Listen, I know what you're all thinking. "Whoa, it looks cool. The modeling light is even bi-color. But it costs how much?" I get it, but bear with me.
At 250 Ws, there is a totally useable amount of power. The batteries, from which Profoto claims 400 full-power flashes per charge, cost $200. Two of those should last you quite a while. There is a revamped modeling light in the new B10 that has an adjustable bi-color LED. While not many people have been able to see the B10 in person, thus not being able to verify the usefulness of the modeling light, it is a step in the right direction for many flash manufacturers and shows promise and initiative for the brand. The flash itself is incredibly small at just 7”x4”. The best part is that there are no cables to deal with, unlike the B2. Everything seems great; Profoto has released a fantastic product that seems to truly be something new for many photographers. There is just one issue.
You guessed it, the price. I’m going to be playing the devil's advocate for a little bit. I am truly a fan of Profoto’s lights, and I’ll touch on that more. But, the B10 is nearly $1,600. While not remotely unusual for Profoto, that pricing will still sting a little. Why? Because of Godox.
Years ago, when I first got into using flash, there were few options available. Basically, you could get Bowens, Elinchrom, or Profoto if you wanted quality. Understandably, you would pay handsomely for it. If you weren’t going to use a full-size studio light or needed a portable solution, speedlights were more or less your only option. When the B1 was released, it created a flood of knock-offs and paved the way for many other brands to introduce battery-powered lighting. Like LEDs, the market has become saturated with an overwhelming amount of options to choose from, Godox being chief among them. Specifically, the Godox AD200 is what you might say the B10 ripped off. It’s a small, self-contained strobe, offering modest power at 200 Ws, has a great wireless system, etc. That light is $300. I’ve used it and think it’s pretty amazing. I’ve taken some great photos with it and would be more than happy to use one for just about anything. This whole Profoto thing is seeming a little foolish then, right?
Wrong. The AD200 is pretty cool for $300. Really cool, actually. But the B10 feels like what you want out of a light of that size. It is the solution to most every problem location portrait photographers or wedding photographers have faced for decades. There are indeed some major differences that I think set the B10 well apart from its alternatives.
The Modifier Mount
The B10 has the usual Profoto mounting system and is compatible with RFI and OCF modifiers from Profoto and basically any off-brand lighting modifier that accommodates the Profoto mount, which is almost all of them.
The AD200 is seriously lacking here, and here’s why it’s frustrating. With the B10, you can have a camera bag that holds your camera and a B10, then another bag with one light stand and one softbox of your choice that fits right onto the light. Conceivably, that’s only two bags of equipment and no spare pieces to keep track of. With the AD200, to mount any softboxes, you need either a clamp-style adapter to hold the AD200 onto the back of the speedring or the Godox Dual Mount that holds the AD200 on one end and the flash tube on the other. It certainly isn’t as sturdy. At best, you have an adapter to carry with you; at the worst, you have to pull the flash tube off and assemble your light on location. Yes, it seems like a small issue, but for some photographers, that time is very precious. The B10 is a more simple unit in this respect and feels far better designed, though Godox has new lights on the horizon that could mend this sore spot somewhat. AD400 anyone?
The Stand Mount
Another small gripe, but important nonetheless. The AD200 mounts to a stand with a single 1/4” screw on either the bottom or the side. While the B10 also uses a 1/4” screw, there is a locking pin that keeps the screw from slipping at all while the light is mounted and eliminates the worry of anything coming detached. Again, a small thing, but the small things add up. Having equipment feel sturdy reduces a lot of stress while shooting.
There isn’t much in the way of service for Godox products in the U.S. as of right now. Profoto USA will pick up the phone if you call them right now with any issue. Hopefully, you won't ever need to call them, but like Canon and Nikon having CPS and NPS, respectively, service matters, and Profoto realizes that. I have had excellent experiences with them. Your mileage will certainly vary here. I personally have never broken a light from either manufacturer, but if you plan on keeping things for a long time, this might factor into your decision-making.
I worked on set with a photographer last week who was using Dynalite strobes. Let that sink in: Dynalite, in 2018. Why? Because they still worked flawlessly. Several people I know have Profoto lights that are nearly as old, still working fine. While time will certainly tell, I can’t imagine other brands will weather professional use as well as Profoto lights can. All of your equipment is an investment in your business.
Perspective: Wrapping Up
I like Profoto’s lights. I like Godox’s lights. They both make flashes that produce light, which means in the end, they will both do the same for you. Not everyone is in a position to make an investment in Profoto; some may not need flashes often enough to justify the investment. I fall into the latter category myself. But, if you are reading this article, you have at least a faint interest in flashes. What I’m telling you is that like with your camera, the investment can (key word: can) be worth it. You could shoot an entire wedding with an entry-level DSLR, but it doesn’t have super-fast autofocus and a million megapixels and (gasp) dual card slots. A higher-end camera does. Maybe you can’t justify a nicer camera right now. I certainly can’t justify buying a B10 for myself right now. All I’m saying is, don’t discount the Profoto as a statement piece just because it’s expensive. Profoto is still pushing out quality equipment that some other brands just aren't. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t discount the AD200 or any other flash just because it isn’t Profoto. If anything, the B10 is an example that unlike ever before, the lighting world is full of options. If you need it, or hell, even just want it, the B10 is awesome. If you don’t need it or can’t justify it, use whatever you can and make some cool stuff. If you scoff at Profoto’s pricing and have sworn off paying that much for equipment, that’s fine too, I’m still rocking my Paul C. Buff equipment for the few times I use flash these days. All in all, the B10 is an awesome step in the right direction for Profoto and I’m excited to get my hands on one for an actual shoot. Are you excited about the B10?