Profoto B1 500 – TTL and Lithium Off Camera Flash

Profoto have released the new B1 500 Air TTL, a 500Ws cordless Lithium battery powered strobe, with built in wireless TTL!

The B1 is a completely wireless flash with built-in Lithium-Ion battery pack, and 2.4GHz TTL (and Remote Manual) Radio receiver.

Profoto are one of the first to embrace a serious “Off Camera Flash” design, and the initial excitement around this release crashed just about everything except YouTube (and we couldn’t even access the B1 videos there).

The B1 will be controlled by the optional new Air Remote TTL radio transmitter. Currently only available for Canon DSLR’s, but with a Nikon version coming early 2014 (Update now available).

The new Air Remote TTL transmitter is designed to be very fast and simple, with 3 groups, in TTL or remote manual. Power or FEC adjustments are in precise 1/10th stops (full stop adjustments are possible as well). 9 full stops of power adjustment in manual from 2Ws to 500Ws. And + or – 2 stops of FEC adjustment in TTL.

 

UPDATE – HSS (High Speed Sync) is now supported with the Profoto B1 for both Canon and Nikon.

Second Curtain Sync is also supported.

 

Both the Air Remote TTL and B1 have USB ports for firmware updates, (which also goes some way to suggest further feature may be implemented in the future).

Radio range is up to 100m for TTL, and up to 300m for basic manual triggering.

 

The 14.8v 3000mAh Lithium-Ion battery allows 220 full power pops. The batteries are exchangeable, and there is regular charger, a fast 1 hour charger, and car charger available. There is no mains power available for the B1, but you can just as easily have one battery charging while another is being used.

 

Profoto B1 Battery

 

The B1 has very fast recycle times of just 1.9 seconds at full power, down to 0.1 seconds at minimum. With a burst of up to 20 frames per second possible at lower power levels.

Profoto B1

The B1 500 has a respectable 500Ws of power, and with the built in reflector that translates into a high light output for a 500Ws flash.

There is also a 70W equivalent modelling light which runs constantly, even while the flash goes off, so that it can be used as a video light as well (for up to 90 minutes straight on a battery). The modelling light has a remote on/off switch from the transmitter unit as well.

 

Profoto B1

 

With fast flash duration’s even at full power, no light is lost bouncing off the camera shutter at maximum X-sync speed. So unlike some other flashes you get the full 500Ws power to fight the sun with.

Regular flash durations for freezing motion are a respectable – (t0.5) 1/11,000s (2Ws) – 1/1,000s (500Ws).

And the B1 also has a Freeze mode, which sacrifices some variation in color temperature to allow faster durations again – (t0.5) 1/19,000s (2Ws) – 1/1,000s (500Ws)

 

Profoto B1 500

 

As Profoto point out this translates to much faster flash durations than speedlights at the same power level (or much more light available at the same speed). And bursts of up to 20 frames per second possible.

 

Profoto B1

 

B1 500 Air TTL General Specifications - Click to Expand

B1 500 Air TTL General Specifications

  • Max energy: 500Ws
  • Energy range: 9 f-stops (2-500Ws)
  • Energy control increments: 1/10 or full f-stops
  • Recycling time: 0.1-1.9 (Quick burst up to 20 flashes/second)
  • Max modeling light (W): 20W LED (Output eqvivalent to 70W Halogen)
  • Modeling light control: Off, Proportional, Free (5-100%)
  • Mode control: Freeze (shortest flash duration) or Normal (color balance) mode
  • Flash duration Normal mode (t0.5): 1/11,000s (2Ws) – 1/1,000s (500Ws)
  • Flash duration Freeze mode (t0.5): 1/19,000s (2Ws) – 1/1,000s (500Ws)
  • Energy stability Normal mode: +-1/20 f-stop flash to flash
  • Energy stability Freeze mode: +-1/20 f-stop flash to flash
  • Color stability Normal mode: +-150K over range; +-20K flash to flash
  • Color stability Freeze mode: +-800K over range; +-50K flash to flash
  • Energy control increments: 1/10 or full f-stops
  • Guide number @ 2m / 100 ISO with Magnum Reflector: 45 2/10
  • Input power supply: Exchangeble Lithium-Ion Battery 14.4V/3Ah
  • Battery capacity: Up to 220 full power flashes

Syncronization and Control

  • Sync socket(s): 1
  • Wire sync voltage: Compliant to ISO 10330 standard
  • Wire sync connector: 3.5mm Mini-Phono
  • Photocell/IR-slave and switch: Yes
  • Radio sync & control: Yes, Built in AirTTL supporting wireless sync, control and TTL. (Requires Air Remote TTL. Sold separately.)
  • Radio sync range: Up to 300m (1000ft)
  • MAC / PC control: Yes, via optional Profoto Air USB transceiver and Profoto Studio software.

