Using Profoto A1 Studio Lights for a Wedding, Bye-Bye Speedlights

To capture those memorable moments at wedding parties and other events where lighting isn’t always optimal, many of us bring off-camera lights to help light up the scene. In the past, popular choices have been speedlights due to size, portability, and being able to run off batteries. The game has changed in the off-camera flash market with studio strobes and other flashes increasingly getting better across those three concerns.

Rachel Gulotta and Daniel Inskeep over at Mango Street Lab recently were given a pair of the new Profoto A1 AirTTL Studio Lights, aka the "world’s smallest studio light," to which they were able to use for a clients wedding and loved the results. The video focuses on more about what they like about the new A1 studio light and not a technical review. The studio light is also put to the test for a cardboard box wedding bouquet toss versus their Canon Speedlite both with half-full batteries. Of course, with the price tag of $995 that comes with the Profoto name, they do not recommend this for every photographer as there are cheaper alternatives on the market. However, if you already own Profoto gear, are a professional wedding photographer, or shoot a lot of high-pressure, high-end commercial work you might want to check these flashes out. They are currently available for both Canon and Nikon shooters.

What are some other great alternatives to replace speedlights for weddings? List them below in the comments.

Log in or register to post comments

63 Comments

If you have to shoot on camera I suppose these are a great option.... It's just that when you get to this level why wouldn't you be shooting off camera and if you're shooting off camera why would you use these and not something built to be used off camera with all the power and the modifier compatibility that entails? You're giving up a lot for the small package size here.

Ryan Cooper's picture

What makes you think these lights weren't designed to be used off camera? Because they can also mount in a hotshoe? In my opinion, this is the best off camera flash ever created for almost all situations. Personally, I did away with big studio strobes years ago and only rent them if I need a ton of power. Otherwise, a small flash I feel is easily the superior option.

In order to match similar features like this in a big flash (TTL, on camera power control, etc) you need to spend an awful lot more money. You also get a flash that produces far less heat and is much easier/cheaper to attach gels to. Personally I'd take a Nikon or Canon speedlight any day for use as an off camera flash over virtually any big strobe on the market. The A1 is basically just a speedlight on steroids at a higher price point.

Well a couple things work against the A1 being a great off camera option.

The first and most obvious point is that the A1 is somewhat light on power. Depending on how you shoot that may or may not be an issue worth recognizing. If you're a fan of larger modifiers or you shoot during the day you'll probably run into some issues that will limit your options.

I know for example that If I want to shoot into the sun and use it as both a rim light and as an object in the frame of my photo I generally need about 500w/s. A little more if I want to use a softbox and a little less if I can get in really close. With someting less powerful like the 250w/s B2 in order to get a solid image I'd probably start by keying off the sun or sticking with hard light. With something in the under 100w/s range like a speedlight or the A1 I'd be looking at getting really close or I'd be trying to find some open shade. I'd certainly have to avoid using the sun as a rim light for a full body shot. I could always go out and get some more powerful lights but the very fact that it would be difficult to shoot that way would discourage me from shooting like that. The fact of the matter is I can always turn down a more powerful light and I can always ND gel something that has a limited range.

The second major thing that works against the A1 as an off camera flash is that it's not natively compatible with Profoto's famous modifiers. Yeah there will likely be some work arounds that will surface in the coming months but that makes these systems more complicated to work with and if the whole point is speed then... well...

As a fast off camera flash that has everything you're asking for the B2 isn't a terrible option and it's mostly compatible with all the Profoto modifiers even if that compatibility is less than optimal. Personally for a grand I've had pretty good luck with the 1200w/s Broncolor Mobil A2 which can be found used but it's limited in other ways which makes it a pretty good portrait system and not a great event system. If you're willing to go to China for your strobes for about $600 I hear great things about the 600w Godox AD600 which has TTL, HSS, and about 8x the amount of power as the A1 and is compatible with a huge range of Bowens mount modifiers including Profoto's own RFi softboxes with the right speedring. If you're ok with Elinchrom I've seen copies of the 400w Quadra going for less than a grand with the head and transmitter included. There are plenty of powerful, flexible, and cost effective options out there some new and some used.

I don't know about anyone else here but I'd miss having access to the wonderful range of modifiers I've built up over the years. With the right equipment they can be used to make any shoot that much better.

I think the A1 is probably the best speedlight anyone has ever dared to create period. I also think that speedlights aren't anywhere close to optimal as off camera flashes. They're OK but they're simply limited by both power and mounting options and are easily eclipsed by flashes designed from the ground up as off camera units.

Ryan Cooper's picture

If your goal is to shoot with a relatively open aperture at high noon in direct sunlight and overpower the sun, then yes, these lights are probably not for you. But I'd consider that a tremendously narrow use case that requires incredibly high output. Most photographers don't want to be blasting away in mid-day sun.

