Updated May 16, 2015: See the end of this blog post for an update on the Profoto B1. I recently got a chance to see the B1s in action using High Speed Sync and I saw first hand how my assessment of these units was right on.
Updated January 3, 2016: See the end of this blog post for links to other blog posts I wrote for the Elinchrom blog and a review of the new Skyport Plus HS that appears in my Fall 2015 Newsletter.
With the introduction of the Elinchrom ELB 400 last week, I thought I would add to my review of that unit and compare it to it’s main competitor, the Profoto B1. I will also add some comments on the Profoto B2 sporadically and at the end of this article. It isn’t often that I compare and contrast two pieces of photo equipment here on the blog (or in my Newsletter) but the marketing hype surrounding the Profoto B1 is so over the top that I feel an honest appraisal of these two units will shed some light on the tech specs that really matter to working photographers. Hence, I am going to be very frank here with my comments on both of these units. Many of you know, especially if you read my previous review of the ELB 400, that I am sponsored by Elinchrom. I am not writing this comparison to bash Profoto. They make some stellar products. So do Broncolor and Hensel for that matter. I have used the high-end Profoto B4 battery-powered strobe on a shoot where I had to rent some gear (since I didn’t have enough Elinchrom gear for that assignment) and I was mighty impressed with the build quality and ruggedness of the B4. The B4 was a bit on the hefty side for my needs but still it was impressive in its capabilities. The Profoto B1 is another excellent product. A big part of what I want to demystify here is the over-the-top marketing that has been so craftily sculpted on the part of Profoto.
For this comparison, I am going to delve into a number of topics and compare the ELB 400 and the B1. I have used both of these strobes – and at this early stage I might be one of a handful who have actually used both of these strobe kits since the ELB 400 isn’t even available yet. I have owned and used the Elinchrom Quadras for five or more years, and I have shot with the Profoto B1 as well. I will admit, I have a lot more experience with the Quadras and the ELB 400 than I do with the B1, as you might have surmised from the last sentence. I have spent the last two months testing the ELB 400 for Elinchrom and because of that time and my previous experience with the Quadras, I know that system quite well. The topics I aim to talk about here are more on the tech side of things and are readily apparent to the educated strobe user. Nevertheless, if you are an owner of the Profoto B1 and find that I have made any mistakes please feel free to drop me a note in the comments section below.
Below is a chart showing the various specs of the ELB 400 and the B1 and B2. I have noted in this chart the best specs in red for each specification, though I have left the B2 out of that comparison since it is a strange bird in terms of light output. I’ll be referencing these specs throughout this article. Dig in, this is going to be an in-depth, long winded comparison.
Through-The-Lens (TTL) Flash Metering
Right off the bat, I have to acknowledge that Profoto was pretty inventive when they introduced TTL (Through-The-Lens) flash metering capabilities with the B1. For a few years prior to the B1’s introduction, I had thought that it was only a matter of time before a major strobe manufacturer incorporated TTL into a high-end strobe. Having tried it out on the B1, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it works. But it is still TTL. I know for many folks out there, having the option to use TTL with the Profoto B1 is the main selling point of these strobes. That is why I am putting this topic right up front here.
As anyone who has used TTL before knows, it leads to inconsistent flash exposures depending on your framing and how your camera communicates with the flash. So the big question here is, “Is this a useful option?” Indeed, I can think up a few scenarios where having TTL capabilities would make life easier. If the subject is moving very quickly towards the camera and I want to light them accurately, then TTL flash metering could be very useful though the jury is still out on how well I could trust the TTL metering capabilities of the B1.
For many years now I have been working with all manual strobes and creating amazing images without any issues. One reason I would be afraid to use TTL in instances where something is going to only happen once (as in a sporting event) is that I don’t know what it will do when it pops the flash. In other words, automation makes me worry because I am not in full control of the flash head. As a pro, who shoots adventure sports, where athletes are often risking life and limb, we are in the business of limiting our risk of failure. When using strobes, I am always in Manual exposure mode on the camera. When I set the strobe to fire, I want to know it is going to give me consistent output from flash to flash so I can nail down the exposure. If I am using a wide angle lens I will also set up the shot so so that I can use a hyperfocal distance setting on the lens and have everything in focus – and then I will turn off the autofocus so I can concentrate on getting the image. It is the same thing for the flash output, once I get it dialed in, I don’t want it to change.
The TTL capabilities of the Profoto B1 are not built into the strobe itself, instead the TTL is controlled via the Profoto Air Remote TTL transceiver (above, middle right) that sits on top of the camera. Elinchrom’s Skyport Transceiver (above, far right) is due for an upgrade if it wants to keep up with Profoto so I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point TTL and other capabilities are incorporated into a new Skyport transceiver to give the ELB 400 more advanced functionality and possibly TTL capabilities. Note that this last comment is just a guess on my part. I have no knowledge of Elinchrom pursuing this.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying having the option to shoot in TTL is a bad thing. It is just another option. There are only one or two other strobes on the market that even have TTL as an option. The ELB 400 does not have this option. One thing to note is the actual TTL capabilities are not built into the Profoto B1 but in the Profoto Air Remote TTL transceiver that controls the B1. That is why there are separate models of the Air Remote for Nikon and Canon. I can see Elinchrom (and every other manufacturer) following suit on this TTL push and adding TTL capabilities into their transceivers. Or, if Elinchrom doesn’t add it, I can easily see PocketWizard adding TTL functionality into the ControlTL system transceivers.
Score one here for Profoto.
[A quick note here before we start this section. When I reference flash durations I am referencing the t0.5 flash durations. As this is the most common flash durations nomenclature, I will use this to compare the B1 and the ELB 400.]
Let’s get down to brass tacks here and talk about flash durations. Profoto has been advertising their super fast flash durations for quite a while now starting with the B4 and continuing with the B1 and B2. With the Profoto B4, released a few years ago, the ad, which ran in all the photo mags, talked about a blazing fast flash duration of 1/25,000th second. The image used to communicate this fast flash duration was of an athlete standing in the dark and having water thrown at him from both sides. Now, first off, it’s a cool image. No doubts there. But, if you didn’t know much about strobes and how they work you may not have realized that you could have saved yourself $10,000 and shot the exact same image with a few Nikon or Canon Speedlights. How you ask? That crazy fast 1/25,000th second flash duration is pretty slow compared to my Nikon SB-910. As you can see in the image below, pulled straight out of my trusty Nikon SB-910 manual, it lists the flash durations and they are mighty impressive. Note that at 1/32nd power I can get a flash duration of 1/20,000th second. At the lowest power setting on the SB-910 I can get a flash duration of 1/38,500th second!
Now, this example of how fast your Speedlights are compared to the Profoto B4 isn’t to say that the B4 is a bad product in any way. It is just that the marketing leads you to believe you can’t get these fast flash durations without spending $10,000. The interesting fact here is that at the power setting on the B4, where the super fast 1/25,000th second flash duration resides, I am getting about the same amount of light output as a couple of Nikon SB-910 Speedlights can put out at 1/32nd power for 1/10th the cost of a B4. Because there is only a tiny amount of light being output by the flash you are now starting to understand why that ad with the athlete and the water was shot in the dead of night — because they needed very dark ambient lighting conditions to make it work. The B4 can’t really stop motion at all because of it’s long flash duration at the full power setting. The speed mode on the B4 doesn’t kick in until you drop the power down to the 5.8 setting, which is over four stops down from full power, meaning you have less than 125 Ws of light output at that setting.
By now, you might be wondering why I am going on and on about this flash duration business and why I am talking about the Profoto B4 instead of the B1. The reason I went though all this is that Profoto talks about how fast the B1 is, just like they did with the B4. But in reality the B1 (and the B2 for that matter) have a flash duration of 1/1,000th second at their highest power settings. Sure it has a flash duration of 1/19,000th second at it’s lowest power settings but I can get that same flash duration or faster with a Speedlight. As for the full power flash duration of 1/1,000th second on the B1, the image below, shot with the ELB 400 and the Pro Flash Head, which has a flash duration of 1/1,200th second, shows how the 1/1,000th second flash duration on the B1 and B2 is going to be worthless for action photography.
