Fstoppers Reviews The Profoto D1 Air Monolight

If you are into studio lighting at all you have probably heard about the D1 Monolight by Profoto. These lights are known for their size, flash consistency, and of course the wireless Air Remote system. In this video I'll take you through each of my favorite and least favorite features of this flash. If you are on the fence you may want to try renting these lights first.

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47 Comments

Michael Kormos's picture

Great strobes. We're using the D1 along with their XL umbrella in our studio. Never had a complaint. The diffuser glass on the strobe is the first I've seen, really takes away that harsh light that other, unfiltered flash tubes give off.

i love my d1's profoto did a feature on a new series i'm shooting with them!http://www.profoto.com/blog/portrait-photography-2/the-many-faces-of-jua...
http://www.juanluisgarcia.com/facevalue

What is wrong with the Einstein E640 ???    you can get 3 of them for the price of the profoto.

Jaggard's picture

Rental houses don't carry a lot of AB stuff, Modifier attachment isn't as elegant.

I have to agree with Alberto and many others here. Sure the rental houses don't have AB modifiers but you can practically buy the entire Paul C. Buff modifier catalog for the price of one Profoto softbox.

Einstein + Vagabond Mini + Large Foldable Octabox + Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 + AC3 + PowerMC2 is the ultimate wedding lighting solution and all the above components add up to just $1300 MSRP. We're talking about a complete lighting system for less than the cost of just one BMW head!

With the PCB/PW system, almost every con listed by Lee is negated and the additional pros include battery portability, money in the pocket, bare bulb capability, shorter flash durations, excellent color stability, wide power adjustment range (640ws max), better customer service, inexpensive repairs, lighter weight, etc, etc, etc.

As a working wedding photographer, I've never had a client take interest in what brand my lights are. They simply want to have a great day and great photos to remember it. It seems like the Profoto gear is better suited for inflating photographer's egos than improving their photos, customer experience, or bottom line.

Jaggard's picture

Are the output & quality of light different from the pack systems with modifiers like the beauty dish & hardbox?

Lee Morris's picture

I have a D4 pack as well but I haven't done enough comparisons yet to feel comfortable commenting on this yet. 

Jaggard's picture

Rental houses don't carry a lot of AB stuff, Modifier attachment isn't as elegant.

One more issue : no bare bulb. In a softbox, it sucks. It's like a big powerful speedlight.

Jaggard's picture

Exactly!

Lee Morris's picture

I should have touched on this. Yes it isn't as wide of a throw but it is still extremely wide, almost 180 degrees 

This is a perfect review. It touched all very good points that most of us overlook when buying a new piece of equipment. I bought Elinchrom and they work for me but I really don't like that my Style RX600 don't have a protector for the light bulb which is very expensive to replace. I love Fstoppers. Best website ever. :)

Thanks Lee for detail review.

I'd love to see how these compare to something really cheap like alienbees or white lightning.

Lee Morris's picture

Obviously these are the BMW of lights. You are paying for a few luxuries that nobody has to have but many may want. When you really think about the basics (it's just a flash) you are not going to have a massive difference in image quality compared to cheaper lights. Yes the Profoto may be slightly more consistent, reliable, brighter, and have a few more options for modifiers but it's possible to take almost the exact same image with a cheaper strobe just like it may be possible to take the exact same image with a cheaper camera or cheaper lens. 

All I know is that since I've been using these at weddings, they have made my life much easier and they have never not fired. 

Jaron Schneider's picture

Reliability is king in this industry. 

Alex Ting's picture

I'm pretty sure using a beauty dish is ok with these but would want to use a C-Stand (vs reg stands) and some sandbags for stand and counter weight for boom.

Profoto gear is good when you have the budget but they and all the others still can't beat an Einstein head for it's amazing short flash duration for freezing movement especially liquid, Paul Buff came from behind and then passed the all big names.

www.photoshoot.com.mx

I would recommend people check what they need before they do get the 1000 watt version - that could be serious overkill in a small studio and lead to more problems than it would solve.

And the lack of an "auto dump" feature seems really quite a glaring omission from such a high end flash...

The D1000 does have an auto dump.

The dump takes longer when you go from high power, say 10 down to 5. This takes about 5 seconds for the beep to sound to indicate the dump has completed (most people don't wait for the beep). Powering down from 7 to 6 is about 1 sec.

I agree with this. Don't just buy the highest power ones you can buy "just in case" or "to be safe".