For me, I'd rather my main system to be what is more robust in the vast majority of shooting situations I find myself in. I can rent for outlier situations. Currently I rock a kit of SB700s and they work perfectly well in any situations other than if I need to light up a massive space, if I want to shoot at 5.6 or brighter in midday sunlight, or if I need to throw light a long way.

As for softbox compatibility, that just comes down to what brand you have currently. My entire collection now is all hotshoe softbox mounts, which means for me, to switch to a big studio head would mean doing away with all my great quality softboxes. But that one is moot. Anyone who has an entire collection in a given system is likely going to want to stay within that system but that isn't really an argument against other systems.

I think what you mean is that most photographers can't effectively blast away in the mid-day sun so they avoid it and they avoid situations where they might have shoot in the mid-day sun.

The world is beautiful at high noon it really is but it takes some power to fully realize photos taken at that time and that means making the leap from speed lights to something made for the task. You might find that there are some pretty amazing hard and semi hard light modifiers too if you join us on the dark side.

Matt Rennells's picture

You don't always need big lights to overpower the sun, sometimes you need the extra reserve and recycle time they have. I normally shoot weddings with an on camera speedlight and a couple of big strobes to light up the rest of the room -- sometimes in softboxes, sometimes not -- depending on the space. Shooting a wedding venue at ISO 800, f/2.8 is something that could easily be accomplished by speedlights -- but with the big lights, I have instant recycle time. For the aforementioned bouquet toss, I can fire away at 4fps on my D800 and my lights fire every time up to about 10 shots. The on camera speedlight usually makes it to 3 or 4 shots and then goes off every other shot. Part of that is due to the power of that system -- shooting at 1/64th power you're going to have super quick recycle times vs running a speedlight at 1/8-1/4 power.

These nauseating Profoto A1 testimonials remind me of the Anker product reviews on Amazon: "I got the product for free/at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review."

- "this is a sort of biased review" - "they didnt ask us to make a video" - no. they just flew you to sweden and gave you two $1000 for free for your "honest and unbiased review".

"this flash is not for everyone" - gimme a break.....

"if you shoot high pressure, high end commercial work.... "

"if you are not there are plenty of other cheaper options, so stop watching this video...and move on"

Yet you continue to watch them. We all get it that you do not like Profoto. No big deal. I for one like the flash, it will nicely integrate with my existing B1/B2 setup. Once I got my Profoto system, I hardly ever use speedlites any more.

Where did I say I didn't like Profoto? LEARN TO READ! I said I don't like these "nauseating Profoto A1 testimonials" and their comments about who can use Profoto. I have a lot of Profoto gear btw.

I pay for Anker products and I freaking love them... just saying...

Anker should fly you to Seattle or Shenzhen for their next product release so you can secretly make a "sort of biased" youtube video that can accompany an fstopper article. while anker is "not for everyone" it is perfect for those "high pressure, high end" assignments where you need your iphone to be charged up so you can shoot all day.

https://www.anker.com/poweruser

Spy Black's picture

I guess if you've invested in a Profoto system something like this could make sense. Otherwise go Godox.

Mark Alameel's picture

I think this is the point. If you're already a Profoto user, I would spend a little more to get everything working together seamlessly without adapters. Granted, I still think it is priced a little too much but considering what Profoto users spend, I guess that is normal for them.

I'm interested in Profoto, my wallet is interested in Godox.

William Howell's picture

I think Profoto has jumped the shark.
What is the value proposition of these speed lights? I’m dumbfounded.

It has "game-changing" features such as TTL, HSS, battery, and is way smaller than Godox AD600....

TImothy Tichy's picture

You're kidding right? The AD360 has all of that too, for half the price, and it too has a hotshoe.

OK fine but they are too expensive. I would rather invest in a Godox system. Also they use the word "game changer" many times but they dont really tell you whats game changing about them?

But can you "shoot high pressure, high end commercial work" with Godox?

Felix Wu's picture

What's lacking in Godox's lineup is a powerful and capable generator...which they will be releasing in the near future.

Profoto has the most complete system hands down...from studio generator to speed light and tons of modifiers. Probably the best system available right now.

William Howell's picture

Profoto isn’t the best if you live in America!

We have, in America, just to name a few, Speedotron, Lumedyne, Norman, Dynalite and the big boyee on the block Paul C. Buff.

Profoto can’t hold a candle to these manufacturers, when it comes to value proposition.

I have used Paul C Buff and they are crap next to Profoto. I used Norman lights and hated them. Had to move the light modifier to control exposure. I dropped a B1 on to the pavement once and just picked it up and it works fine. Night and day difference between Profoto and the other brands you mentioned.

William Howell's picture

Now wait, I have read this so many times, that Paul C. Buff is crap and let me tell you, I have nine Buff lights and they have the, (and I underline the), they have the toughest polycarbonate covering money can buy, ABS polycarbonate.
And are tough as can be, as a matter of fact I just dropped my AB800 ring flash and after I checked my pants, [they were full], I ran to my flash and it still worked and it hit the concrete hard enough to crack the aforementioned ABS plastic!