For my work, and for most photographers working with strobes, even if they are just photographing models, the more important flash duration specification is how fast the flash duration is at the highest power settings. This is where the ELB 400 is going to blow the doors off the B1 and the B2. In fact, there is a reason that so many sports photographers use Elinchrom strobes as many of their strobes (all of their Pack and Head type strobes at least) have the option to use “Action” flash heads with very short flash durations at the full-power settings. The ELB 400 with one Action flash head has a flash duration of 1/2,800th second at full power in the A port. If you plug in two Action heads, you can get an even faster 1/4,000th second flash duration at full power. Since I regularly have to light an athlete from 20 to 60 feet away while they perform I need the shortest possible flash duration at the full power setting.
With the Elinchrom ELB 400 you have the option to get the Action head with a fast flash duration at full power or to go with the Pro head, which has a flash duration of 1/1,200th second at full power. Here is where the statement in my review of the ELB 400, where I said it is one of the most versatile strobes in this category starts to prove itself. If I want to shoot at 1/250th second shutter speeds and below but want a fast flash duration to stop action, then their is an option. With the Profoto B1, which has a 1/1,000th second flash duration at full power, your options are limited. You could buy or rent more B1s and line them up to get more light output and faster flash durations at the lower power settings but this is a cumbersome option at best. You could also use High Speed Sync with the B1, which we will talk about in the next section, but that isn’t always a viable option depending on how far your subject is from the strobe.
So if you bought a Profoto B1, this is likely where you are going to be let down – with the slow flash durations. Score a big one for the Elinchrom ELB 400 here.
Hypersync vs. High Speed Sync (HSS)
The Profoto B1, and B2, both have the option to use a High Speed Sync (HSS) mode. This technology is similar to how Speedlights from Nikon and Canon work. When you push your shutter speed higher than it’s normal sync speed (usually above 1/250th sec) the flash will emit a continuous burst of low power flashes to illuminate the entire image as the slit opening of the shutter moves across the frame. Of course, to do this, the flash must emit much lower power flashes because it is firing so rapidly. Below is a diagram showing how HSS works.
In the diagram above, you can see how High-Speed Sync works. The top part of the diagram shows how a flash works when the shutter speed is at the highest sync speed or below (i.e. < 1/250th sec). The bottom part of the diagram shows how the flash emits a high speed series of low power flashes to illuminate the entire image when a shutter speed above the sync speed (i.e. > 1/250th sec) is chosen.
The Elinchrom ELB 400 has the ability to use Hypersync when paired with the PocketWizard ControlTL transceivers. For those who don’t know what Hypersync is, it is the ability to shoot with DSLR cameras at shutter speeds above the normal sync speed except in this case the strobe needs to have a slow flash duration allowing the transceiver to time the flash so that your exposure takes a slice out of the brightest part of the flash. For example with my Nikon D800 and D4, the normal flash sync speed is 1/250th second. With Hypersync technology, I have been able to shoot at shutter speeds up to 1/4000th second with my Elinchrom Ranger strobes and very close to that with the ELB 400. In effect, you get a smaller amount of the light illuminating your image because you are only using a slice of the full light output, but since you can use a higher shutter speed and darken the background this allows you to overpower daylight with less light output. With Hypersync, the flash is not emitting a burst of low power flashes but one big burst of light. In my experience, you get a lot more light power when using Hypersync as opposed to HSS. With the ELB 400, Hypersync is available when using the Pro Head and the PocketWizard ControlTL transceivers. The old Quadras have been able to work in Hypersync mode for quite some time now so this isn’t anything new on the ELB 400.
Not having used the Profoto B1 in HSS mode, I can’t say how well they perform in this mode. But from what I have seen, if you are relatively close to the subject or in shaded or darker situations it works quite well. Also, by combining the TTL and HSS modes, just like a Speedlight does, you have a very easy to use HSS option. With either brand here you have the option to use shutter speeds above your normal sync speed.
I’d say in real world experience, Hypersync is going to be more useful than the HSS technology in the Profoto B1 and B2 if you need to light a subject that is far away from the flash head. If the subject is close, within ten to fifteen feet, then both units will perform similarly. When you get the flash head farther away than that, only the Hypersync will be able to overpower daylight in full sun. Because of this, I’d give the edge to the ELB 400 using Hypersync.
How they deal with the Elements
I have yet to see any other strobe on the market (save for strobes made for use underwater) that are as weatherproof as the Elinchrom ELB 400, the Rangers and the older Quadras. I have taken my Elinchrom battery-powered strobes into some very hostile environments and they have seen it all and kept on performing shot after shot. Profoto makes some bomber-gear. Their strobes are incredibly well-built and that is why rental houses across the United States predominantly rent Profoto strobes. Even so, I have known a few adventure photographers that used to shoot with Profoto strobes who moved over to Elinchrom gear because they killed Profoto power packs while shooting in snowy or wet conditions. I realize this is a small point, but these are battery-powered strobes meant to be used outside the studio or home and as such the new ELB 400 continues the tradition of being extremely weatherproof.
While I haven’t tested the Profoto B1 extensively in tough weather conditions, the way the battery attaches to the side of the head and the slits on the rear and sides of the flash head would give me pause in inclement weather. As you can see in the images above, I have had the ELB 400 in some wet snow and seriously cold weather and it didn’t skip a beat.
Battery Life and Recycling Speed
When it comes to battery-powered strobes, the battery life and recycling speed of a unit is a big deal. In terms of battery life, the new ELB 400 wins in this comparsion. It allows for 350 full power flashes while the B1 only gets 220 full power flashes and the B2 allows for only 215 full power flashes. What that boils down to is you can keep on shooting for longer periods without having to carry or buy extra batteries.
In terms of recycling times, the ELB 400 comes in at 1.6 seconds at full power, which isn’t bad at all for such a compact unit. The B1 by comparison takes 1.9 seconds but having 76 Ws more power than the ELB 400 I would call this a draw. The B2 recycles in 1.35 seconds, but we are only dealing with 250 Ws of power so that seems a bit slow compared to the ELB 400. The reality is these are all fairly fast when it comes to recycling speeds.
Monobloc Design vs. Pack and Head Design
One of the other big marketing buzzwords Profoto is using is that the B1 is an all-in-one setup, i.e. there are no cords to connect, which makes for an easier setup. While it may take a few second less to plop the B1 onto a light stand, you still have to set up the light stand and attach a light modifier to the strobe just as with any other setup. Sure that is a feature to talk about but anyone who has ever used a big strobe knows that the flash head itself, is just a small part of the dog and pony show known as lighting. The five extra seconds it will take to screw in a flash head to a separate power pack isn’t going to mean you miss the picture. Slowing down is what strobes are all about.
I am very happy that Elinchrom has chosen to keep the separate pack and head design with the ELB 400. I own a few monobloc strobes and while they are great in the studio, once you put them up high it is a pain to have to lower the flash head and modifier to change a few settings on the back of the unit. I realize that many settings can be changed on the transceiver on top of the camera but in all cases there are some settings that can’t be changed anywhere but on the monobloc. Monobloc designs are also quite a bit heavier when it comes time to mount them on a light modifier, like inside an Elinchrom Octabank. I wouldn’t dare mount my monobloc strobe inside an Octabank as it would stress the mount quite a bit and be a beast to lock down. With the separate power pack and head design of the ELB 400, and especially the lightweight nature of the Pro and Action flash heads, they are so lightweight that you can get away without even using a stand and they don’t require a big, hefty light stand to put them on. Since this is meant to be a fast and light strobe system, this is a critical fact that you may not think about when debating which brand to go with.
