For anyone who appreciates the use of flash, there comes a point in photography work when you want more power than a standard speedlite can offer. Many strobe options provide more power, but require you to be tied up to power outlets. Few strobes offer a simple portable lighting option. Many would contend the Profoto B1 is currently the best self contained portable strobe on the market. That may be changing with Impact's newly released strobe, the Venture TTL 600.
Profoto is considered by many to offer some of the best strobes in the industry. They offer an array of high quality lights which let you interchange modifiers in one cohesive system. The B1 is one of their top lights with a built in battery pack giving the user ease of use in the field and enough power to overpower the sun. However, one if their biggest downsides is the $2,000+ price tag that comes with a single light. When we heard the new Venture TTL 600 offered even more power than the B1 and was over half the cost at only $999, we decided to run it through a few basic tests to see how the two match up.
The first point of interest we wanted to test is the total power output each flash can produce. The Profoto B1 is rated to have a 500 Ws (watt second) power output at full power. The Venture TTL 600 is rated to have a 600 Ws output. To see if these numbers held true, we placed both strobes side by side about 10 feet away from our subject. Before firing the lights, we placed both flashes in the power modes that produces the highest output. The Venture TTL 600 has a mode that can be changed to optimize for flash power or recycle time (adjusted by holding the Sound/Fn button and tapping the power button). We placed it into the mode which maximizes power and has a slower recycle time of three seconds. The B1 has a setting that maximizes color consistency vs flash power so it was placed in the setting that maximized power. After everything was ready, we fired both strobes at full power toward a gray card, an Fstoppers Flashdisc to see what kind of light they produced. Our camera was set to 1/200, F11, low ISO, and 5500K white balance.
One of the first things you'll notice is that the Venture TTL 600 produces slightly warmer light than the B1. If you look closely, you'll also notice the Venture TTL 600 image is also slightly overexposed compared to the B1 shot. This supports the extra 100 Ws power rating that the Venture TTL 600 claims. When you break down the amount of light, you're only adding close to 1/3 of a stop more than the B1, but for a light that's smaller and cheaper, that's still impressive.
Although we didn't test it in the studio, the number of flash pops each light can produce off a single battery is something worth noting. The user manual for the Venture TTL 600 claims each battery can produce around 500 flash pops (dependent on use with modeling light, riapid firing, and environmental conditions). Profoto's website claims a B1 can produce up to 220 full powered flash pops off a single battery.
Our next test was to compare the recycle rates of each flash at full power. While the B1 maintains a consistent recycle rate of two seconds at full power, the Venture TTL 600 has different recycle rates depending on the power mode it is placed in. For our first test we kept the Venture TTL 600 in the setting that maximizes power and has a longer recycle time of three seconds. When we fired both flashes consistently at three seconds or longer, each maintained consistent power outputs without misfiring. Once we pushed faster than a three second recycle time, the Venture TTL 600 started to mis shots.
In order to keep the competitive edge fair and push recycle times to their fastest duration, we swapped the Venture TTL 600 into it's second power mode, which prioritizes recycle time over power. In this setting, the strobe is rated to have a recycle time of only 1.2 seconds. Once this change was in place, the Venture TTL 600 kept up with the B1 with shots every two seconds, although their power outputs did seem to be more comparable with the adjusted power setting.
When we pushed both strobes beyond their fastest recommended recycle times and shot an image every one second, we got interesting results. The Profoto B1 fired every shot but seemed to maintain a consistently lower power output. The Venture TTL 600 put out a normal power output for every other frame, and misfired every other frame.
Although the best recycle time of the Venture TTL 600 did seem better than the B1, in most situations, you won't be shooting at full power rapidly. If you're shooting architecture or portraits, the difference between 1.2, two, or even three seconds is a generally acceptable wait time between frames. If you are shooting something like sports that does require as fast a recycle time as possible, the Impact light does have a slight edge over the Profoto.
Although the modeling lights of both strobes produced about the same output of constant light, it seemed worth it to mention the difference in color cast. The Venture TTL 600 has a modeling light with a daylight white balance whereas the B1 has a modeling light has a much warmer tungsten color balance.
The final basic comparison we wanted to try was to test the range of each brand's triggers. The Impact trigger is rated to shoot a max range of 100m. The Profoto trigger is rated to shoot at 300m (with only 100m range when shooting TTL). We went to a local park with a fairly clear, unobstructed view and placed the lights side by side at one end of the park. I then walked away at regular increments, stopping to turn and trigger the flash with each trigger.
When I got close to 100m, the Venture TTL started to miss frames intermittently. When I passed the 100m point, it did not fire at all.
The B1, however, fired consistently all the way till the end of the park, which was at least if not farther than 300m.
While the B1 clearly out competes the Venture TTL 600 in range, the extra distance may not be that necessary for the majority of photographers. If you're a wedding or portrait photographer, most situations or venues you're shooting in wont require you to be more than 100 m away from your subject. In rare instances you may want the extra 200 m the B1 can offer, but in general, 100 m is plenty to work with.
Although our tests were not all encompassing, Impact's new Venture TTL 600 seemed to keep up with, if not perform better than the B1 for the majority of our comparisons. For the average photographer who wants more power than a speedlite can offer, Profoto gives you a complete system of studio strobes, mobile strobes, and modifiers that all work together. They are also one of the most commonly used and trusted brands in the industry. If you're ever in need of gear, any major photography store or rental company around will likely carry Profoto. On the other hand, if you're simply looking for a high powered strobe that fires reliably and produces enough light to overpower the sun, the Venture TTL 600 seems like it is a much more efficient choice. It is competitive in almost every area to the B1. Better yet, you will be able to buy two Venture TTL 600 lights for every one B1 you can afford.