Miscellaneous

  • Function display: Multifunction LCD display
  • Fan cooling: Yes, thermally controlled fan speed for low noice level.
  • Ready signaling: Yes, ready lamp, dim and/or switchable beep sound.
  • Auto dumping: Yes
  • USB interface: Yes, USB Mini port for FW upgrading
  • Quick burst: Quick burst capability of up to 20 flashes per second.

Measurements

  • Diameter: 14cm (5.5″)
  • Length: 31cm (12.2″)
  • Height: 21cm (8.3″)
  • Weight: 3kg (Including batteries) 6.6 LBS 3kg (Including batteries)

 


 

Air Remote TTL-C General Specifications - Click to Expand

Air Remote TTL-C General Specifications

  • Frequency Band: 2.4 GHz
  • No of frequency channels: 8
  • No of remote / TTL control groups per channel: 3 (A-C)
  • Operation modes: TTL & Manual
  • TTL compatibility: Canon E-TTL II
  • Wireless range: Normal sync up to 300 m (1000 ft), Remote control and TTL sync up to 100m (330ft).
  • Battery type: 2 x AAA (Alkaline)
  • Typical Battery lifetime. Transmit mode Fast/Normal: 30 hours
  • Antenna type: Integrated
  • Auto power off: Yes, 30 min of inactivity.

Mount & Connections

  • Camera mount/Sync in: Canon hot shoe only
  • FW upgrade: USB Mini

Supported Air Functionality

  • Sync / Trigger: Yes, triggers Air Remote &, Air Sync transceivers plus all Profoto flashes with AirS, Air or AirTTL support.
  • TTL control: Yes, TTL group control for all Profoto flashes with AirTTL support.
  • Remote control: Yes, remote/group control for all Profoto flashes with Air or AirTTL support.

Measurements

  • Dimensions: Width 6cm (2.3″), height 7.5cm (2.9″), depth 3.5cm (1.4″)
  • Weight: 75g (2.6oz) (Including batteries)

 

We really didn’t know what to expect when Profoto first announced their new “Off Camera Flash” was coming. And clearly this light is not going to be for everyone (with a $2000 price tag to start with).

But when people are asking what is so revolutionary about this flash, I would say its not just the TTL, but that this flash marks the start serious convenient cordless Off Camera Flash, there is definitely no going back now with portable flash design! And that’s what really exciting about the B1 release.

 

Profoto B1

 

With over 120 compatible light shaping modifiers already available, and countless existing Profoto owners, the B1 500 is almost guaranteed success.

 

 

Price and Availability –

The B1 500 Air TTL flash is now available for $1995 – B&H Photo – Adorama

Air Remote TTL-C Transmitter $395 – B&H Photo – Adorama

Air Remote TTL-N Transmitter $395 – B&H Photo – Adorama

 

Profoto Website – B1 500, B1 500, Air Remote TTL.

.

12 Comments
  1. the Flasher 4 years ago

    Wow! great product but out of my price range…..I think i’ll wait to see what Godox come up with….!

  2. Mark Romine 4 years ago

    Awesome! Pricey as ProPhoto always is. But 500WS w/200 full power dumps that is pretty good. TTL is nice but not the reason why I would buy this.

  3. Sergi Yavorski 4 years ago

    It’s all great, but for a selected few photographers with loads of cash they don’t know where to put..
    I also think the flash is too big. What puts me off the most is that to replace the flash tube or modeling light you need to send it in for service. How ridiculous is that? Another deal breaker is the obscene price you have to pay for the accessories..
    As I said, it’s for selected few.

  4. plevyadophy 4 years ago

    A few observations:

    I was lucky enough to see this light up close and personal at a seminar and trade show event on Thursday.

    Power
    =====

    One of my greatest annoyances with light manufacturers except Metz, Quantum, and Lencarta is the silly nonsense measurement that we are given, namely Watts. That measure is useless unless you are an energy conservationist, an electrician or perhaps an accountant. Why? Because Watts is simply a measure of energy use, it is NOT a meaningful measure of light output.

    For photography, we need to be told the Guide Number (even the Lumens output would be better than that silly Watts rubbish). I think we know why companies quote Watts; it’s because big numbers like 500 and 2000 sound more impressive.