I have also used the Elinchrom Quadras on a number of assignments where the assistant hung the power pack over their shoulder and held the flash head attached to a medium sized softbox with one hand. On those assignments, we dispensed with light stands all together for greater mobility. Try holding a 6.6 Pound mono bloc with a two or three pound light modifier over your head for five or ten minutes and you’ll think the ELB 400 starts to make a lot more sense.
Above is a portrait shot with the Elinchrom ELB 400 and the Pro Head. When shooting subjects that aren’t moving the slower flash durations of the Pro Head (or the Profoto B1) are not an issue. This is a close up of expert skier John Fullbright taken at the Taos Ski Valley near Taos, New Mexico.
Stroboscopic, Sequence and Delay Modes
The ELB 400 has three additional advanced modes that offer very specific options but are not available on any other strobe out there save for the Elinchrom ELC Pro HDs. These modes are great for getting creative and creating images that are way outside the norm. See my review of the ELB 400 for a run down on these advanced features.
Looking at the Profoto B2
In this review, I have only mentioned the B2 here and there as an afterthought for the most part. It seems like a copycat product that resembles the ELB 400 quite a bit but with one major distinction – the fact that it is only 250 Ws. I have a hard time seeing who is going to buy the Profoto B2 as 250 Ws of light output is not a whole lot to work with, especially with a price tag of $2,195 for a one head kit. Of note, a similar kit with the older Quadras is only $1,500 on B&H and you get 400 Ws of light output.
Profoto has been marketing the B1 by saying that it “has ten times the power of the average Speedlight.” I don’t know which Speedlights they are talking about but my Nikon SB-910 Speedlights can put out about 80 to 100 Ws of light, so their math is a little off, or perhaps they are talking about much cheaper Speedlights. Either way, if two Nikon SB-910 Speedlights or two Canon 600EX-RT Speedlites put out around 200 Ws let’s say – and are quite a bit cheaper than the Profoto B2, then why would anyone by the B2? The Nikon and Canon Speedlights have TTL technology and High Speed Sync (HSS). You could buy four top-end Speedlights from Canon or Nikon for the same price as one B2 setup and have 300 to 400 Ws of light, four separate flashes and all for about the same weight as the Profoto B2. So, I don’t understand why anyone would buy the B2. This fact is also the reason that I compared the ELB 400 to the Profoto B1 instead of the B2. I think it is fairly obvious that the ELB 400 is a much better unit than the B2. The Profoto B1 is a closer comparison, and one I am sure more people will be considering if they are looking for this level of lighting gear.
From what I can tell, Profoto has been suffering from the influx of amateur photographers into the photography industry. With the high price of their top-end products the new “Off-Camera-Flash” line up seems aimed to grab some of that amateur market share – and their marketing campaign contains just the right buzzwords like TTL and HSS to get a pretty good chunk of it. This is a smart move on their part but as you can tell by now, some of their marketing ploys have stretched the truth a bit in my view. In this comparison, my aim was to level the playing field and compare the specs to give a more rounded and fuller perspective on these two units.
And the results? Both the Elinchrom ELB 400 and the Profoto B1 are excellent products. Which one will be best for your work depends on what you need. If you need a long battery life, a unit that can deal with the elements and especially fast flash durations at full power then the Elinchrom ELB 400 is definitely the way to go. If you are always in a rush and feel the TTL capabilities of the Profoto B1 are more suited to your style of shooting then that is one of the only options on the market and a good one at that. If you don’t shoot with either Canon or Nikon DSLRs then you won’t have TTL as an option with the Profoto B1 or B2.
For myself, I prefer the versatility of having two different flash heads that allow me to get both fast flash durations at full power and the ability to shoot using Hypersync techniques with the slower Pro Head. Hypersync also allows me to throw the light a long distance (with a high performance reflector) and still overpower mid-day sun. I also love that the ELB 400 can deal with the elements and keep on ticking like few other compact strobe setups on the market. I don’t feel like TTL is something I need in a strobe. In fact, I love the manual nature of strobes and the consistent light output. For my work, setting up the strobe and crafting the light is a slow process, not something that I want to slap together at a moments notice. When I do get everything set up and dialed in I don’t want it to change. Of course, the Profoto B1 can be used without the TTL technology. But if we eliminate the TTL factor, then in my opinion the ELB 400 is definitely a better option than the B1 because of the faster flash durations with the Action head.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
Update – May 16, 2015: I recently taught an adventure sports photography workshop where one of the participants had two Profoto B1 units and the Profoto Canon TTL AIR transceiver. While I did not use the B1s during the workshop, I helped the participant work with them. As I suspected, they cannot freeze motion at full power. I wasn’t shocked by that at all. But I was pretty surprised when using two B1s in HSS mode, the strobes were unable to over power daylight on a cloudy day when placed twelve feet away from the subject, which in this case was a mountain biker catching some air off a dirt jump. Right next to the B1s, I placed my Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed AS battery pack and a Freelite A (Action) flash head, which at 1,100 Ws is roughly equivalent to the two Profoto B1s. The Ranger easily overpowered daylight without using HSS or Hypersync and froze the motion of the cyclist. At that distance I could have easily overpowered daylight with one ELB 400 using Hypersync.
The upshot of all this is that the Profoto B1s were not made for action photography. They are fine for portraits, and seem tailor made for wedding photographers. If you are looking for strobes to shoot action with, these aren’t the ones you want to go for. At low power settings they can certainly freeze action, but that means you will have to wait until after sunset to use them or be using them indoors.
On that same shoot, we did a quick portrait session using the TTL capabilities of the strobe. Since we were moving quickly, I grabbed the B1 with a beauty dish on it and held it up in “voice-activated-light-stand” mode. I was quite surprised at how heavy the units are, especially when you have to hold it up over your head for a minute or two. I will say the TTL capabilities seemed very good. For the portrait, we were shooting in HSS TTL mode and the strobe was able to overpower daylight quite easily but it was also only a few feet away from the subject. As we left that day, the participant turned to me and said he was nervous everytime he put the strobes on a stand because he was afraid they would be blown over and come crashing down since they are quite hefty when you add a light modifier to them.
Again, I am not here to bash the Profoto B1. It is a great product and it was obvious that it was solidly built. I just want to make prospective buyers aware of the limitations of this strobe, when compared to others on the market, and shine some light on the type of user the B1 is intended for.
Update – January 3, 2016 – More information on the ELB400 and the new Hi-Sync technology: I have written a lot about the new HS and Hi-Sync technology as I was one of the two photographers who shot the marketing materials for it. Check out the two blog posts I wrote that are on the Elinchrom website:
The Hi-Sync Experience:
This blog post on the Elinchrom site was released with the announcement of the Skyport Plus HS and helped to introduce the new transmitter and the new HS heads.
HS vs HSS: What’s the Difference:
This article is the best one out there that describes all of the different High Speed flash options, how they work and how they differ. It also shows why Hi-Sync is the best of the lot. Bram Dauw at Elinchrom went above and beyond creating the amazing graphics for this blog post.
Also, check out the Fall 2015 issue of my Newsletter, which has a review of the Skyport Plus HS:
I will also be putting up a blog post here shortly with what I feel are the best flash heads to buy for various scenarios. The best part of the ELB400 (and Ranger) systems is that you have various flash heads available so that you can have the best of all possible worlds for different scenarios with the same flash system. Stay tuned….
Nicely written article, Michael. I am a current owner of the Quadras and older Lead Gel batteries. I love the packs, power, weight (lack their of), and reliability, but my only problem is my replacement (3 months old) Lead Gel batteries only last about 80 full power pops in Fast Recycle, then they kick into Slow Recycle mode.
Would moving up to the Lithium batteries change this performance (saving me lots of money)? Does the new ELB 400 prevent the pack from automatically switching into Slow Recycle mode?
