I promised a while back that I would do a comparison between the Profoto B1 and the Godox AD600 head to head. I have finally had the chance to rent and spend some time with the Profoto B1 again, and I am ready to give my thoughts on the two as they pertain to the way I shoot and the situations I spend my time in.
There have been a few comparisons out there, but nothing that really pitted the two against each other in the field, which is where they're meant to be. As an exclusively on-location shooter, I decided to throw the two in a bag and head out in the middle of the day for a personal shoot with a local model. What follows are my thoughts on that day.
My test shoot was from 2:00-5:30 PM on a below freezing day in Seoul. For that, I need to thank both the model, Christine, and my assistant for the day, Anuj Madan, for their dedication to my madness. The wind whips its way between buildings in Seoul, so "below freezing" was simply the weather report's version of the temperature we faced. I wanted to create as much drama as I could using the two flashes in both shade and bright sunlight to stress-test them both. We wound our way through an abandoned area of Seoul, switching between the two lights as we went. The modifier for the day was a Photek Softlighter II, my weapon of choice. Because I shoot Fujifilm cameras, there was no sense in comparing the TTL functions of the lights as there are no triggers available for the X System yet. What you see below was shot all manual using a Fujifilm X-T2 and Flashwave III (Impact PowerSync16) triggers. Let's get into my findings.
The first time I used the Profoto B1, I wasn't convinced. However, getting it in my hands again, it's mostly more solid and rugged than the AD600. The knobs, dials, buttons, connections, everything just feels a lot better built. Everything, that is, except for the outer shell. I'd say these two strobes are equivalent there. Both feel like they could take a knock or two.
The screen on the Profoto, although sexy, doesn't give you all the information that the Godox does. I love being able to know my flash duration at a glance so I can decide what sort of movement will be frozen. That may not bother you, but for me, it's handy at times.
In terms of the flash bulb, the Profoto gets top marks. Being hidden behind a screen and recessed into the body of the strobe, you feel a lot more comfortable tossing it into a bag. That being said, the Godox bulbs are user replaceable and significantly cheaper. If something happens in the field, you can have a second bulb in within seconds. The Profoto needs to be shipped back to the hospital.
The one connection that perhaps feels more solid on the Godox is the battery to the body. It snaps on with a more solid thud than the Profoto and doesn't feel like it's going anywhere. With metal contacts securing it to the body, it feels a lot more robust than its more expensive counterpart.
The Godox also has a nice wing nut for holding umbrella shafts in place, whereas the Profoto replies on a pressure based system that simply doesn't seem to offer any benefit aside from being different. I understand that most buyers of Profoto strobes probably have the cash to splash on those pricey Profoto modifiers, but that's no reason to challenge the status quo. There are plenty of great modifiers out there with umbrella shafts, and there's a standard for mounting them.
Overall, I'd call this a tie. This is quite surprising when you consider the price difference.
I'm really sorry, Profoto, but what were you thinking? 220 advertised full-power pops for a portable strobe in that price range. Ouch. I was warned by the rental house that their batteries were getting old, and I shouldn't even expect close to that, especially in cold weather. I told them I was planning to review it, and they gave me a battery that was a little under a month old to test it with. Let's just say I was disappointed: just under 200 pops, most of which were at less than half power.
So, let's move over to the AD600. Its advertised rating is over 500 full-power pops. After 200 shots between 1/4 and full power, the battery hadn't even lost a single bar. My battery is nearly four months old now and has been used most days since I bought it. Don't forget here that batteries are also just over half the price for the AD600. The Godox also has an AC adaptor available, which makes it convenient for prolonged studio use as well.
Let's call this one in favor of the AD600. The B1 just doesn't stand a chance here.
The Profoto weighs in at 3 kg, and as you can see from the picture below, is significantly larger than the AD600. The AD600 comes in at 2.66 kg, which makes it slightly easier to carry for the day of shooting. It can also be split into a pack and head style configuration, making it easier on an assistant if you have the light on a monopod.
I use F-Stop Gear bags, and the AD600 fits snugly in my large ICU, whereas the Profoto just bulks it up and makes everything else difficult to accommodate. So for me, this was quite annoying as well.
Again, this one goes to the AD600.
Profoto have a great collection of strobes and a great system of service in place, depending on where in the world you are. From chatting to a few people in Seoul who use their equipment exclusively, Profoto's warranty and service centers are certainly on par with the price they charge. All of their flashes work together very well, and correlating flash powers are displayed excellently. No doubt, if you live in a region that Profoto supports and have the money to buy into their system, they are a fantastic option.
On the other hand, Godox have also built an excellent flash ecosystem, including everything from speedlights to studio strobes. Most of their units are cross-compatible with their triggers, and parts are readily available on eBay and the like. For those of you who like the peace of mind of knowing that someone else will fix your gear, Godox may not be the right choice. But, you could end up with a full suite of flashes for less than the price of one Profoto unit and even have spare parts at home to boot.
This one I would say comes down to personal preference.
The Profoto unit offers slightly faster recycle times at high powers at between 0.1 and 1.9 seconds, versus the Godox with 0.01 to 2.5 seconds. Both offer good color consistency over the full power range with the Profoto swinging only 150 K in color mode and the Godox swinging only 200 K. While shooting the two, I did feel that the Profoto gave off a slightly cooler light, which could have to do with it's internal reflector and glass cover.
In terms of power output, the B1 is rated at 500 W/s and the Godox at 600 W/s. In my testing, the Godox put out just under one stop more power when inside my Softlighter II. This is really useful in daylight. However, when the B1 was fired bare and the Godox with its standard reflector, the Godox gave 2.5 stops more light than the Profoto.
In the field, I found both easy to work with and reliable. The Godox provided me with more peace of mind, knowing that I would get through the whole shoot on one battery. Both of these are excellent strobes in my opinion, and the choice should be a personal one. If you're invested in Profoto modifiers and their existing system, the B1 is a no-brainer. If you're starting out or on a budget, the Godox is an excellent choice. You won't be disappointed with either of these in the end.
Now, for the real test. Can you actually tell which frames above were shot with the Godox and which with the B1?