I was contacted by Profoto offering me a chance to try out the new Profoto B2, a battery-powered flash, the very much improved successor to my old AcuteB 600R but maybe more of an alternative or companion to Profoto B1.
With the Profoto B1 they started their expansion into a segment they call Off Camera Flash (OCF), that has mostly been dominated by speedlights and the Elinchrom Quadra or Ranger (I have used speedlights a lot but never Quadra or Ranger).
This is not a review in so many technical terms, more a walkthrough of an even more portable way of always having good lighting with you as a photographer like me (a lot of portraits, on-location or in the studio) without having to break your back.
I have been using two Profoto B1 for almost a year now, before that, my only option for lighting outside or away from electrical outlets were the AcuteB 600R or Speedlights, sometimes I also used an Ice Light or some other LED panel.
Before you continue with my walkthrough of the Profoto B2 and the OCF system, please notice that English is not my first language. I might struggle for the right words for some components, or use “lightweight” a bit too often. If you can help me with some words, please write a comment so this blog post sounds better. Thanks.
Profoto B2, a quick introduction
The Profoto B2 is a more modern, more lightweight and more flexible battery generator than the old AcuteB. It is more like the B3/B4 with its two outlets for flash heads. The B2 flash head is also something completely new. Describing it as lightweight is an understatement. It has, as the Profoto B1, High Speed Sync (HSS) and TTL.
The Profoto On-location Kit
I was given a Profoto B2, two B2 lamp heads, an extension cable, a Profoto AirTTL remote, four new OCF softboxes, a new Speedring, new barn doors, a snoot plus a new grid kit to play with during a couple of days.
The short introduction from Profoto how to use the different products wasn’t really necessary, if you have used any reasonably modern Profoto product you know by intuition how they work (for example, the Profoto B3, B1 or D1).
Profoto B2 at first glance
Compared to the AcuteB or a B3 it is much smaller. Compared to the Profoto B1 it is more lightweight. Compared to a speedlight is it a lot simpler to use and more intuitive.
SHORT TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
- Max energy: 250Ws
- Energy range: 9 f-stops
- Battery capacity: Up to 215 full-power flashes
Generator (incl. battery) 1.6 kg / 2.2 lbs
Head (excl. stand adapter) 0.7 kg / 1.5 lbs
Size comparison, AcuteB vs Profoto B2
It is this small. You could put it in a large jacket pocket. Or just carry it with the shoulder strap, or using the belt loops to have it close to your body.
Compared to Profoto B1
The main difference (for me) between the Profoto B1 and the Profoto B2 is the cables (or lack thereof), the weight on top a light stand and the light output. The B1 has 500Ws, the B2 250Ws.
The new Profoto OCF speedring
This is a good evolution of the old and the slightly improved RFi Speedring, but it could be even better. The good thing is that the new OCF speedring is more lightweight and smaller than the older and larger variant.
When I picked up my kit at Profoto, they gave me a good advice on the difference in how to use the new speedring compared to the old. “Take a look at how it is constructed” they said, and that helped me a lot.
The technique for mounting a softbox on the new speedring doesn’t require any strength at all, just do it right and the rods will find their final positions in the speedrings by themselves, almost.
All the holes and rods have colour markings, as with the RFi line, so you can’t really put something wrong. Just don’t try to force the rods into their place and it will be a quick and effortless operation to put the softbox onto the lamp head.
The only complaint I have here is that the reduced sturdiness (is that a word?) might result in a speedring that won’t last as long as the larger ones. The inner ring in contact with the lamp head is made of rubber only and if you pack this in your bag wrong it might collapse a bit and be harder to mount next time.
Nothing life threatening, but a construction with a tad bit more metal to let the hole in the speedring remain its roundness.
By the way, here is a slight difference in how I worked with the OCF speedring compared to the older ones. With the old version, I could grip any part of the speedring or even the softbox and steer it onto the lamp head. No problem.
But with the new speedring I let a few of the flaps on the softbox be open so I could get my hand into the softbox and work with my fingers to get the speedring to fit correctly onto the lamp head.
The new OCF softboxes…
To offer more mobility and making the life of portrait photographers on-location easier the new softboxes are simpler and faster to use. The design decisions have removed some of the options to modify the light characteristics, but all in all, it resulted in softboxes that work a lot quicker than the non-OCF kind.