Thanks for your help in advance.
thanks a lot for your comparison! It’s a relief to see that using the Quadras is still one of the better options in the market. I started to feel uncertain after all the hype around the B1s. Aren’t they also very top heavy on a light stand? Wouldn’t they tip over pretty fast – this especially when working outdoors on uneven surface? And when they fall…
The point I don’t get in the promotion of strobe ads (and with your explanation as well) is the raving about flash duration. E.g. also the photo of your skier. You get him sharp with a high shutter speed (say 1250/sec is enough for an off piste skier). If filling in with a strobe has to be done: you use Hyper Sync (with PocketWizard Flex/Mini) and a Pro Head, former S Head and presto. The guy is tack sharp. The only limiting factor is the power of the strobe. With my cameras I tried up to 1/4000s. So why is fast flash duration needed at all? Just to do another photograph of the bullet shooting into an apple?
Perhaps I missed the point but I’m thinking of changing all my A-Flashheads into the slower ones – because they offer more options…
Thanks again for your post
Stan – sounds like there is something wrong with your Quadra pack or the new batteries if they are lasting only 80 pops. I would send them into C.R.I.S. Camera, which is the Elinchrom certified repair shop in Arizona, and have then looked at. As for the new Li-ion batteries, they are awesome. It might be time to upgrade.
Yes, the Profoto B1s are quite top heavy. I alluded to this in my review and a little bit in the comparison.
On the flash duration craze, when you are shooting indoors and want to stop motion it isn’t always possible to use Hypersync. Also, with Hypersync you are typically using a fast aperture, like f/4 to f/5.6. If you want to use a smaller aperture like f/8 to f/16 then in many cases you won’t be able to use Hypersync.Hypersync can also be difficult to get set up because you can’t use a light meter, so if you are building multi-strobe lighting it is very nice to be at or under the sync speed so you can balance the lighting a bit easier. With enough experience it can be done via Hypersync but it is just more complicated.
Also, there are many sports like Kayaking where things are moving so fast that to get the action tack sharp you would need a shutter speed of at least 1/1,500th second, which is certainly possible with Hypersync. For long distances, as noted in the comparison, I usually go for the Ranger packs with 1,100 Ws since I need the power to throw the light a good distance.I need to do more testing with Hypersync and the ELB 400 to really gauge how well it does in general. I might need to compare it to the Profoto HSS and see how they differ in real world use to complete this review.
Well written and covers a lot of ground. If I’m in the market, I’ll probably be thinking seriously about the Elinchrom. Thanks for doing the comparison Michael. Very helpful.
Michael, thanks for taking the time to post this in-depth comparison, it’s helpful.
To play a little devil’s advocate, though, the Profoto B1/B2/Air TTL system is integrated pretty well with TTL, HSS, modern remote control, etc, all in one package. For the ELB 400, you have to decide if you want fast flash durations or Hypersync in advance, or purchase double the number of heads and swap them out when you need them. Plus to use Hypersync, you need PocketWizards which are expensive, require additional batteries, and are an additional point of failure. And although Hypersync can be nice in some situations, since it’s really a third-party hack there are no guarantees about even illumination of the frame, illumination from frame to frame, or color temperature.
One thing you didn’t mention is the built-in spill-kill reflector the Profotos have which on the surface seems to limit their usefulness for certain modifiers, it looks like the Quadra heads don’t have that issue.
You are right. To get all the features of the ELB 400 you do have to buy two heads and the PocketWizard set up. That definitely adds to the cost. The PocketWizards are about the same as the Air remote TTL or even cheaper but they are an extra expense. And the HSS and TTL working together in the B1 is very easy to use – easier to use than figuring out Hypersync which takes some testing to dial in. I haven’t had that many issues with uneven illumination of the frame when using Hypersync. I tend not to push it so I do have even illumination. I think that issue is a bit overblown. It works very well. And in terms of color temperature, I haven’t noticed it varying much at all.
I did test out the spill kill built-in reflector. That was my first major concern about the B1. But after testing it and comparing it to the ELB 400 heads and with my Ranger heads (both of which have the flash tube sticking out), I really didn’t find the light output that different or any different really when you have either in a softbox or a beauty dish. Hence, I don’t bring it up here since my testing didn’t show any noticeable difference.
Both units are very good. My review is slanted because of the types of images I produce as a sports photographer and my flash duration needs. If I were a wedding photographer, then this review might have been a little different.
I have used a Ranger Quadra setup for years with a love/hate relationship. I now have two Profoto B1s and will never look back. You work for Elinchrom, so it is unfair for you state that you are unbiased, especially after this “comparison”. Allow me to point out a few things.
You use a standard marketing ploy to first complement all of the players in this arena. You then follow that up with a complement to Profoto for TTL and then write it off as an unnecessary feature. Slick. After that you spend paragraphs comparing the entire Profoto line (not just the B1s) to SB910s, but never do that for Elinchrom. Subconsciously you are attempting to have the reader think that the B1s are in a class with SB910s. Um, no.
Next you compare HSS vs. Hypersync, but you have never used HSS on the new B1s. Seriously? It works flawlessly and with ZERO setup. Write a blog post on how to set up Hypersync using PocketWizards. It’s one step shy of voodoo. Setting up hypersync in the field actually requires that the PocketWizards hang off of the sides of the Quadra head while being tenuously connected via 1/8″ audio cables! Hypersync takes up either one or both of the PocketWizard two configurations, actually requires two PocketWizards, and on and on. Here, Profoto takes the day.
You then compare the number of full power flashes and proclaim Elinchrom the winner. You should work for the government. If you dial down the B1 to Elinchrom’s max power, the number of flashes is about the same. That one was pretty slick.
Lastly, you use the word amateur twice when referring to the Profoto units. Again, pretty sly, but totally untrue and you know that.
Setup of the B1s is literally instant. There is ZERO configuration and the units work exactly as advertised. There are no power packs and hence, no cables. Moving around the Elinchroms was a beast for years. Moving the B1s around is cake.
I am not paid nor endorsed by any camera or lighting company. For me, the B1s are the winner by a landslide. For the sake of competition, I hope that Elinchrom fires back with something even remotely close!
I was waiting for a B1 user to write in. Thanks for your comments John. I didn’t mean to compare the SB-910s to the B4 except for the flash duration. The B4 is a stellar setup, but my aim was to debug the “marketing speak” on Profoto’s part with the flash duration. I don’t actually work for Elinchrom – I just get some gear from them, for free admittedly on occasion. I haven’t actually ever received any money from them.
Good to hear a user’s perspective who started with the Quadras an moved over to the B1s.
I appreciate your input on the new quadra system, I am contemplating a pack system, as is at least one other guy I know but it probably won’t be elinchrom or profoto i’m fairly certain of that.
I own B1, not many because they are expensive but they are extremely well made, profoto did a lot of post release R&D debugging. The B1’s seem to be working very well. I’ve tried TTL based shots, they seem to do a fair job of it. HSS works excellent, I shoot with Nikon, the wait was worth it.
Saying that a field capable studio head is top heavy is just silly, of course it’s going to be heavy compared to head with no battery or electronics inside it. That being said, it’s not much heavier than an Einstein light.
Due to the fact that it’s got all that electronics built into the head, its inevitable that bouncing it off a boulder is going to have very a expensive downside. 😀
Portable field pack systems do have a purpose that they fill better than stuff like the B1, which is my motivation for investing in one for the future. Space savings, weight etc. I don’t regret buying the B1 at all. B1 is plug and play, hope the same for elinchrom.
Elinchrom continues to offer some very compelling options, I hope they continue to work on it. I’m considering Broncolor for my pack, Hensel has a really nice offering too with their Porty L that is in the same price range as the Quadra. My short list for choices, is Broncolor Move, Porty L and whatever I find to fit the third.
Grate review! But it would be the best all around with added to comparison Broncolor Move.
i love both elinchrom quadra and profoto B1. in HSS/hyper sync application on both elc/B1, elinchrom quadra is the real winner because it can work with not only canon or nikon camera, but other camera who use leaf shutter camera (sony RX1, RX100, fuji X100 series, sigma DP, phase one, all) can use hyper sync ability, B1 can’t.
and i just realize that ELB400 can use pocket wizard or phottix trigger for hyper sync, so we have another option if we on budget.
about battery profoto B1 had small and light weight battery but low capacity than elinchrom, but i like it because the battery easy to carry.
