Profoto's C1 Line: Who Are They Targeting?

As you can likely tell from my recent posts, I’m a user and big fan of Profoto. I realize their products are expensive, but they work. In real life, they never let me down.As you can likely tell from my responses to comments in those same articles, I’m a defender of their product and their business model. But, today I’m confused. The new C1s aren’t really where I saw Profoto them headed. The C1s aren’t really for photography professionals. Or are they? To answer this, you’d have to first define what professional and photography is. After all, SLRs were, at least at one time, for amateurs. 

First, a Brief Word on Influencers 

Profoto’s release materials note that they 

 . . . are committed to enabling passionate image creators around the world to bring great light to every image. And now, with the C1 range, that's possible no matter what type of camera you're using. 

Again, I really think that we need to define some of these words before we get too far into this conversation. It’d be best if we can all be on the same page. Commercial photographers, by the very nature of the advertising industry, are filling a need when they shoot. If there is a market need for influencer-type photographers, aren’t they also commercial photographers? 

Look, I personally don’t get it. Perhaps I just can’t see it, but to me influencers are so incredibly artificial. I realize I’m painting with a broad brush here, but we’ve seen again and again how the influencer culture can be manipulated and, frankly, made a laughing stock – see Fyre, Palessi, and moon rock. Influencers seem to be out for the biggest payday and, worse, the most paydays. I’ve scrolled through feeds that include five or six shampoo placements from different manufacturers within a few days of each other. I just can’t see how this lack of brand loyalty sells. I don’t like that influencers often use their children to sell without proper regulatory oversight. I also don’t like that influencers are all too often unclear about what is an ad and what isn’t. I’d love to see a crack down related to child labor laws and trade communications. 

But, none of this changes the fact that companies and their marketers are hiring influencers. Sometimes for big money. So, if these influencers are fulfilling a commercial need, aren’t they, by definition, commercial photographers? 

The C1 and C1 Plus 

Profoto C1 (B & H Photo)

The new Profoto C1s are designed to be used with smartphone cameras. The C1 Plus, while also intended to be used with smartphones, are compatible with Profoto Air TTL so that you can swap in your DSLR if your smartphone isn’t up to the job (If you wondered why my voice sounds gravelly, I’m choking on some of those words). The Profoto Clic is a new range of light-shaping tools (grids and gels etc.) that can be used with the C1 line.

The C1 line is just now available for pre-order. At this point there isn’t any independent testing available. There are, however, a lot of advertorials available on YouTube. I’ve reviewed the specs for the C1 and a few things are a bit murky. The biggest issue I have is that the power is quoted in lumens, which makes direct comparison with other flashes or with their direct competitor, the Godox A1, more difficult. 

Godox A1

The C1 is rated at 1600 lumens. Whereas the Godox is rated at 8 watts. I’d also note that the Profoto can be used as a video light, whereas the modeling light on the Godox seems to be almost useless for that purpose. Lastly, the Profoto has adjustable color temperature controls that exceed those of the Godox, at least based on the specs. 

I also find it interesting that Godox has had its A1 on the market for sometime. I’m sure that Godox is happy that Profoto is finally playing catch-up. Given that Profoto was so incensed that Godox "copied" the Profoto A1 to create the V1, I’m curious how both Profoto and Godox feel about the shoe being on the other foot. 

If anyone wants to talk about pricing, the advertorials published on YouTube are full of comments expressing shock at the cost of the Profoto versus Godox lights. $299 for the Profoto and $59.95 for the Godox! For smartphone lights! 

Is There a Market For The Profoto’s C1 

$299 is a lot of money for tiny lights that will be mainly used for smartphones. Perhaps though, I’m still missing the boat. After all, those that refused to see the rise of SLRs, those that refused to see the rise of digital certainly did. The intro line to the Profoto video feels like it could have been part of Kodak’s Brownie ads, Leica’s first rangefinder ads, or, more recently, Canon’s D30 ads. 