If you want to justify the expenditure on Profoto, please do it with facts, not by trashing a high quality low-cost powerhouse like Buff!

Oh and by the way Buff makes the most powerful mono bloc on earth, the X3200 at 1360 watt seconds!

Brian Schmittgens's picture

I've been a PCB user for almost a decade, but their problem is that they stopped innovating like 8 years ago with the release of the Einstein. It seems like Godox (and to a lesser extent Profoto) have been releasing new stuff every other week over the past couple years, and PCB just isn't keeping up. Unless they can release their take on the B1/AD600 for around $600 and a new CyberCommander that isn't so overly complicated within the next year or two, I don't see them lasting much longer.
That said, to each their own. If something works for you, who cares if some people on the internet talk bad about it?

William Howell's picture

Now hold on just a minute, you haven’t really used Buff that much, if you do not know how to use the greatest and most technologically advanced remote on earth.

Look if you like Godox, that’s cool, but please don’t try and tell me they’re not an awesome value, let’s face it, no one comes even close to Paul C. Buff in the “value for proposition” game, no one and I can back this with facts!

Hey I hope this comment response doesn’t comes off as angry, because I don’t mean it that way, I mean it in a faux, riled-up “get off my grass” way!

Brian Schmittgens's picture

Maybe it's just my personal taste, but I can't stand the CyberCommander. As for value, the AD600 is currently the same price as an Einstein at Adorama, and I don't think you can argue that the e640 is even remotely as full featured as the AD600.
Again, I've still got my Einsteins, and they're great. But for someone buying into a system right now, I'd be extremely wary of where PCB is gonna be in 5 years.

William Howell's picture

The Cyber Commander isn’t intuitive, until one learns how to use the tool, then it makes perfect sense and the device is so flexible.

I think Buff will still be dominant in the American market for years to come, the Digi Bees are simply phenomenal.

Felix Wu's picture

You didn't get it.

Does PCB have battery powered strobes like PF do?
Does PCB have powerful studio generators like PF do?
What about location generators?
And the 120+ modifiers and specialty lights?

You may never need any of the above for your type of shoot but many demanding photographers do, and that's why they sport with brands like Profoto/Broncolor.

We are not talking about value of individual light or equipments. We are talking about a system as a whole. You can rent Profoto from just about any rental house for commercial jobs and you can rent specialty equipments that suit your needs if you had to. If something goes down on a shoot you are more likely to get a replacement ASAp with Profoto. You are buying into a system, like Apple, like Canon etc. Your have the manufacturer who can back you up, as well as many rental houses around the globe.

Yes you do pay a high price for it but it's always backup by its quality and reliability. For those who don't need it, PCB, Godox and many other products will certainly meet your needs.

Does PCB have battery powered strobes like PF do?
No they don't, but when you have a Vagabond to provide mobile power, it sort of makes that point moot.

Does PCB have powerful studio generators like PF do? What about location generators?
No offense, but electricity is electricity so PCB don't need to make their own generators seeing as there are a ton of companies that make them for all sorts of uses already.

And the 120+ modifiers and specialty lights?
This is really only an issue if you plan to actually use that entire variety of modifiers. Most people do not use anything near that. So for all intents and purposes, unless you're doing something extremely unorthodox, you can probably find the modifiers that you need for the PCB system either made by PCB itself or a third party.

---------------------

I agree that overall, there are some very good reasons to buy into Profoto if you can afford it and you are, indeed, buying into a system that is not only reliable, but well supported.

That having been said, you do quickly reach a point of diminishing returns in that no matter how unreliable a PCB light is (and from my experience, they're actually quite reliable), when you can buy three or four of them for the cost of a single Profoto light, then what do you need to rent anything for? Assuming that you spent the same amount of money on both systems, you would actually have more than enough redundancy in the cheaper system to cover for the minor differences in reliability.

And even if, for some reason you needed to go out and rent a light, you can just slave it to a remote trigger so the only situation where this would even make a difference would be if you absolutely needed to be able to remote control all of your lights. I'm not saying that the situation doesn't exist, but working around unexpected issues is also part of being a professional. Buying Profoto reliability doesn't mean that you'll never find yourself SOL on a job either.

I'm not going to say that PCB, Godox, or any number of other brands are just as good a Profoto in all aspects, but plenty of professionals use non-Profoto lights reliably everyday.

Felix Wu's picture

I am talking about the availability of the modifiers and lighting options not just quality on its own. Not everyone needs Specialty equipments, most don't. And there's of course always a difference between working fine and working seamlessly. You are paying for failure proofing as well as convenience. I am sure you get my point.

Felix Wu's picture

And by generator I mean studio generators such as Profoto Pro10 and ProB4 or Scoros and Move from the Bron camp. They just have much better performance than moonlights.