- OCF Softbox 2’ Octa (60 cm)
- OCF Softbox 1,3×1,3’ (40×40 cm)
- OCF Softbox 2×3’ (60×90 cm)
- OCF Softbox 1×3’ (30×90 cm)
…and the new soft grids
I have soft grids for some of my larger Profoto softboxes, with the strip softboxes I tend to let them stay on. Mostly because if I take them off I will never find them or motivate me to spend a lot of time putting them back on. Especially with the rods that are needed for some of them.
With the softgrids for the new OCF softboxes, Profoto have changed their approach on how to put them on. Now they are sewn so you can put them on like a lid on top of the softbox, not having to fit velcro to velcro on the inside. The whole operation takes a few seconds compared to a lot longer (at least for me) with the larger ones.
Image: softbox bag, softbox Octa, softgrid bag
And the smaller bags for the softgrids fits well into the softbox bag, which together with the ease of mounting them will surely make me bring them more often on-location and use them more.
A new OCF Grid Kit
This is something I like, small bags containing every grid need I might have, easy to pack and very small and lightweight. I wish they could do a small pouch or bag for the speedring as well, it becomes so much safer to pack things in a bag if they are protected just a little bit.
The new B2 lamp head
Head (excl. stand adapter) measures only 10 cm / 3.9 in Ø 10.3 cm / 4.0 in length. It is a very small and lightweight lamp head, and that makes a lot of other things easier for me. Using a boom stand, for example.
The heads are delivered with small padded protective tube/bags which is also a good idea when packing it all in a bag.
B2 lamp head size compared to D1/B1
With a Profoto B1 or D1 high up on a stand, or out on a boom, I really need a counter weight. Using a Profoto B2, I could hang my camera bag on the stand and feel very safe that the weight of the lamp head would ruin the balance.
Compared to Acute lamp head
Even if I have always felt that the lamp head to my AcuteB 600R is very small and easy to use on a light stand, this is even smaller. A lot smaller.
The few times I have used the AcuteB with the lamp heads (mostly I use it with the Profoto ring light) there is a great satisfaction not having to balance something heavy (like a B1) high up on a light stand, or out on a boom. The same goes for the B2 lamp heads, but even more. Less to worry about.
LED Modeling light
I almost never use the modeling light on my Profoto D1 or B1, but strangely enough I felt that this could be a way of lighting a portrait with the same ease as I use the Westcott Ice Light sometimes.
Maybe I will try that with the Profoto B1 more from now on, it has more light output so it should be even more useful. But mostly indoors.
OCF Barn Doors
I own a pair of barn doors for the Zoom Reflector but I don’t use them much, sometimes for creating a rough pattern on the background, but that’s it. Buying one for the B2 might not be on top of my wish list, but the small bag they come in is a nice touch.
Again, that makes packing your bag less of a hassle with things in it scratching and getting stuck which happens a lot with light stands I feel. Maybe someone could design bags for everything in a camera bag?
The Profoto B2 battery
Attached to the bottom of the main unit and also very lightweight (I feel this word is a bit overused in this post, but I couldn’t come up with any good synonyms). Having one spare battery is alway a must, altough they are quite pricey. Maybe you get a battery bag for that if you buy one extra? I would sure like one.
When I come to think of it, why didn’t design a small bag for the B1 battery? When I pack everything in a bag, I don’t really like things lying there unprotected. Sure, you could build the inside of your bags with compartments divided by padded stuff, but that takes a lot of place if you want many.
The Return of the Nano stand
I bought a couple of Manfrotto Nano light stands when I wanted to bring more stands but didn’t want to carry more bags. Mostly I use them for menial work, like holding a reflector or flag.
When I bought my Profoto B1:s, I started using the Manfrotto 420B as my main light stand on-location. It is very good in every aspect, even if I didn’t use the boom that often (bring more weight by bringing a counterweight, no thanks).
A bit heavy to carry maybe, but it fits nicely in a padded Manfrotto bag that is easy to carry and can hold two of them as well as a couple of umbrellas. And a Nano.
Now I can use the Nano as my main light stand if I know that the photo shoot will be indoors or if it isn’t a windy day. And those stands I can hang outside of my camera bag so I could pack everything on my back. That is mobility. At least for me.
There are a shoulder strap on the pack, and a smaller strap for hanging it on a stand if you want to attached closer. This is a great idea, but it could be improved a bit, now when you use the shorter strap, even as short as possible, with a small and low stand, the pack will almost touch the ground.
Maybe you could design some kind of hook or grip or clip that uses the belt loops that are in the middle of the pack. That would attach the Profoto B2 more firmly to the stand I think. Using duct tape on such a nice thing would be a waste.
