Recently announced at the head of WPPI a couple weeks ago, was the Profoto B2 strobe system. The unit, small in comparison of its competitors, was arguably the most exciting product announcement this year at the popular photography convention. However, the burning question everyone has been asking is… is 250Ws enough for on location work like Profoto suggests?
Admittedly, I was one of the biggest skeptics. If you’re at all familiar with my work, you know that I have a habit of using intricate lighting arrangements on location, paired with ND filters to stop down the ambient light, allowing me to shoot at f/1.2-f/3.5 for the majority of my work. Because of this, I am typically overpowering the sun, firing at full power to achieve the lighting I need to overpower both the 4-8 stops of ND on my lens and harsh desert sun while maintaining a shallow depth of field. So when I’m maxing out my Profoto B1s at 500Ws, I have to assume that the Profoto B2’s 250Ws is not nearly enough, right? Wrong.
Light works slightly different than what one might think. You’d assume that 500Ws would give you twice the power that 250Ws would give you, giving you a massive advantage in power and versatility, but it doesn’t work quite like that. Sure - it’s double the power, but that equivalents to about 1 additional stop of light in total. You see, one stop of light refers to either doubling the light, or cutting the light output in half. So with that said, the Profoto B2s are only one stop short of what the Profoto B1s and other popular strobes are. So when shooting at 1/200th of a second at f/2 at 500Ws, the same can be achieved using 1/200th of a second at f/1.4 at 250Ws coming from your strobe. Here, let’s get a visual out of the way to hammer this idea home.
As the picture above illustrates, even on a clear sunny day in New Mexico, the B2s are more than enough power to overpower the sun. Each photo was taken at the same time, using the same modifiers. One was with a Profoto B2 at full power (250Ws) while the other one was with a Profoto B1 at full power (500Ws). By simply stopping down the aperture a full stop, we were able to get very similar results. This is because for each doubling of power in Watt seconds, you'll gain only one stop of additional light. Additional examples of the Profoto B2 overpowering the sun can be found below --
High Speed Sync Functionality
Another function to address with the new Profoto B2s is the High Speed Sync (HSS) functionality built into the unit. This allows you to shoot at sync speeds faster than 1/200th of a second, by firing multiple strobe flashes during the duration of the shutter opening and closing. This allows you to stop down on ambient light, without effecting the off camera flash (with the exception of power limitations). While firing at 1/8000th of a second means you'll be losing power from your strobe as well (it can only fire so many times at full power firing 1/8000th of a second), I've found that it works well at maintaining consistent lighting power, while still overpowering the sun. While using HSS sync will cut the power consumption down on the strobes, it cuts down the power at a much slower rate than an ND filter would at full stops.
If you'd like to know more about lighting and test out the Profoto B2 (and B1) strobes for yourself, I am hosting a series of two day workshops all over the United States in the coming months. These workshops are 2 day workshops where day one focuses on lighting using off camera flashes in an outdoor environment, and day 2 focusing entirely on marketing your business and high end retouching. With over 15 hours of education, the seating of these workshops are extremely limited, and can be reserved on my workshop website. The first set of workshops are set to take place in Miami, FL, Phoenix, AZ, and Denver, CO.