Nice piece, although I feel it’s a bit biased towards Elinchrom. First of all I do admit I have a relation with Profoto and like you they do send me some kit now and again.
I do have to agree with John on some points that you went a bit quick and borderline dismissive on the key feature of the Air TTL system being TTL and HSS. Having not even tried the latter.
I love the fact that I can use my B1’s with TTL or Manual if I choose to so. I shoot both commercial and editorial work and depending on the setup and the time available I can choose between them.
I this the HSS function is more interesting for me because I love to shoot wide open at 1.2 or 2.0 even in bright sunlight… and HSS allows me to do so.
If power is what you need Hypersync may be more effective but that will set you back another €400 and of course you can also use it on the B1 if you want to.
You dismiss the B2 very quickly als not powerful enough. have you actually used the unit? I have and 250 WS isn’t as useless and you think it is. It’s actually just one stop les powerful. Equalling turning down the power op your B1 500 down to 9. It’s smaller then the Quadra and both its ports are completely independent. You dismiss it as a copycat product. Although I see some visual resemblance. I think that saying this is a bride to far how else would you design a two head pack. Worth mentioning that the B2 head fits all Profoto modifiers without the need of an adapter.
If power is what you need Hypersync may be more effective but that will set you back another €400 and of course beause of the price of the PW’s. you can also use those on the B1 if you want to.
Profoto is working on Sony and Olympus remotes with hopefully other brands following soon.
… Not all just a marketing ploy. It actually works and I use it on a daily basis.
To end it although I’m biased as a long time profoto user I do love Elinchrom kit and think they make some good stuff and have use a lot of it in the past.
RVN : B1 can PERFECTLY be used with leaf shutter camera. hypersync has no utility with leaf shutter.
I shoot with my B1 or B4 with leaf shutter camera like PhaseOne or Fuji X100S withour any problem.
“In terms of recycling times”
The B1 is always charged completly (500J) and use only the power you ask it to deliver… that means if you select 50J, you can fire 10 flashs of 50J as fast as your camera can. And during this time (1sec if you shoot at 10 fps) the B1 will have recharge itself for something like 300J and will continue a bit to deliver 50J flash if you continue to shoot.
Meanwhile, with the Eli, you have to select 50J, wait to the capacitor to discharge to 50J, take a picture, wait to the capacitor to recycle the 50J… and so on.
By the way, it’s because of this capacity to use only a part of the power available and change instantly it’s power setting, that the B1 can do TTL… so yes you need a remote BUT also a flash that can do that. So, no, the EL400 will never be able to achieve TTL with a new remote.
I bought the B1’s half a year ago. Doubted then between the quadra’s and the B1’s. The main motive to work with the Profoto B1’s is setup. They are plug and play… wait, without the plug. The most time consuming part is unfolding the tripods.
Moving them around is a breeze. Yes they are top heavy, but indoors that is not an issue. Outdoors you need to protect your heads with sand bags. Still prefer a properly heavy sandbag over a battery pack to stabilise the tripod.
If you want to be shooting in no time, then you go for the Profoto B1’s. That is the real choice. For most pro’s the TTL is not relevant. It’s like a pro camera with fully automatic function on the dial button.
As far as HSS: On the Profoto it’s just a push on a button and again, you’re shooting.
Good comparison, but you’ve only done half the math. Do yourself an honest favour: Get a pair of B1’s and put them to the test.
PS: The 100 Watts extra power of the B1’s can make just that difference shooting against the sun.
A SB910 at full power has only a flash duration of 1/880s
at the same power the B4 in speed mode as a flash duration around 1/18000s. That’s the goal of a 10000$ Flash.
If you want the same flash duration with the SB910, you will have very very little power.
I have also a B1 and FujiX100S. B1 at 50J, I can shoot at 1/4000s. With the SB910 I will never have this power or flash duration at the same time.
Very well written and informative article. I am not in the market for either set, I am an amateur, happy with my Elinchrom home studio and only carrying a speedlight outside 🙂
I am more interested in the technique and I wonder why for your application you consider t.5 more important and not the tail of the distribution, wouldn’t that create undesirable effects? Also doesn’t the hypersync cause stripes and gradients for moving subjects?
Luke – the Broncolor Move is a great setup but in a different league than the B1 or the ELB 400, which is why I didn’t bring it up here.
Thanks for your comments. You did bring up a very good point about the B1 being able to achieve Hypersync capabilities when using a PW ControlTL transceiver plugged into it. I forgot about that option. I have a feeling few will ever go to that length to get Hypersync. I am sure it would work quite well. I will have to add that fact into the main article as a possibility.When I tested the B1 there was no HSS option for Nikon, which is why I didn’t try that feature out.
I did use the B1 in TTL mode as stated in the article. TTL is a great option – I think I also said that in the article.
On the B2, my point was that two speedlights will give close to 200 Ws so why would someone buy a much more expensive system? I am sure they are cool – but they would have been much nicer if they were 500 Ws.
It seems many people have missed the issues that are key for me: fast flash duration at full power, weatherproof nature of the ELB 400 and a decent battery life (which both do ok in that department).
Nicolas – Interesting note on how the B1 recharges. Thanks for this info.
Boris – I did actually use the B1 before using this review. HSS wasn’t an option for Nikon when I tested the B1. I tired out the TTL with a Canon and the HSS hadn’t been introduced yet. If I really need to overpower the sun, I need more power in general and that is when I pull out the bigger packs – 1000 Ws or more.
Dimitris – The t0.1 flash duration times would be much more informative but the manufacturers don’t tell us those so I had to go with the t0.5 flash durations for the comparisons. I haven’t had any issues with Hypersync and stripes or gradations.
Interesting review, I have a full size Ranger AS Speed pack that i attempt to drag around but its so heavy dragging that and my camera gear around i’m getting back injuries so i’ve been looking at how to replace it. The options are few and far between, the Broncolor Move and Priolites came to mind, and obviously the B1 was a definite option, as you say in a comment above, not many people will use hypersync with the B1’s, but before HSS was incorporated and on day 1 the B1 became available I ran half way across switzerland to the Profoto dealer with my D3s and 2 TT5s to test the hypersync. Because of the way hypersync works, it only sync’d perfectly at 1/8000 at power 10 and power 9 and with a shutter speed of only 1/2000 at power 8. any lower then this (power 7) the flash duration was too quick and I got no sync even using 1/500.
I believe (but could be wrong) that the HSS implementation by Profoto has the same restriction, only useable at full power 10 and power 9 (maybe not even power 8) this means that the option of working only in the shade or from close by may not be that accurate because the flash will be near full power.
I decided that as much as I love the b1 because it “just worked” (my ranger never “just works” its always effort) I couldn’t afford to replace my Ranger at the time so that what i’m still using. I like the idea of the Quadra ELB, ie a nice update of the cool Quadra system, but if you could PLEASE use your Elinchrom contacts to tell them to get on with updating the full size Ranger into a Ranger ELC, a battery pack and head version of the awesome ELCs with lightweight lithium batteries, all of us longer distance shooting action sport photographers will be a lot better off because quite frankly thats EXACTLY what we need!!!!!!
David – I am right there with you. Thanks for the info on the Hypersync with the B1. I too am patiently waiting for an upgrade to the Rangers. They are 10 years old at this point. Fingers crossed sometime soon they will see an upgrade. I used my Ragners 90% of the time and the Quadras only here and there because they aren’t powerful enough for most of what I shoot.
I own a set of quadras and have been debating a switch to profoto since the release of the B2’s. For me it’s not so much about the technical differences between the two lights, as both perform very well. It’s more about a few practical issues:
– The speed transmitter is awful in my opinion and well overdue for an update. Yes it’s small, light weight and does the job but the operation is fiddly and turning the modelling light on/off is hit and miss. Most of the time you end up accidentally adjusting the power setting whilst trying to turn it on/off. Never understood why these issues never got addressed during test usage and rectified prior to its release. Always amazes me how they sponsor so many excellent photographers and obviously don’t take product feedback seriously.
