[REVIEW] Profoto B10

September 12, 2018 · 9 comments

Profoto B10 is a Profoto B2 reborn in a smaller Profoto B1 jumpsuit, which means there is now an option for photographers between Profoto A1 and the significantly heavier B1.

Läs på svenska istället: Profoto B10 – test och recension

I borrowed two Profoto B10 for a week to test how the new studio flash / battery light / on-location flash works (call it whatever you want, but not a speedlight).

Here is my review. In short (but you will be wiser to read the entire review, plus see all the fine example photos), this is precisely the battery powered light that I was missing in Profoto’s ecosystem. Perhaps the one many had wished A1 had been?

Half as long as Profoto B1, half as ”strong” (250Ws compared to 500Ws), less than half as heavy but with very modern technology and features that can be useful.

Then there are of course some small things I would like to fix, but otherwise it’s made for me.

Profoto B10 = one half B1

When photographers ask me which Profoto flash to choose, based on my experience, it’s usually about Profoto B1 or B2. In recent years, Profoto A1 has certainly been a good option for some, or many. For others, a good complement, and for some not an option at all.

My default response has often been:

  • “Do you need a little more light, bigger light modifiers, want everything without a cord in one device and will use heavier stands? Choose Profoto B1.

 

  • “On the other hand, do you think it would be nice with a lightweight flash head, usually using lightweight modifiers and lightweight stands, and can work with a little less light? Choose Profoto B2.

Profoto B10 now fits the second sentence best, with the big difference that it is a more modern device and now cordless as Profoto B1.

Plus LED adjustable light with variable color temperature (bi-color) plus the ability to control the flash via an app and Bluetooth.

Lightweight, small and easy to use

It may be the easiest way to describe the new battery-powered compact flash Profoto B10 with three words.

At the same time it feels very sturdy and well-built, especially unlike the B2 head, which is plastic and has a slightly weak and wiggly stand mount, in my opinion.

A small but big miss

My first impression of the Profoto B10 when I got it in my hands was somthing like: “very neat but at the same time sturdy”.

My second was: “Why the slippery knob on the light stand? Maybe not optimal trying to work with in the winter using gloves or with cold hands?”.

I am a bit disappointed that the one thing you will work with on the Profoto B10 the first thing you start setting up your lights, not to mention all the small adjustments I do during a shoot, is so badly designed for its use.

It’s a bit of a shame that design has gone before user-friendliness here to make it look as slick as possible. Hopefully, this may improve with a new part that you can change (my wish, nothing more than that).

I’d rather see something grip-friendly like the one on Profoto B1 that can be twisted with large gloves on without problems.

A removable stand adapter is smart

This solution I think was really successful, being able to detach the stand adapter, where the umbrella mount is built-in. If you want to put your Profoto B10 in a bag, it’s easier to make it fit without having things sticking out outside the cylindrical shape.

Apart from the slippery knob, it is really well built. Based on this, Profoto could easily produce a smart and lightweight variant of the old Profoto Speedlight Speedring Adapter to use Profoto A1 with a softbox.

Maybe something for the future?

Size Comparison: Profoto B10 and A1

If you have space for a Profoto A1 in your camera bag, it doesn’t require many more cubic centimeters to get a Profoto B10 to fit. It’s actually a bit shorter in length, but like the B2 head in height.

Perfect minibag for B10

I bought earlier two ThinkTank lens bags that can be expanded to fit tele lenses if you want (within reasonable limits of course). I have occasionally attached them to my photo bag to have room for two Profoto A1, which at the same time become more easily accessible hanging outside the backpack.

The fun thing is that these bags are a perfect fit for Profoto B10. I think you can have them in a strap on your shoulders, or maybe attached to your belt, but I have never tried that.

Two B10 instead of one B1

In my rolling case, a DIY terrain version of ThinkTank Logistics Manager 30, I have room for lots of photo equipment. But every little thing makes it heavier to transport, of course.

With Profoto B10, I can fit two smaller battery monolights in the same space as one Profoto B1 requires, and it will be about the same total weight (about 3 kg).

Size Comparison: Profoto B10 and B2

If you already own a Profoto B2, it can be replaced by a Profoto B10, which weighs less in total and takes less space, plus it has some features and new features not in the B2. I guess B10 will replace B2, but I actually have no real idea, never asked Profoto about this.

Either way, the second hand market for a B2 will soon become the buyer’s market, since B10 is better than B2 on basically every point.

The only thing that really speaks for B2 is that the head weighs half of what a B10 weighs, but the difference is not that big.

I hope that Profoto will make a ring flash that works with the B2 pack, but I have not heard any rumors about it. Maybe a tiny market, but I would love one.

Size Comparison: Profoto B10, B1 & A1

This is what the current Profoto family of portable battery powered lights looks like together. Do you want the most lightweight, choose the A1. If you want the most light, choose a B1. Can you live with one step less light but get half the weight of a B1, buy a B10.