Smartphones changed everything. Suddenly everyone could capture images anytime anywhere. Everyone was a photographer. 

If smartphones are the future, we might look back on the C1s and A1s as pioneers. 

A Brief Comment on Brandon Woelfel 

The photographer in the C1 video, Brandon Woelfel, recently published a YouTube video discussing his gear. 

He shows off his Nikon Z 7 and Nikon D850. He also spends a decent amount of time talking about his (really) fast glass. A series of Nikkor 1.4 lenses. I really don’t see how using such impressive glass integrates into a workflow that uses smartphones and the C1 line. The difference in quality and durability just won’t be the same as his other gear.

As Woelfel explains, his glass can provide 

...such a distinct look. 

In my opinion, all of his gear produces a distinct look. Including his use of a smartphone. I'm not a fan of relying on a smartphone to get the job done, but, if there isn't' that kind of pressure, why not?  A smartphone can grab a stellar shot, but, when the chips are down, the more advanced gear that Woelfel uses really will serve a pro much better. 

Closing Thought 

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The rise of influencer marketing and culture means that there is money to be made in serving this niche (If you wondered why my voice still sounds so gravelly, I’m still having trouble with some of those words). Influencer culture often relies on luxurious hotels, planes, cars, clothing, food... so, why not equipment? Why not position a new product as a luxury only the best influencers would use? 

What do you think? Hold on, let me get my popcorn first...

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Benoit Pigeon's picture

What I think? Simple, if people don't want to carry a camera, why on earth would they want to carry a portable flash that is not integrated to the phone? That's where Profoto got it right in the long run by charging what they do.
My guess is that it's partially build by Godox (who is coming with a new R1 model) for Profoto but with different components. Godox won't fix theirs but Profoto will. That's valuable.

Christian Santiago's picture

I am on board with the concept for godox even as I admit my own personal hatred of influencer culture. The market for high end professional photo gear is shrinking every year. The smartphone market is where the real money is at. However The price reflects a lack of understanding of the audience. I believe godox already announced their own version and that will likely outsell this. People who are shooting on their phones aren’t gonna spend 300 bucks on a flash.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

I think that there are influencers and wanna be influencers who will pay.

It’s smart marketing. It looks pretty, the photos look pretty. It’s not much different than the idea that “my photos would be better if I had a better camera.”

I don’t like that route, but, it’s a money maker.

Alex Herbert's picture

Influencers and those that they influence are SUPER concerned with image and perception. If Profoto can market this right these kinds of people will buy the product just to post pictures of it so people know they have it.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

100% agree with this. "If you have it, you're in" Or, "You need this to be in"

Spy Black's picture

"Profoto's C1 Line: Who Are They Targeting?"


user-244549's picture

Most people shooting with smartphones do so because they can't justify the expense of a "better" (let's not argue about this) camera. Many "influencers" (a word which in this context should always be in quote marks) use DSLRs and mirrorless cameras too.

I can't see a huge market for $300 external flash for a device that people use mainly because they're too broke to spend much more on a camera.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

I’m with you on the quotes. But, I think people will pay to be in the”club.”

I think C1 is one generation product, made purely to fill pockets with cash. People will buy it once and either use it forever or put it on the shelf.

I see some creative use in professional environment for C1 Plus as accent lighting in complex lit scenes.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

“Aspirational product” Couldn’t agree more.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

How do we get directed to the influencer model in the first place in this article? It would never have come to my mind that this would be an influencer market, but I guess that's why so many people are broke all the time.
Also, are there that many flaky people with no brain to suck to them? I mean I get it, anyone can get tricked into falling for it once, but on a regular basis???

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

I'm not sure entirely why it struck me as set for the influencer market. It certainly isn't set for a real pro market. At least not yet. I don't see too many campaigns shot with phones. I'm assuming that's coming though.

Dom Oranika's picture

The A1 is also compatible with X series lights, so it can be used with a small speedlight like the v350