Using the Profoto B2
If you have used a Profoto B1 or D1, maybe a B4 (which I haven’t) the controls are easy to learn. The wheels controls the effect settings and some buttons will switch mode from Normal to Freeze or if you want the beep when it is ready. Modeling lights on and off is of course and option.
The contacts for the flash heads (outlets?), are smaller than with, for example, the AcuteB, as well as the cords. They are protected with a small cap that you lift up to plug it in, just turn it a little bit and it will lock, the contact, that is.
I don’t have especially big hands, but turning that small ring when I have both heads plugged in is a bit fiddly. Doing that in the Swedish winter cold with gloves can be a challenge. If they could have extended the ribbed part of the contact (is that what it is called?) that you turn, it might have been easier, at least for me.
The Carry Bag and the Location Bag
If you buy the Profoto B2 in of its kits, you will get one bag that fits the B2 and lamp heads plus other stuff, and another bag to put that in. In two semi-large pockets you can fit the speedring and a grid kit if you want, and attach softboxes on the outside, fastened with straps.
I will probably not use that bag as I don’t like to carry more bags with my hands. If I can carry stuff on my back, no matter how heavy, I will try to do so.
Profoto B2 in a F-stop ICU
I bought a F-stop Satori EXP after a long time spent looking for a backpack solution that would fit my two Profoto B1:s as well as spare batteries and cameras with lenses and some accessories. The ICU is their largest for that backpack, the XL Pro.
Packing the Profoto B2 into the same ICU worked really well. I was able to fit in one Profoto B2, two B2 lamp heads, extension cord, battery charger, a spare battery, two Profoto AirTTL remotes, one Nikon D800, another battery charger and two lenses (85mm/1.4 and 24-70mm/2.8). And some Compact Flash memory cards.
My backup camera house, a D700, could stay on top of the ICU in the Satori EXP bag. And on the outside I can attach a Sirui camera stand and at least two Manfrotto Nano light stands on the sides of the backpack (not in the picture).
Ok, I need to open the top of the backpack to pull out the ICU if I want to use the things inside, but with this kind of equipment I usually work in a way that I stay on one place at least a couple of minutes. Once the lights are assembled, I can carry them around and let the almost empty bag lie somewhere while I shoot.
Here is a blog post about fitting two Profoto B1’s in a F-stop Satori EXP.
It might be just me, but having as little as possible that I have to carry in my hands makes me feel mobile. I can navigate elevators and open doors, which is nice. Adding one bag, for light stands, might not be a problem. But carrying a heavy backpack as well as two more additional bags makes me a dull boy.
Which should you buy? B1 or B2?
I already own two Profoto B1:s, but I will still buy a B2, probably with two heads (you get a spare battery almost for free, and you want a spare battery anyway).
The difference in weight between the Profoto D1 and B1 is not that big, but the B1 is heavier, and adding a large 5-foot Octa together with the required speedring high up on a light stand makes you want to use at least a Manfrotto 420B or a C-stand.
If you use the B1 with umbrellas indoors, or a beauty dish, you could use a not-so-heavy light stand, but they are still large and need a big bag. With the B2 indoors, a Nano or some similar small light stand would work just fine.
Having an assistant (which I don’t), the Profoto B2 would be my choice. Add a telescopic boom to attach the head and a softbox, and you can light anything. Almost.
Are you using larger and heavier Light Shaping Tools that require the older speedring, the Profoto B1 would be natural. I wouldn’t want to hang too much weight on the smaller B2 head too many times.
If you need the extra f-stop from 500Ws instead of 250Ws, the Profoto B1.
I think I will use the Profoto B1 for more stationary assignments, shooting staff portraits and stuff like that (not too many, though, then I would rely more on a couple of D1:s and electrical outlets).
Even if I have used the B1 on environmental portraits and editorials, I think this is the type of things I would rather bring the B2. More mobility and less to carry, which makes me more inclined to walk around more to find good spots.
But, cables are cables, if I have thought of a lighting setup that requires some distance between the lights, that would complicate things a bit. Maybe one light close and another far away, I might mix one B2 near the camera and one B1 wherever it needs to be. Or just two Profoto B1?
Being a happy Profoto user the last ten years, I am sold on the Profoto B2.
I might not need it desperately as I already own two Profoto B1:s. But I like the little thing so much for the possibilities of using light in a new way for me, making me more mobile, and making my back hurt less.
If you have any question you think I might answer, please write a comment. Or if you have ideas for better words in this blog post which I struggled with a lot more than usual. Any errors are mine.
And please share this, thanks in advance.