Now I might say that one of these does not rule out the other. If you can afford it, I think most photographers who use Profoto will benefit most from a mix.

For many assignments to me, a B10 and one or two A1 will be very good. Should I set up a temporary mobile photo studio, maybe I bet on my B1: or anyway, maybe with B10 or A1 like edge lights or backlight?

Would I need a lot of light, it is possible to hire larger units that can blind most people where I live.

LED for photographers (& movie makers)

The modeling light on my battery lights (B1 / B2 / A1) is something I used very sparingly in photo sessions. Some time I can turn it on to see roughly how the light and shadows works, but never for the lighting the scene or portrait itself.

Bicolor modeling light

Profoto B10 have a super easy way to either change the brightness of the LED light but just as easily changing the color temperature from CTO to “neutral white” to CTB is something interesting.

Suddenly you can easily mix LED light and flash light if you want, and be able to adjust the color temperature to fit the existing light. Without having to use color filter gels.

Modeling light centered on the color temperature scale.

Profoto B10 modeling light with the most cold / blue setting (CTB)

Profoto B10 modeling light with the most warm/orange setting (CTO)

As a portrait photographer only working with non-moving images I can not comment on how useful this is for filmmakers. But I guess it’s certainly useful for many occasions.

Or you could use it as an alternative to flash, indoors and outdoors, when you prefer to work with light you can see directly?  Maybe something for the mirrorless crowd?

Shoot and charge simultaneously

A smart thing with Profoto B2 was the possibility of having the charger connected while taking photos. Why this was not possible with B1 I can not answer. Perhaps the charger would not charge a battery fast enough for a more powerful flash, or maybe they didn’t want it to compete with Profoto D1 / D2 and others?

Either way, you can have the slim charger for the Profoto B10 plugged into a power outlet and shooting while charging the battery. Maybe that’s not an feature I’ll use super often, but nice to have.

Another smart thing is the Velcro strap on the charger so that you can attach it to the light stand rather than hanging free.

How long does the B10 battery last?

According to Profoto, the battery for the B10 can handle up to 400 flashes at full power. I can not say how accurate this is, since I have not tested. Their numbers for B1 was correct, so I trust the facts.

Or 75 minutes with the LED modeling light on full power. That sounds very good in many ways, I think the modeling light on B1 has drained the battery considerably faster.

The charger that is on 3A will be able to charge one empty B10 battery to full in 90 minutes. Buying a spare battery is always a good idea, and they are really small so you will have no problem finding space for an extra in your bag, I think.

Too bad they never listen to my desires of having a small protective cap for the batteries they do. It would be easy with such batteries for the B1, A1 and B10 batteries to make sure they do not let go or do anything else stupidly in the camera bag. Can Nikon have it for its big batteries can well Profoto?

More light options – less weight

That is almost exactly the same I wrote in my review of Profoto A1 when it was launched. Now I’m writing again, but without the limitations of lighting with A1 have (a lot fewer light modifiers to use as opposed to what fits B1 / B2 / B10).

There is a huge difference between 3 kg and one light that weighs half of that when comparing B1 and B10. Then, of course, every light you bring need a stand, but the B10 can work well with a lot smaller and more lightweight stand..

Which does not make it a particularly big problem if you want to bring an extra light source, or two. The medium-sized Manfrotto stands in the Stacker series does not take up much space and is not particularly heavy either.

If you are indoors, it can work with a Nano stand for your B10 if you make sure nobody overturns it.

A big light that fits in the camera bag

If you have a normal sized photo bag, the Profoto B10 will not require more space in the bag than a DSLR with lens (roughly simplified).

The backpack on the pictures is, by the way, a new product from Profoto, which comes with the purchase of their B10 pack of two flashes. It has space for two Profoto B10s, two chargers and a bunch of batteries plus Remote.

If you want, you could be able to fit four B10 if you want, without a problem, just by moving the separators inside, but maybe not having room for much more equipment than that.

The backpack is nice but not very far the one I use today, a Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW. There is also room for a laptop and small things in other compartments and pockets.

B10 controls, settings and menus

Using a Profoto B10 is as simple as it has always been with products from that company. The white button is the test button and starts the flash with a little longer press (but a small ON / OFF text had not been in the way).

The button / knob to the left with the small lamp symbol is the for adjusting the modeling light. Press it to turn on the LED light. Turn it to change the brightness, click and rotate to change the color temperature of the setting light, from 3000 to 6500 Kelvin.

The bigger center knob controls the effect, from 2.0 to 10 where 10 equals 250Ws. Click it (push in) to access the menu system.

There you can easily scroll up and down and right down into menus and submenus. At the first level, you set up the channel and the group for the Air system so that it works with your Air Remote.

Here you can also turn off the Air if you want to, and also enable Bluetooth needed to control the flash with an app in your phone. I have only had it demonstrated for me, so I can not tell you much more.