I just hope that when they do release an update it works with the older Quadra sets and its functionality is not limited/reduced.
– Not being able to see the power setting on the remote is really annoying, especially when a large number of cheaper competitor products have this feature.
– Different head specification. This could be seen as a positve as I appreciate it provides specific application choice but for me it’s just another potential GAS symptom.
– Having to buy additional brackets to support the extensive range of elinchrom modifiers. The brackets increase the weight of the heads considerably and are quite expensive for what they are. You also have to be careful about which modifier you use because of weight limitations. I personally had to modify my brackets for use with heavier modifiers.
– The range of specific Quadra head modifiers is small and hasn’t really changed that much since their release.
– 66/33 power ratio is quite limiting when you want to use just one pack. I would much prefer the ability to spit/choose the ratio myself. +1 for the Profoto B2’s here.
– You don’t get a protective cover with the flash head. Again this is an additional expense and when you consider most people would like to leave the elinchrom bracket on it becomes essential for travel. I appreciate you can remove the bracket and put the smaller reflector with diffuser panel back on, but to me this is just more faffing about during setup.
Profoto Positives (B1/B2)
– The heads don’t require any additional brackets to support profoto modifiers. Same modifiers fit all profoto heads.
– The flash tubes are protected to a degree by the frosted diffuser panel without the need to putt a protective reflector on/off.
– Good range of specific OCF modifiers off the bat.
– The TTL remote is a wet dream and a real example to all other manufacturers
– Power can be independently controlled for each head
– TTL functionality – Not a big issue for me but again this is nice to have.
– very lightweight
– 2 x B1’s combined with a B2 would be a great portable setup allowing you to use a boom arm for overhead or high angled shots and the B1’s on standard light stands.
– B1 modelling light power can be adjusted
– Very expensive price point when you consider the competition. For me this is probably the biggest negative because most people who buy the Quadra’s will probably want to add a studio monobloc to their equipment list in the future and this is where Elinchrom have a serious advantage with a great range of very inexpensive options that all support the same wireless trigger system.
Profoto’s range of lights are considerably more expensive when compared like for like and this will definitely be a deciding factor for many people when they make that final decision on which lighting system to go with.
Just a few thoughts from me.
Michael – Excellent comments. Thanks for the notes. You can bet the folks at Elinchrom are reading this blog post and taking note of all these comments. They do listen to feedback. Profoto might even glance at this as well so hopefully both manufacturers will use these comments to improve and refine their already excellent products.
As an Elinchrom retailer i’m not going to express an opinion on either system, because unbiased debate is fantastic, an my opinion would of course be biased. But just to respond to a couple of points made by Michael above. At Photkina last year Elinchrom announced that there will soon be a protective head cap that fits on the heads without the need for the reflector. Hopefully we should see this in the coming months, and i’d be surprised if it wasn’t cheap, it’s just a piece of plastic after all. Secondly, the Quadra to EL Mount Adapter Mk II is now available which will allow the heads to attach to all Elinchrom accessories, including all the heaviest soft boxes. It’s great to see such interesting debate from both Quadra an B1 users, though and hopefully some of the major concerns (skyport, full sized ranger etc.) will be addressed by Elinchrom in due course.
Have you ever Heart of phottix indra 500. I dont know why all you bloggers Never Write about this interesting Product. System like the Quadra , IGBT technique, hss, ttl. And megaprice. Any clue why no comparison? http://Www.phottix.comcheers Andy photographer minich germany
Andy – I have heard of it but I have never seen one so I have not been able to use it to compare it….
I just checked out the new Quadra to EL Mount Adapter Mk II and it’s currently retailing for around £80. Obviously this starts to get quite expensive when you need 2-3 of them.
I wish Elinchrom made the heads slightly bigger so you didn’t need an adapter. Again this is probably a personal thing but I’d prefer less bits n bobs to carry about especially with a system that’s aimed/designed at portability.
The indra 500’s do look really nice but the problem with a lot of these cheaper competitor products is that their kit just doesn’t get enough “air time/exposure” on the professional circuit. It takes a long time to become an established brand in this market and is difficult for the smaller less known companies to breakthrough as a real viable alternative to the big names. Any advantage they have usually gets absorbed into the next product release from the major brands.
HSS and TTL on profoto B1 can’t work on sony or other camera because it air remote TTL C/N just can work only for canon and nikon, of course you can still use manual setting on profoto B1 with air remote sync to operate it but can’t in HSS and TTL.. and as far i know leaf shutter camera like sony RX1 can’t work in HSS mode,
i would love if profoto make TTL air remote for sony
Michael, quiet easy just get in touch with Phottix they send bloggers a unit no problem. why always showing the first rows:-)) there is even a phottix indra 360 and 500 to have. Its everywhere shown in the internet. So I see no Problem to feature it.
Andy – I am sure it is easy to get a unit to test but it is not one I would consider. Hence, that is why I didn’t test it.
And why ? Mai thought this Blog is for photographers Looking for the Best Option in affordable Location Kit lighting. I would love to see a comparison of B1,quadra, Indra 500. The Indra has Hss , TTL, both AC And Accu in one light, no others have that, Okay it’s a new company , bowens mount, IGBT like profoto . It’s not this typical Chinese stuff in my opinion. But I have to test it also for more Infos.
Excelent review, I may be on the wrong forum (because it seens like eveyone is a sports photographer) but you explain really well and I will take the opportunity to ask you.
I want to buy a kit of two strobes to do portrait, nude and dance photography indoors and outdoors.
Right now I’m using canon speedlights and available light for this.
I got two different Elinchrom kits for this and need your advise please:
a)The ELB 400, not sure if with Pro or action heads (or a mix of box, can I do that with a single battery or should I buy two?).
b)A kit of two ELC HD 1000 (on a first read it seens to beging more power, but do I really need it?).
*One important aspect to consider is that I will like to overpower the sun on some of the portraits and nudes.
Thanks in advance for your help and support.
Xoan – Hard to say with what you are doing what you will need. The ELB 400 may not be enough power to overpower the sun depending on how far away the light will be from the subject. If you can get it close then you will have no problem overpowering the sun. For what you are doing, the Action Head will be a better fit. A Ranger RX Speed AS pack with two heads might be a better solution to your problem. If it were me I would get the ELC Pro HD 1000 Ws kit and then use a generator or an external battery to power those on location. If you need to put a flash head into a large octabank then a lighter flash head will be needed. Getting an ELB 400 and the ELC Pro HD would be a good combo as well. I recommend that you rent them first if you can. Hope this helps.
Thanks for your answer Michael,
Yes having both (The ELB and the ELC) sounds like a great option but I could not afford both.
I’m considering buying the ELC + an external battery (but I had seen that it cost around 750 Euros (Godox), do you know a cheaper option for a battery capable of a 1000 watts strobe?
The ELB’s looks like easy to carry and fast to shoot with but also like easy to brake, do you think I got the wrong idea?
The ELC’s look a little more robust.
I had considered also the Ranger RX Speed AS pack as you also told me but someone told me they are old technology, do you think Elinchrom it’s going to update this? It could be a great option for me, more power and better build.
Again thanks for your help, support and patience.
Xoan – The ELB 400 is not as fragile as you might think. It is a great kit. The ELCs are nice as well and faster when plugged in. I haven’t used any batteries with those so I can’t necessarily recommend anything. I have heard of people using the Alien Bees batteries with the ELCs. It works but the strobes won’t fire really fast like they do when plugged in. As for the Rangers, I bet the Elinchrom folks are working on it but I don’t know when they will come out with a new option. If you got the ELCs you could always rent a little Honda 2000 Watt generator to use them outdoors. That isn’t a great options as it is heavier and loud but it would function well. Hope this helps.
