A year with the Profoto B10
I have been using the Profoto B10 (not the plus version) as my go-to location strobe for a little over a year now. In my studio work I primarily use the 500-watt version of the Profoto D2 series of strobes, but these are wired strobes and location work often does not include access to a power outlet. I am also almost completely blind, so not having to worry about tripping over power cables is a big plus for me when shooting. The B10 is a compact ~250-watt battery powered strobe which fits most of the OCF versions of the Profoto light modifier line. Overall, my impression of the B10 is that Profoto has created an excellent and very capable strobe. I’m not going to complain about the price because if you are looking at buying this strobe, you are well aware of the cost to enter the Profoto ecosystem.
As with all reviews on my blog, I find it important to let you know that I purchased this unit with my own money, I was not given a “loaner” from Profoto. I’m not affiliated with Profoto in any way and all observations and opinions are my own. I have been shooting since the 80’s and owned (and still own) many other low and not-so-low cost strobes from many manufacturers.
Before I bought the B10
My biggest concern with a battery powered strobe was whether the battery would survive a whole shoot. Additional batteries are around $200, but that is relatively cheap considering the initial investment required for this strobe is $1600 before you factor in the trigger, light stands and modifiers. I have used many different brands of strobes and triggers through the years and I have found Profoto to be the most reliable hands down. I was not worried about the quality of the unit because Profoto already had proven their ability to create pro-level wireless gear with the B1 line of strobes. This reason alone was enough for me to buy this strobe when it hit the market. After a year of use and countless shoots with the B10, did I have any problems with battery life? Read on…
The B10 is scarcely larger than a 200mm lens and can easily fit in a camera bag with other gear, this is something the larger B1 series can’t do. I have found myself often able to pack my camera, lenses, and the B10 in my gear bag and only have to deal with a travel size light stand and modifier as additional passengers. I have been traveling and doing a lot of shoots outside of my state this year, and I have found this gear loadout makes location shoots much easier to manage while not compromising quality of light or operation.
How I use the B10
In my photography, I mainly do abstract Bodyscape style portraiture, you can find my work at:
http://www.bodyscapes.photography/ I’m not working with large groups, though I often shoot more than one person at a time in the Bodyscape style and find that the B10 has more than enough power to handle anything I throw at it. I also love to do product photography and the small size and ample power of the B10 make it a perfect choice for this type of work as well.
I created a body of work around my guide dog Fauna using the Profoto B10 exclusively. The project is called Fauna’s Adventures and aims to promote the use of legitimate service animals in the travel and hospitality industries. We shot in hotels, on trains in airports and the B10 never skipped a beat. The small size and light weight of the strobe allowed me to use a super clamp to attach it to a pole or other object, and the power was ample to shoot in all but the largest environments.
User interface and functionality
I am visually impaired, therefore clear functionality and easy readability is important to me. The B10 has a large display on the back with very large numbers and is easy to read in all light levels I have encountered. The menu structure is straightforward and can be accessed with a press of the power knob. The minimalist controls are appreciated because It achieves a nice balance of functionality between the trigger unit on the camera and the strobe. Most times when using the B10, I find myself turning it on and never touching it again other than to move it during a shoot, I can easily control all aspects of the strobe from the trigger on my camera. There is also an iPhone app that allows me to fully control the features of the flash and even use it as a strobe for my iPhone.
One thing you will notice right away when shooting with this strobe compared to other manufacturers like Godox is the consistency in color of light and the fast recycle time. Value priced strobes like Godox and Neewer can shift their light color (temperature) and power output as you move through the power range. I found the output and the color temperature consistent every time and for every application I have thrown at this strobe. Even at full power the strobe recycles quickly, and I never found myself waiting for it to be ready between shots. I shoot at lower power often so the recycle time was never an issue.
Never misses a shot
Shooting with the B10 like any Profoto strobe is a joy. I typically set the strobe to ETTL mode for the first shot, then swap to manual and dial in my desired light level. For my latest project, I shot nearly 10,000 images (using the B10 and D2) and the only time I had an issue with triggering or getting proper exposure was when the batteries in the trigger were about to die. There was a battery warning on the trigger, I just didn’t see it. I took a couple shots and the strobe didn’t fire, so I looked at the trigger, noticed the warning and switched the batteries. I was up and running in seconds and honestly anyone with normal vision would have seen the warning when adjusting the strobe power.
Where the B10 really shines for me (heh) is in the LED modeling light. Because it is LED, it uses significantly less power than incandescent or halogen bulbs, meaning less draw on the battery. If you are shooting low key work like I do, many cameras can struggle to find focus on a subject when in a low-light environment. I have found that the modeling light on the B10 at half power is a perfect balance allowing the camera to focus without being a drain on the strobe’s battery. This setting allows me to shoot an average of 800 images which is more than enough for most applications. I have done many shoots this year using just the B10 and the battery that came with it and never run out of power.
The B10 also doubles as a fantastic video light, with all the power and light temperature options you could want. The beauty of using the B10 as a continuous light is that (presumably) you already have some great light modifiers with you for your photography. The addition of a small lumicube or other cheap but effective light can net you a lightweight video rig perfect for small interviews. I love the versatility and lightweight nature of this setup.
What it won’t do
A year in gear time is a long time. Since the launch of the B10, Profoto has released a new version of the B10, the B10 Plus with 500-watts of power, and a larger, heavier frame. The new unit costs a bit over $2000 and offers roughly the same battery life as the B10. 500-watts is my sweet spot for light output for most applications, so my next purchase will certainly be the B10 plus, though I have no regrets whatsoever about buying the 250-watt version of this great little light.
Throughout this article I have been singing the praises of the B10, but what won’t it do? Overpower the midday sun. To get good shots outside, you need to balance the ambient light and your strobe, that way you have total control over your scene. To do this, you commonly use a faster shutter speed requiring High Speed Sync, which the B10 is capable of, but doesn’t have the power output for a very bright environment like the midday sun. I consider this a specific case scenario and the solution to this for me is to wait until later in the day when the light is better. I don’t like the look of midday-shot images, so I tend to shoot in the morning or evening hours where the light is warmer and more pleasing anyway. While this is a negative it isn’t a big one for me. If you need more power, then consider the B10 plus or the B1 line of strobes in the 500-watt range.
A year into my relationship with the B10 strobe and I am as happy today as I was the day I bought it. The power level is easy to read and the strobe is light and utterly portable. I would not hesitate to recommend this strobe to another photographer. The only real downside is the high price, but you really do get what you pay for. Switch from a system like Godox and you will be shocked how much more fun shooting with this level of gear can be.
Hey! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to contact me via my social media sites I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other articles! Until then, get out and get shooting!
My Photography site: http://www.tahquechi.com/
My Bodyscapes project: http://www.bodyscapes.photography/
My travel site: http://www.blindtravels.com/
Instagram and Twitter: @nedskee