovation in the new A1 flash is the round head design, which provides a nice circular flash pattern, with a smooth natural fall off. And this will mainly be an advantage for off-camera use, where the light does not always fill the complete image frame.
As well as an Auto zooming head (from 32 – 105mm), the A1 also provides a manual zoom focusing ring around the flash head. So the flash pattern can be very gradually adjusted to the exact spread of light you’re after.
And if that wasn’t nice enough, the A1 also includes an LED modelling light. Which also zooms with the flash head, to provide a real time indication of what the flash pattern will look like before even taking a shot.
The circular flash head also provides some advantage for on-camera use as well, due to the very convenient integrated magnetic modifier mount. Allowing various A1 Light Shaping Tools to be quickly attached to the flash head, and even stacked on top of each other in combination.
The A1 comes with a Bounce Card attachment, and unlike the flip-out catch light card used in regular speedlites, the round head of the A1 allows the card to be easily rotated to the opposite side of the flash head when the camera and flash are in portrait orientation.
A Wide Lens (providing 14mm coverage), and Dome Diffuser are also included with the flash. While a color correction Gel Kit and larger Soft Bounce modifier are available as optional accessories.
While the supplied bounce card probably could be made from something more flexible and resilient (like the larger Soft Bounce modifier), the A1’s integrated fast mount magnetic system is likely to be something of a dream come true for many wedding photographers.
PROFOTO A1 FEATURES
- LED Modelling Light
- Modelling Light Control – Off, Proportional, Manual (Low/High)
- Profoto A1 Magnetic Accessory Mount
- Built-in (Removable) 7.6V / 1.6Ah (11.8Wh) Lithium-ion Battery
- Up to 350 Full Power Flashes Per Battery Charge
- 0.05 – 1.2 Seconds Recycle Time
- Flash Modes – TTL / Manual
- HSS to 1/8000th (Full Power Range)
- Second Curtain Sync / X-Sync
- FEC (0.1 Stop Increments, +/- 3 Stops)
- FEL (Flash Exposure Lock)
- Hybrid TTL / MANUAL Switch (Meter Quickly in TTL, Then Adjust in Manual Mode)
- Manual Flash – 1/256 – 1/1 Output (0.1 Stop Increments)
- 32 – 105mm Auto Flash Zoom, And Manual Zoom Ring
- Profoto AirTTL, & Air, 2.4GHz Radio System
- Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, & Fuji, AirTTL Radio Slave Modes
- Range – 300m Triggering, 100m TTL / Remote Control
- 6 Groups – A / B / C (TTL or Manual), D / E / F (Manual Only)
- 8 Channels
- Flash Duration (t0.5) – 1/800s – 1/20,000s
- Color Stability – +/- 150K
- Energy Stability – 0.2 F-stop
- AF Assist Light
- Tilt Swivel Head
- Large Hi-Res LCD Display
- Function Menus
- Auto Memory Function
- Power Saving Function
- Quick Locking Foot
- Micro USB Port for Firmware Upgrades
- Size – 108 x 75 x 65 mm
- Weight – 560g (1.2 lbs) including battery
Another major feature of the A1 is the simple and intuitive user interface, with large high resolution LCD screen, and large easy to access buttons and dial.
This is an area wedding photographers are always looking for a better solution than the often slow and complex menu driven interfaces of the Canon and Nikon etc speedlights.
The A1 will be available for hire in many photography rental outlets, so users need to be able to see how the flash operates without studying a lengthy instruction manual first.
The 10.0 to 2.0 power scale is likely going to take some getting used to for photographers mainly just used to using speedlites though, so its a pity there is no option of switching to a 1/1 to 1/256 display.
(And the option 1/3rd stop increments would also help to speed up adjustments, over the current 0.1 increments).
There does also appear to be some slight quirks and limitation in the A1’s Master interface.
Only groups A, B, & C, can be set to either TTL or Manual modes, while groups C, D, & E can only be set to Manual mode.
This does at least allow the flash on-camera to be used in TTL mode, while some off camera strobes are used in manual (to lift the background light levels in a room for example).
Interestingly, even in TTL mode, the A1 displays the equivalent manual power level the flash has just output with the last TTL shot. That’s the large manual power level displayed in the middle of the screen (even in TTL mode).
In TTL Master mode, the FEC settings for each group are displayed along the base of the LCD screen, and the Global FEC setting (which can also be set from the camera) shown on the left of the screen.
In Manual Master mode things get a little unusual though.
Instead of setting each group to a distinct manual power level, the slave groups are set to an FEC like + or – level, in relation to the power setting each flash is originally set to.
So each flashes actual power level is only displayed on the flash unit itself. The master interface only shows a + or – setting for each group. This is likely due to the Hybrid TTL function mentioned below.
Holding down any of the group buttons will also select ALL groups, so that all of their levels can be adjusted globally together.
To change back and forth from TTL to Manual modes the A1 provides a simple and easy to access switch on the left side of the flash body.
And this switch is also an extension of the Hybrid TTL function already available in the Profoto AirTTL transmitter units.
The Hybrid TTL function allows you to take a shot in TTL mode, and then switch to manual mode, where the TTL setting from that last shot are converted to a manual power levels, for further refinement, and consistency in future shots.
This feature can be a big advantage for wedding photographers not having the time to continually set up and meter individual lights manually.
Menu functions are accessible from the Settings button (center of the dial), and are divided into 2 sections according to priority of access needed.
On the other side of the A1 flash body a single micro USB port is provided for firmware updates.
There are no other posts for external battery packs, or even basic sync ports provided.
The A1’s removable 7.6V, 1.6Ah, (11.8Wh) Lithium-ion battery provides up to 350 full power pops, without any fade in recycle time as the battery gets low.
Full recharge time is 80 minutes. And the battery is also UN-certified for worldwide plane travel.
The Lithium-ion battery allows fast recycle times of just 1.2 seconds at full power, which is a great advantage over regular AA rechargeable batteries.
For wedding and event photographers a major advantage of the Profoto A1 is no doubt the built-in Smart magnetic click-on modifier mount for Profoto A1 Light Shaping Tools.
Which can also be conveniently stacked together in combination as needed.
The A1 flash comes supplied with the Dome Diffuser and Bounce Card pictured above. As well as the Wide Lens (providing 14mm coverage) bellow.
While a color correction Gel Kit, and larger Soft Bounce modifier, are available as optional accessories (at a sizable price).
The optional $99 Gel Kit comes with a holder and 4 color correction Gels, Full / Half/ Quarter CTO, and 1/2 Green for Flourscent Lighting.
The Gels area made of a rigid durable material designed to last much longer than flimsy thin gel film.
And the larger optional $150 Soft Bounce modifier can be used when there are no convenient walls etc to bounce the light off.
PROFOTO A1 SPECS
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Profoto A1 flash for Canon and Nikon are available for pre-order now from $995 –
With a Sony version to follow in early 2018.
Profoto – Website
Profoto – A1 User Guide