Thanks for a comparison 🙂
I would like to add, that for ppl who want to control the lights with full information visible on the screen close to camera (which Skyport doesn’t provide) there’s option to go with WiFi Skyport and control lights from iDevice. I use this set up both in studio and on location. Works a charm.
One more thing – Quadra is designed to be really small, portable pack, that’s why its heads have smaller modifier mount, this allows for head to be tiny. However, some of you were complainig it’s not compatible with standard EL mount, adapter is additional hassle, Profoto takes full range of accesories etc. Well, if adapter is such an issue, then you can give up a bit of portability and buy regular Ranger head, which has regular mount and is not that big, just not tiny, like Quadra heads. I see Profoto as having only one advantage, it being TTL, if one needs it (I don’t, I run all of my flashes in manual, Speedlites included). Everything else is a wash or Quadra/ELB400 is better.
i hope elinchrom make improvement on their sky port so we can fully control modeling light button in one click button (not wait for hold 5 sec) and can see the power setting on sky port LCD like air remote profoto did.
great review clark, btw i want to ask, are this ELB400 can use continuous/burst shot on full power? or it have a limitation like recharge or delay when we want to take a continuous/burst shot on full power?
what powerful ELB400 or elinchrom pro HD 500/1000?
are this ELB400 have “delay mode” like elinchrom pro HD 500/1000?
Ervan – You cannot use continuous burst on full power. You have to use the lower power settings for that. You can however, use the Sequence setting and with there or four lights shoot at 4 or 5 fps. Not sure what you are asking there in the second questions. And yes, the ELB 400 does have a delay mode.
thank you very much for your respon sir 😀
when i use sequence mode/setting can i make it in full power?
are 10 fps on ELB400 just can make in lower power too? or we can make it in half power?
thank you sir 😀
Ervan – Yes, when you use sequence you are using multiple lights – so multiple setups. And the 10 fps is at the lower power settings – or at the lowest power settings. The ELC Pro HD strobes are faster for this type of thing if you need faster flashes.
Hi Michael. what a great post, really interesting to read views of other photographers, I,m currently trying to decide if I should buy the B1 or B2. I currently use the old quadra system, and for me its time to move on, why!, because Elinchrom have allowed other companies such as Profoto and phottix to lead the market. As a wedding and portrait photographer, I would like the choice of HSS and TTL and to take advantage of those facilities at an instant. The Skyport is well past its sell by date, compared the Phottix and Profoto, its not that reliable either, the switches are very poor, especially when your working in very low light situations. The main point that the B1 is very tempting is the ease if use, no cables no packs and it does exactly what it should do with very little effort. The phottix Indra 500 is ok, but it has long way to go before its worth a consideration. Profoto negative, Why should we have to buy a trigger which to me should be included, stupid, all they are doing is taking us for a ride.
Great article but as others mentioned there seems to be some anti-Profoto bias. In particular:
-A few times you mentioned Hypersync as an advantage in favour of Elinchrom, however there is nothing stopping you from using PW TT5s on a Profoto system and gaining the same advantages. I have not used them with the B1/B2 but used them with D1s with great success. Looking at the specs for the B1/B2/B4 their good but not great durations in their upper power ranges should be well suited to getting a lot of light output in the 1/2000–>1/8000 shutter speed range with hypersync, if timed properly.
-Regarding your claims that you only need “a couple of speedlights” to match the B4 at its fastest flash duration, that isn’t entirely true… It is really hard to get true Ws equivalents for speedlights, but at best, using your claim of 100 Ws equivalency, at 1/32 power you would need 7 SB-910s to match the 24 Ws of the B4 at its fasted duration. Some claim speedlights are closer to 60 Ws, which if true means you would need a staggering 12 of them to match the B4. I don’t even want to see what such a mount would look like, not to mention the amount of batteries it would require. 7 SB-910s are still less than half the cost of the B4, but nowhere near your claims of 1/10th the cost, especially when you add the cost of the triggers you would need. (although if you’re Joe McNally, who is the only photographer that I know of that is likely to gang this many speedlights together, you’d be using CLS to trigger, of course).
-Also, in regards to your comment that “The B4 can’t really stop motion at all because of it’s long flash duration at the full power setting.” At full power the B4 delivers a very respectable t0.5 time of 1/2,400s, which increases to 1/5,500s by the time you get to 250 Ws, which compares very favourably (or beats) the ELB 400 that you praise throughout the article for its action-stopping ability at similar power levels.
I realize that this article is not about the B4, and that the B4 is not meant to go head to head with the ELB 400, but your negative comments against Profoto (in particular their marketing department) come across as slightly hypocritical to me.
Matt – Thanks for your comments here. I haven’t tried the B1s with Hypersync. But, as you said, it is possible. Good point. On the B4, I exaggerated a bit on the power output of the Speedlights at 1/32nd power but the point is that with a few Speedlights and tweaking the camera ISO settings slightly I could get the same image as the marketing image used for the B4 using Speedlights.My point was that one doesn’t need to spend $10K to get a super fast flash duration. Yes, at full power the B4 isn’t too far off from my Elinchrom Rangers. Having used the B4 a few times – that is a stellar unit, no doubt there. I don’t have anything against Profoto. Just having used the B1s for action stuff, they are not quite the panacea that everyone seems to make them out to be. They are certainly popular but leave a lot to be desired in my experience.
P.S. Sorry if the tone of my post was negative… I forgot to mention the part where I thank you for all the great information about the Elinchrom system. I am semi-invested in the Profoto system of modifiers and triggers but they don’t seem to offer what I am looking for in terms of a battery solution. The B2 is almost there but as you mentioned, it isn’t powerful enough. A pack/head system somewhere in between the B2 and B4 (with a price closer to the B2!) is what I am looking for. Elinchrom has a few options in this range that I am considering, so your thoughts are much appreciated!
No worries Matt. It is good to get a lot of different perspectives on gear and many folks here have a lot more experience with Profoto gear than I do. Profoto makes awesome stuff and I have rented a wide range of their packs over the years. This article is also slanted towards a very particular type of work with very particular needs, which of course is not the case of most folks.
Thanks for the fast responses Michael. Cheers and keep up the great work.
Re Matt E-D:
Consider the newest Porty L at 1200 watt seconds with a huge range of triggering options (it has 3 different radio trigger units built in) that would allow you to trigger it with almost any of the main stream studio triggers it is also considerably smaller than the older Porty systems. Wide variety of heads to choose from for shooting with as well.
Re: Michael A few things about the B1 (w/profoto remote):
B1 in freeze mode DOES freeze action effortlessly, i’ve tested I posted a few shots in Flickr demonstrating it. I agree with Michael however, it’s not the cornucopia of photography that some would make it out to be. HSS as of the last firmware update works great on my D800E. The firmware upgrade process was a little troublesome however.
The bad: Some of the functions on the remote strangely enough, appear to not work when there is a line of sight issue but it still fires. I’ve not had the inclination to sit down and nail down exactly what the issue is with Profoto techs.
As of 2015 I travel everywhere by motorcycle, and while I can pack the B1 with me, it doesn’t leave much room for other stuff if I were to pack my camera and associated gear for a quick location shot somewhere in the boonies. The B1 is top heavy enough that since I can’t afford to waste space or weight on sandbags it now necessitates a third option.
Something like the Elinchrom may well be my answer for this purpose, since I already own a b1 with the remote, it’s sort of a toss up as to whether I want to buy into the B2 to avoid having to buy a new trigger system..
It was interesting to read a somewhat thorough take on the portable strobe debate.
For me it was not as simple as power vs flash duration vs hss va hypersync.
The B1 is the only power plant on earth that can do what it does like a speed light does with one hand. That’s right, no case or shoulder strap or whatever cable singling off here and there. For me that’s a big deal. I fire my camera remotely while holding the mono in other areas of my scene. I could use any similarly weighted setup but at 500w I don’t really want to consider less powerful options as I can use the B1 for almost any other assignment in business.