    It’s interesting to note that with this new light Profoto have decided to give us the Guide Number up front for a change (but they still maintain the stupid habit of giving misleading data in another parameter, of which more below). I did raise this with one of the Profoto staff at the event, in fact I wasn’t the only one to raise this issue, and he seemed to be in agreement with me/us that Watts isn’t really useful as a measure of light output.

    Which leads me nicely on to the next point.

    OMG!!! Holy sh!t

    The light output from this thing is awesome, more awesome than perhaps one is used to from a light head rated at (that useless measure of) 500 watts (as no doubt is indicated from the Guide Number) and the evenness is very impressive. The modelling light too is nice and bright and even.

    A video was shown of a photographer using this kit and he lit up a wall that measured a 100 metres with just two of these lights. Very impressive indeed. I am not sure but perhaps Profoto have put this video up on their blog for all to see, it’s mightily impressive.

    Build Quality
    ==========

    It feels rather dense, certainly much heavier than the specs indicate. It is clearly built to a very high standard.

    Price
    ====

    As per usual with Profoto it is over priced, way over priced.

    You get nothing for the quoted price other than the head. Trigger is an additional cost. And even teh standard light shaper, as far as I am aware, is an additonal cost. They are not at present offering any kits (e.g. two heads and a trigger, or two heads, trigger, light shaper). The only thing you get other than the light is a case to carry the ligh in.

    Light Cell and TTL integration
    ======================

    Unfortunately, the light cell is primitive.

    It works in the old school fashion of seeing a pulse of light and then immediately triggering the strobe. Unlike the Elinchrom Quadra kit, there is no option for programming the light cell to ignore the first pulse (or pulses) of your on-camera Canon Speedlite and then to fire on the actual moment of exposure.

    This means that this Profoto can’t easily be integrated into an existing Speedlite setup like the Elinchrom can. With the Profoto system you will have to set your speedlights to manual and use their light emission to fire the Profoto lights, or remove your Speedlight and replace it with the Profoto trigger and have your Speedlights work in optical slave mode (via an adaptor).

    Maybe this will be addressed in a future firmware upgrade.

    Flash Duration
    ===========

    Whilst it is good to see that Profoto have given us the more useful Guide Number figure for light output they don’t quite seem able to rid themselves of silly old habits.

    They quote that Mickey Mouse t0.5 figure for flash duration, which is another scam that flash manufacturers like to fool us with. The only worthwhile flash duration figure for photographers is the t0.1 figure.

    So why do most manufacturers insist on quoting the t0.5 figure? Again, because it allows them to publish inflated numbers. Quoting 1/1,000s flash duration looks far better on the spec sheet than stating 1/333s (to convert roughly from the Mickey Mouse t0.5 to the more realistic t0.1 figure you simply divide the inflated t0.5 figure by 3, thus you end up with the 1/333s I have stated)

    Features
    =======

    There’s no Auto Manual mode (often called Auto Thyristor mode) on this light as there is with the Quantum system.

    As this Profoto light is firmware upgradeable, hopefully other fancy TTL features that we have become accustomed to (e.g. Nikon’s Balanced Fill Flash, and Canon’s Flash Exposure Lock) might be added.

    Having that battery unit form part of the flash’s body makes this larger Profoto light actually feel more like handling a Speedlight in that the light is self contained; there are no cables and adaptors and such like to fiddle with or remember, or not remember, to carry with you as would be the case with Elinchrom or Quantum kits

    Finally
    =====

    It’s great that one of the leading brands has decided to make a radio remote TTL flash system. The only downside is that they haven’t applied any price presssure on the likes of Quantum who’s gear is more excessively priced than Profoto’s. Without that price pressure, I just hope that the mere presence of another manufacturer on the scene leads to a battle between manufacturers in terms of features (I fear not though, because talking to the Profoto guys at the event on Thursday they had a certain arrogance that their kit was the best, ignoring the capabilities of Quantum; so if that attitude exists throughout the company then Profoto may not see the need to rush through any feature updates if they already think they are the king of the hill).

    Regards,
    plevyadophy

    • Author
      Flash Havoc 4 years ago

      Hi Plevyadophy,

      Wow thanks for taking the time to write the review!

      Regarding the WS, I know where you’re coming from, but Profoto and Elinchrom etc are really the ones that are at the disadvantage here. Because many cheaper manufactures can legitimately quote the same figure, but light output is lower because the flash duration is too long to get all the light out within the cameras X-sync speed.

      The high light output of the B1 (and D1) is also because of the built in reflector design, which really pushes all the light forward, instead of letting it spread out as much. Its a bit like using a speedlite in a softbox, aiming those straight at the front difusser is really very efficient (considering the very low WS).