If you scroll down the main menu, you can enable or disable IR SLAVE if you want the flash to be activated by light or IR transmitter. Here you can also change from NORMAL flash mode to FREEZE if you want shorter flash duration and freeze movements (with the expense of color stability, if I understand it correctly).

Then you can set how you want the modeling light to behave, should it be relative to the flash strength, PROP, or free?

Under ADVANCED, you can change if you want a beep or other signal when the flash is fully charged and ready to use, if it’s to make clicking sounds when you touch controls and spin on steering wheel and a bit more. For example, how long it should wait before it goes into sleep mode or how bright the rear display should be.

It’s not much harder to understand than that.  If you have used a Profoto light in recent years, you will be an instant expert on how to use the Profoto B10.

Profoto B10: my final verdict

If you have read some of my previous blog posts here might probably know how I will rate the new Profoto B10.

In short, Profoto B10 is the product I really wished for when Profoto A1 was presented. Now, my two camera lights (or tiny studio lights) with the name A1 have been incredibly useful complement to my other lighting equipment. I have no complaints there.

But with the Profoto B10 I finally got a battery light that is exactly what I’m looking for. Enough power, perfect size, and perfect weight.

I rarely need to set my Profoto B1 to full power. A few times a year, the brightness is 10, but usually between 5 and 8. Therefore, a B10 of 250Ws will be just right for 95% of my assignments.

Profoto B10: pros and cons

In the column of plus and good things with the new battery powered light are the following things:

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Enough power
  • Good usability
  • Suitable for all Profoto light shapers (almost)
  • Modeling light with variable color temperature
  • Smart to be able to detach the stand adapter
  • Very good battery capacity (almost twice compared to B1, but not B1X with the new battery)

Of course, nothing can be completely perfect, but it’s really no big things I have on my list.

  • The knob to the stand adapter, why so smooth?
  • The surface of the entire flash could be less sensitive
  • Come on, a cover for the batteries, please?

Will I buy a Profoto B10?

No. I will buy two as soon as it goes.

(I wrote and did exactly the same thing with the Profoto A1).

The problem for me is that my Profoto B2 with two heads becomes a bit redundant. I really like it, but it’s hard to see how I’ll use it very often when I have two B10 that are better in most ways.

I need a smaller rolling case

For my part, I will soon add a normal-sized rolling case/bag to my collection, maybe a Thinktank Airport-something. With cameras, lenses and two Profoto B10, my Logistics Manager 30 becomes unnecessarily large for some assignments. The big advantage my big rolling case has, besides being fitted with my beloved DIY-GiantWheels, is that you can bring light stands and umbrellas on a single rollable device.

My conclusion is this, the money I spend on smarter and more lightweight equipment allows me to be more flexible as a photographer. And happier.

Avoiding breaking your back is worth a lot too.

/Stefan

{ 1 trackback }

Profoto B10 plus lighting stand in one bag — Stefan Tell, Sweden
September 18, 2018 at 23:45

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Annie MacDonald September 12, 2018 at 15:02

Thanks, Stefan, for such a thorough review. The A10 definitely replaces the B2 but selling just now may not be such a good idea! Do you have any idea how much the units will retail for?

Reply

2 Stefan Tell September 12, 2018 at 22:52

Thanks, I couldn’t stop writing when I got started 🙂
I think the price should be out on every web shop now, the Duo Kit is maybe a bit better value if you need two.

My B2 with two heads will just have to rest for a bit, but they have always had quite low second hand value, at least in Sweden. Hopefully you have used them enough for it to pay off in some way.

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3 Rodney Turner September 12, 2018 at 17:23

Always a good write up. B10s are perfect. Half the weight with great functionality.

Reply

4 Stefan Tell September 12, 2018 at 22:53

Thank you, I think so to.
This was what I was hoping for last time with the A1, but they have been valuable for me in the meantime. Soon I can bring a lot of light sources without having to break my back.

Reply

5 Marko October 21, 2018 at 18:33

Excellent review Stefan, B10 looks like an interesting flash to get next.

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6 Stefan Tell October 24, 2018 at 00:25

Thanks Marko,
I have one so far, and it has made my work much easier already.

This is very much the small light I hoped A1 would have been. But, A1 is now better if you really want to pack less equipment and still get things done with a couple of light sources.

Now I want better and more modern stands 🙂

Reply

7 Gerald November 25, 2018 at 03:41

I bought a Profoto B10. I think we need to be careful about cheering too much. Profoto took away the sync port. Think about if you are traveling and your Air Remote breaks or gets dropped. You are out of luck. No option of using a third party trigger or a cable. Photographers like having backup plans. Profoto just took one of them away. I do like the size and the function.

Reply

8 Stefan Tell November 29, 2018 at 10:27

I understand your concern, but honestly I have not used a sync cable the last five years or so.

Regarding backup, I always have two Remotes just for that reason. And with also one or two Profoto A1 in my bag, I have all my bases covered.

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