A reflector is a reflector. Right? That was my first thought when I was asked to be the first to review Profoto's new line of collapsible reflectors. "It's a reflector, are you serious?" I mean come on, in what possible way could this be any different from everything else I've used? A reflector is a reflector. However, obviously I said yes and here we are…and I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
Before we go any further let me make it clear that this is an unpaid review save for being able to keep and dismantle and/or destroy the product while I tested them. That said...What's the story and why am I now completely hooked on these things? The same reason the three little pigs took refuge in the brick house in the end. Construction. These things are solid and pardon the pun but that is one of their greatest strengths. Let's be real here, there hasn't been some revolutionary new materials technology that allows a reflector to put out more light, or better light than the source. Physics are still physics so if someone tells you the quality of light from their reflector is better...stare at them until they leave cause unless yours is stained and gross and theirs isn't...They're wrong. If a reflector can't reflect better than another then really construction or design are the only metrics left that we can compare by.
Easy to handle in a variety of conditions, even when shooting solo
Very sturdy construction
No 5-in-1 model
A little pricier than some other companies (looks like they will be around $119 for the large and $79 for the medium)
Most photographers have used a wide range of reflectors in their careers and I think we can all agree that with regular use they tend not to last very long. My own personal experiences have always ended with the connection point on the metal loop snapping from the torque of expanding and collapsing. This is where I need to correct the behind the scenes video that accompanies this article. In the video I state that it seemed as if Profoto was using the handle design to house that connection. That isn't the case. The reflectors arrived the day of the shoot so I hadn't had time to check them out prior to arriving on set. After the day wrapped I took to dismantling one to see how they were built. As it turns out, the loop is closed with two rivets that are surprisingly low-profile, but not housed within either grip. I can only assume that this placement was decided against due to potential strain on the grips. Plastic shrapnel in your hand would seriously suck. The rivets are also wrapped in a thick flexible plastic (almost like flattened tubing) to keep them from snagging and ripping the fabric (it's the little things that are so important).
It has been just about a month since the shoot in that video and in that time I have made it a point to use and abuse these things as much as possible. What I'm left with are a series of reflectors that haven't let me down even for a second and a studio full of assistants that absolutely love how easy they are to control. The grips are easily my favorite part of the design. It's not like a handle on a reflector is a new idea, but a handle with the right design and placement is. Not to mention the fact that someone has finally realized that a second point of control is a great idea! The placement is exactly where it needs to be. Even the large reflector is fairly easy to control with one hand due to the fact that the grip is placed close the corner, not the middle. It seems a little counter-intuitive but it works like a champ. There will still be some difficulty if you're shooting alone and trying to control the large reflector in windy conditions but I haven't had an issue controlling the smaller versions in those cases.
I buy equipment after considering how well it will get the job done, and how long it will last. These seem to ace both categories. My only real complaint (I imagine it will be yours too) is that Profoto is not currently offering a 5-in-1 version. As it stands they offer large (47") and medium (32") sizes in the following combinations:
Maybe there is a 5-in-1 planned in the future, who knows, but that's what's lacking for me. I like to travel light when it's possible and having to carry a stack of reflectors when I could carry two multi-use versions isn't fun. To date these are not yet available in stores but we will update you with links as soon as they are.
Overall I love this line of collapsibles. They are sturdy, comfortable and easy to control even for the inexperienced on set. I really just want to give the design team a big high-five for doing so well where every other reflector design has fallen short.