      Regarding Quantum and competition, Godox are already well and truly shaking up that world, and they have only just gotten started. Copy cat is not going to cut it for long, everyone needs to innovate now keep on top (including the Chinese).
      .

      • plevyadophy 4 years ago

        Hi Flash Havoc,

        Light Output
        ==========

        It’s ironic what you say about the advantages and disadvantages of qouting that silly Watts figure. At the event on Thursday, I got the distinct impression that the Profoto team were oozing with pride (and rightly so in my view) at the wonderful light output that this light gives. It is no doubt the reason that they feel happy now, for the first time, to give us the more meaningful Guide Number figure up front …………. simply because it gives them bragging rights.

        And given how well the light performs, there was no need for them to carry on the misleading BS of quoting silly t0.5 flash duration figures because even at the “less impressive” t0.1 of 1/333s flash duration at full power one should still be impressed (to put that into context, I have a Metz speedlight that at Full Power has a t0.1 flash duration of a mere 1/200s (by the way, sensibly t0.1 is the only figure Metz quote; well that used to be the case the last I looked), so to think one has all that power from the Profoto pumping out all within a camera’s flash sync time is mightily impressive)

        TTL
        ===

        I was thinking about it a bit more, and I have come to the conclusion that, until such time as more standard TTL features are added, this TTL feature is nothing but a spec sheet/advertising gimmick; it’s really difficult to avail yourself of the feature in any meaningful way, it’s still really, for now, a manual portable studio flash.

        Like I said, introducing these Profoto lights into an existing Speedlites setup will be disruptive because, unlike the Elinchrom Quadra kit, these lights can’t sync with Speedlites (you must run the Profotos and Speedlites on Manual, or you must dispense with the Speedlites and work entirely with Profoto TTL). Nor can these Profoto lights work in a true TTL setup like the Quantum CoPilot system can (with Quantum CoPilot, you place the CoPilot trigger on your cam hotshoe (which additionally gives you an infrared autofocus assist lamp) and you are then able to fire in TTL Mode all of your Canon or Nikon flashes in addtion to the high powered Quantum lights which will also be working in TTL.

        To my mind the only true studio type TTL system on the market today is still the Quantum system. However, and in photography there is always a “but” or “however”, the Quantum kit is not as elegant as the Elinchrom or Profoto kit (it requires more adaptors and cables, and the adaptors are big and ugly) and the prices that Quantum charge, even for simple triggers/receivers is insanely high (a single receiver can cost more than a brand new Speedlite and that’s before you have purchased the necessary cable!!).

        So my take on it is that Quantum provides the ultimate in system flexibility and compatibilty; Elinchrom provides the kit that is the cutest and lightest with a very good cost benefit ratio; and Profoto, as one would expect I guess, gives you awesome light (as well as much fewer cables and bits and pieces to worry about, in fact zero cables).

        Competition
        =========

        You mention Godox. In boxing terms, Godox is what one would describe as “having potential” and “one to watch”

        I don’t think the Godox thing is ready for prime time yet; too fiddly (requiring two remotes, and a barely helpful manually operated AF assist lamp), no TTL (for those who want it), and use of a primitive radio frequency.

        So for now we are still stuck with the big boys, Quantum, Elinchrom, Profoto.

        But you are right when you say “Copy cat is not going to cut it for long, everyone needs to innovate now keep on top (including the Chinese).” With all the gear coming from Godox, Phottix, and others, competition is hotting up.

        Warmest Regards,
        Thanks for an awesome site

        plevyadophy

  5. Joe Bowers 4 years ago

    Nicefoto has offered portable lithium-battery powered strobes like this for a couple of years. No TTL, no remote power adjustment, but otherwise very similar. 2 second recycle, 500 pops at full power. LED modelling light which can be used for video, standard Bowen’s mount for light-shaping accessories. Oh, and the Nicefoto flashes are only around $350 for their top-end model.

    • Author
      Flash Havoc 4 years ago

      Thanks Joe,

      I actually put the N Flash in the Best of 2012 list. I think they have a way to do to reach the flash duration of the Profoto though, and also the radio system is still lacking. Priolite from Germany have also had high quality versions for a while now.

  6. António 3 years ago

    Hi!

    Just one question: is it possible to have ETTL and manual modes mixed, at the same time, in different channels? And also turn off a group while others still on?

  7. Ahmed 3 years ago

    Profoto put up a teaser on their blog with a big H. It also says coming soon (2014/12/15). Maybe HSS?

  8. Ahmed 3 years ago

    Yep, it HSS as confirmed by Profoto Twitter. I don’t have a B1, but its between that and the Phottix Indra500.

    Alien Bees on eBay in 3, 2, 1.

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