The Profoto B10 is here, and it's one of the most exciting advancements in lighting that I've seen in years.
Months ago Patrick and I received a cryptic message from Profoto inviting us to an all expense paid trip to Alaska in September. Of course we agreed to go but Profoto refused to tell us what the event was about or who would be there. When we arrived we met a strange group of photographers. Many of them were famous studio, portrait, and wedding photographers while a large portion were famous "influencers" and "Instagramers" who had never used a strobe before. I actually started to wonder if Profoto was about to announce a new mirrorless camera.
Luckily Profoto wasn't planning on competing with Sony, and instead they revealed the Profoto B10, a portable battery powered strobe with a color shifting LED for video that can also work on AC power. The B10 can also sync a LED flash with an smartphone to get studio lit shots without the need for a pro camera. At this point it all made sense. Profoto had made a light that could "do it all" in an extremely small package and they wanted to sell it to every photographer, even the ones who haven't considered buying lighting. I knew how special the B10 was from the moment I saw it, but for the next two days, they took us through every possible feature and function of the light. By the end of this event, everyone, including the instagrammers would want one.
Why is the B10 special?
The B10 is shockingly small. It's about the size of two speedlights. It's a strobe first but it also has a very powerful LED that is actually designed to work with video. Best of all, this is the first monolight Profoto has ever produced that can be used while it is charging. This means that the B10 is actually a great choice for studio photographers as well.
The battery that is included with the unit is capable of 400 full power flashes or around 700 flashes at half power. If you're using the LED for video, it can remain lit at full power for 90 minutes. Unlike the Profoto B1 and B1X, the charging port is no longer hidden while attached to the flash. This means that the battery is able to charge and power the B10 at the same time. This feature means that you may not need to buy extra batteries. If you were shooting a wedding for instance, you could leave the B10 plugged in at the church and reception but use battery power for outdoor portraits.
Profoto has really stepped up their game when it comes to design. Obviously the flash is small, but everything about it feels high end. I was told that the B10 does have a fan but nothing about this light feels hollow and there are no noticeable holes for a fan. During my 4 days with this light, the fan has never come on, and if it has, I certainly couldn't tell. As a videographer who is constantly worried about sound, this was extremely important to me. The screen on the back is now a high res color display. The buttons and UI have been simplified and updated too. The bottom of the B10 has a quarter inch thread which allows you to easily mount it to a tripod directly or you can use the included tilting umbrella bracket to attach it to a light-stand. There are a few issues I have with this light but in my opinion the physical design of this light is flawless.
Profoto claims that the B10 is as powerful as five speedlights. We put this to the test and found that the B10 is comparable to around 2.5 speedlights or around 1.3 extra stops of flash power. Keep in mind that our test was far from scientific and if our results are disproven, we will happily update this. We didn't have another LED light with us to compare the power output of the constant light but the B10 appeared to have similar output to our Fiilex 360EX light which we are currently using in our studio. The Fiilex light is not particularly bright but we use it because it will accept all of our Profoto light modifiers. The LED light is not powerful enough to be used outside unless the sun has set but it may be enough for studio work.
The Profoto Air Remote is basically a mandatory accessory to this light. The light itself has a receiver built in but you will need an Air Remote to put on your camera to trigger it. The remote is extremely reliable over long distances and it also allows you to change the power output of multiple lights remotely, but it does have one major inconvenience... Even though the remote allows you to change the power of the flash, it doesn't actually show you the flash output so you will still find yourself staring at the back of the light to figure out your settings. Profoto has partially fixed this by introducing a new iPhone App that has this missing feature.
The Smartphone App
The B10 is capable of connecting to your smartphone via bluetooth and with the new Profoto app you will be able to see and control the settings on each of the lights. This seems particularly useful to me if you were using the lights for a video and you couldn't easily reach them. With the app you can turn lights on and off, dim them, and color shift them individually. Using the app during a still photoshoot, like a wedding, feels more cumbersome than helpful to me but I'm sure some photographers will like it.
The Profoto app also has a camera function built in that will use the LEDs in a high powered "flash" mode that is capable of syncing with a phone's digital shutter. This will allow photographers to get even better looking shots with their phones. I'm not sure that I personally will ever need this feature but I can certainly understand why Instagrammers will love it.
This is where Profoto is probably going to lose most of you; the B10 is $1595 for one and $3195 for two and it comes with a custom backpack. Some photographers will be able to justify paying this while most will not, but that is right where Profoto likes to be. If you were on a budget, you could buy a flash and a color shifting LED panel for less than $100 on Amazon but the B10 is all about convenience. If you want one light that can do it all, and can be used with battery or AC power and can be controlled wirelessly, this may be the only option at the moment. I really wish Profoto could have made the B10 $999 and at that price they would have truly made a light that would be appealing to almost every photographer, but at $1600 it's certainly not for everyone.
Profoto is betting a lot on the new B10, and I think I know why. I bet it will become the most successful Profoto product they've ever released. Is it for everyone? Of course not, it's extremely expensive, but everything Profoto makes is extremely expensive. Most photographers can't justify these prices because they don't rely on these features but if you're a professional, paying the premium for a light like this might actually be a really easy decision. The B10 is actually capable of replacing three different lights: AC powered strobes, battery powered strobes, and a color shifting LED. When you look at it that way, the price begins to make a little more sense. If I was still shooting weddings I would probably buy three of these and I would use them as studio lights during the week, battery powered lights for on location portraits, and then I would plug them in during wedding receptions. But, if you don't need a light that can "do it all" there are so many other cheaper options to consider as well. I've been shooting with Profoto for years now and I love their system but I'm the first to admit that it's a luxury branding with a luxury price.
I'm personally very excited about the B10. Yes I can always wish for more power and a lower price tag but for the way I shoot, this little light is about as close to perfect as I could wish for.