The 1000 models don't go as low as the 500 and 250.
I bought a pair of Elinchrom BXRi 500 lights and even on the lowest setting I have to shoot at f/11 or higher in the studio at my normal subject-to-light distance using elinchroms Portalite softboxes (only one diffusor, could probably go a stop wider with the Rotalux ones)
In fact, the 250w/s Profotos should be enough for most people indoors and they also let you shoot at f/2.8, which the 500 and 1000's doesn't (assuming the lights are fairly close to your subject) without ND'ing either the lights or the lens.

Jason Peters's picture

lets be honest with each other here... Profoto's flash duration sucks compared to the competition (8a excluded)

I'd add two more gripes.

The D1 mount, (the mount that attaches it to a stand, not the modifier mount) doesn't allow the light to tip back far enough to point straight up, (i.e. vertical, at a ceiling, etc) from a regular light stand. You need to sit a D1 on its end, on the floor or a table or something. Or you have to mount the light on a grip arm.  This can be a major hassle. Sat on their end, you can't access any of the controls, or see what's going on. On a grip arm, they are heavy and a bit unweildy.

And, great as Profoto's modifier mounting system is (it is fantastic), it does make for bulky reflectors that do not pack down in groups. Not a major problem unless you travel alot with multiple reflectors.

Hello I'm leaving in France and there is a online website about the photography, which as tested the D1 250 in a more accurate and objective way than you've done.

I appreciate all your videos Lee, but this one looks like some advert for profoto.

Profoto isn't the BMW of the light studio, and even if they are making good stuff and a lot of modifiers, their products aren't as good as their price!!!! the quality/price comparison is simply awfully bad!

In the french review, they have measured the temperature all the power, and found a lot of variations : between min power and max there is 500 kelvins of differences!!! It's bad! 

the guide number announced of the profoto D1 250 is 23! like a cobra flash.

And the finish: the price! You can have about 2x or 3x more flash for the price of just one D1, and the modifiers cost a lung, an eye, and a arm!

Moreover, profoto isn't well distibuted in France! if you have a problem.... you can prepare the rope.

The link of the test : http://www.focus-numerique.com/test-1278/eclairage-profoto-d1-250-1.html

From France with love!
 

Lee Morris's picture

Hey Charlie, I tried to stay as objective as I could for my review and I didn't touch on things like color temp and flash duration simply because I didn't have the other gear to compare it to. I cannot argue that Profoto is extremely expensive and you can get quality flashes for a fraction of the cost. I believe there are some features that justify their price for SOME users and I tried to present those. 

On the topic of size:

It's a manufacturing decision. The mass produce 1 shape, and change the guts accordingly.

Paul buff managed the issue by having different colors. They went with the corporate look...

Pixyst's picture

Thanks Lee for another well considered and thoroughly thought out review. It appears that you have not given serious consideration to Paul C. Buff's Einstein 640, as this model enjoys all the benefits you praise in the Profotos and address all the negatives that you mention. 

So the Einstein has all these

Pros
Full control from the remote
Reliability
Wide range of attachments
Simple speed-ring adapter

As for the Cons
No indication of actual power setting - The Cybersync has a visual indicator for up to 16 units that tells you not just the power level it is set to but also the actual metered output - the remote controller doubles as a flash meter.
Fan noise - None when the unit is off and reasonably quiet when switched on.
Battery indicator - Shows when battery is running low
AAA batteries - Sorry I don't agree that this is a problem at all. I use rechargeable and have a spare set in my camera bag - no issue at all.
Auto dump - The Einstein auto dumps, you lower the power and fire away no need to dump power.
Weight - I am able to put an Einstein with a 64inch

BTW - a tip to tell your heads apart is to have different color tape 

I think that a third of the price (less) and considering the exemplary support that Paul C. Buff provides makes it extremely difficult for me to be impressed by the Profotos.

Did I mention extremely short flash duration and color stability?

Lee Morris's picture

I've heard many photographers say how much they love Einstein and after this comment I'll have to get them for a review. Thanks!

Mike Kelley's picture

I love my einsteins but the fan noise makes me want to kill myself. That alone makes me want to buy profoto, but I can't because I am poor from surfing and traveling instead of working. 

Derek matarangas's picture

I use to own Alien Bees and I think they are a great flash kit. They are very strong, and a great value with great customer service. (Maybe even better then Profoto shhh....) 

I sold them about a year ago and purchased a 7B and two heads and I will never look back. I rather sell my camera then my Profoto equipment. Images are sharper and obviously more consistent. One other point that might sound silly to some Is I don't want to show up to a big budgets shoot with yellow and pink strobes with little alien bees logo on them.  You just need the product to work and on very few occasion the Alien Bees or the Vagabond II wouldn't work properly but the Profoto gets beat to hell and it always work. 

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