I take your word in your point, if you shoot sports with strobes then the B1 is not the tool. You don’t give the cordless, on unit battery system, hss and ttl functionality and wide power range options of the b1 enough credit in my opinion.
So for anything but sports, get the B1.
Thanks for this article Michael it and people’s comments have been helpful.
I’m about to invest in a portable flash system and have found it a very hard decision. I often shoot wide open f2 sometimes 1.6 1.8.
For this hss may help me.
However when I used a b1 on recent test shoot the weight of it on a stand out on location in wind worried me! I often work on locations with no assistant And if i have one its to hold light behind subject backlight them .The idea of the elb s light head is great for these purposes.
Must admit cannot decide as yet but this read plus peoples comments has defo highlighted a few things and been helpful thank you! 🙂
mister, can i use elinchrom rotalux deep octa modifier on profoto B2 head? thank you
RVN – Just get the Elinchrom to Profoto adapter and I think you can use Elinchrom modifiers on any Profoto flash head.
Hi Michael, thanks for a detailed and informative comparison. I currently own 2 B1’s, and have to admit I might be what you described as an amateur that has been suckered in by Profoto’s marketing. I bought into the system as I wanted the best lights, so that I don’t have to upgrade at a later date (like I have time and time again with lenses!). I absolutely love the B1’s, for their simplicity and ease of setup. However, as you pointed out, they are very top heavy, and my assistant isn’t able to boom it over a subject.
So I am in the position of either adding a B2 into the mix, or selling up and investing in the Elinchrom system. I have been debating for weeks which way to go, and still haven’t decided.
The only downside of adding a B2 is cost and power, however, as i already have 2 B1’s, I don’t think I will have any trouble with only 250w/s. As far as I can tell, the B2 is marketed as a replacement for speedlights for wedding/event togs, and designed to be used along side the B1’s.
The quadras offer more power, and are cheaper, however I feel I would miss the Air System, as the Skyport sucks in comparisson.
It really is a tough decision, as I just keep thinking, ‘all that money for just 250w/s!’. However then I think ‘will the quadras be a bit rudimentary compared to the Profoto system’. Ah, decisions decisions!
Matt – Thanks for your comments. All good things to think about. The Skyports aren’t bad. I have never had issues with them. They may not have all the features of the Air TTL system but they work very well with the ELC 400 system. I guess it comes down to how much you depend on the TTL with the B1 system. If you don’t use it that much then i don’t think you would even see a difference using the Elinchrom ELB 400. The 400 is super light in terms of the flash heads and having an assistant hold them up over your subject or anywhere really is a breeze. Maybe rent some if you can and try them out…
Michael – Thats a good point re: renting them. I think thats my best bet and compare the two side by side. I don’t often use the TTL on the B1 as they are pretty much too heavy to be moved about, but with the B2 at weddings I think the TTL will be very useful.
Late to the party, but I was thinking lately, about how to get ourselves outdoors. We are Elinchrom users, hence I might be biased, because you somehow consciously prefer your first choice 🙂 But – we are also looking into alternatives.
I have to conclude, that I have not much experience outdoors, and wew are now asked to do some weddings (we did few as a second photographers, to train). And here’s my experience:
– Most (really most) photographers don’t much care about any special equipment outdoors – speedlite and some reflector, and that’s it.
– I like strobes, though 🙂 So, first thing I did, was to get Elinchrom Skyport receiver for my 2x speedlites, plus reduction ring, so I can use Eli modifiers with the Speedlites. Well, it kind of works, but the light output is not strong enough (expectable) plus – few times I thought, that TTL might be handy.
– Then I start thinking about getting the Godox generator. You could use portable trolley for transport and get your studio lights with you and you have all that power, plus power for notebook, usb devices, etc. While you are not much portable, advantage is clear – you can use your regular studio equipment in places, where power is not available. And being outdoors, it is easy to face such situation.
– ELB 400 (or Quadras). Nice. What I like especially is the weight of the head – some 350g? Maybe it is about your shooting style, but 30% of our shoot is – using an assistant, instructing him/here to move closer, to the side, put the light higher, lower, handing the head + modifier in hands. Now B1 – come one, 3kg, really? Our regular older Eli RX 600 are 2.6 kg and I tried to hold them above the head and no, I am not Arnold Schwarzenegger, so after some 5-8 minutes I had really enough 🙂
– But – one of our studio photographers, Jana, says – there’s no time for all that hassle 🙂 Hence I once again scratched my head thinking – hell, why there’s no battery powered light, coming with TTL? 🙂 And now B1 does, and I am really confused! Good for off camera fill. Eli – please add TTL to your ELBs!
And then again – most weddings photographers here use speedlites at max, you can bounce it eventually (using Canon Speedlites with in built radio is a nightmare) … Please help me 🙂
Any thoughts on how well the ELB 400 would work for shooting architectural interiors?
John – I’m sure it would work very well. it can be dialed way down if you only need a kiss of light. I am not an architectural photographer so I don’t know what your needs are but they are small and light and will fit into some tight spots.
Thank you for all of this in depth information & comparisons. I currently work in a studio using both profoto & elinchrom lighting, shooting no faster than 200th second. I don’t own these lights but enjoy using both brands.
I am looking for some advice to buy some outdoor location lighting that will sync with fast shutter speeds, mainly to allow shallow depth of field, over powering the sun with static portraits but also having the ability to capture fast movement such as sports & cycling at high power from a distance.
For personal & outdoor work I am using a few Nikon speed lights & some old youngnuo rf602 triggers. I like to work fully manual & I’m not interested at all in TTL lighting.
I am very interested in replacing this set up with the elinchrom ELB 400 pack with 2 heads, but I don’t understand if
A – I need the action heads for fast shutter speeds? And if so, will these work straight out of the box with sky ports?
Or B- I need to buy the pro heads and a third party trigger set to achieve hypersync?
All of the information on fast speed sync flash is very confusing. If someone could help explain the difference between the pro head and action head to me that would be much appreciated. Lastly, I am about to purchase the youngnuo 622 trigger set for my speedlights as they can give me fast shutter speeds. Does anybody know if this trigger set would also work with the elinchrom ELB 400 pro heads? Or should I just buy action heads?
Many thanks, confused photographer!
James – Thanks for the comment. Here goes on answers – at least what I can answer: 1) For Hypersync (i.e. using high shutter speeds) you will need to use the Elinchrom ELB400 “Pro” flash heads that have a longer flash duration. This is the big difference between the pro and the action flash heads – the flash duration is longer on the Pro heads compared to the super fast (i.e. short) flash duration on the Action heads. If you want to stop action at 1/200th second with a short flash duration you would want the “Action” flash heads. For Hypersync you want the Pro heads. 2) At this point, the only wireless system I know of that will trigger the ELB400 strobes in Hypersync mode is the PocketWizard ControlTL system with the Mini and Flex triggers for Canon and Nikon cameras. Hypersync only works with those two camera systems with that trigger. With the ELB400 setup for Hypersync you can reliably (with my Nikons) overpower daylight from about 20 feet away. If using the Elinchrom Ranger RX Speed AS battery-powered strobe and the Standard flash head you can overpower daylight from 50 to 60-feet away. 3) As for the Youngnuo 622 triggers, I have no experience with them. Hope this helps.
Check pout these link for more on Hypersync:
Thank you so much for explaining Michael. I think i am starting to get my head around the difference between HSS & hypersync. I can definitely see the benefit to using hyper sync with the pocket wizards and pro heads. If i am going to invest a decent amount of money into a location lighting kit, then it would probably best i go for this option that will give me the most availability of shutter speeds and light power.
However, just to be sure, the part i am still unclear on. Can you use HSS with the action heads? or will they only sync at a maximum of 250th second? So in your table it lists the flash duration with action head as 1/2,800 or 1/4,000 with 2 action heads. does this mean that the action heads are freezing action due to a very fast burst of light and you’re not actually increasing your shutter speed above 250? or can you achieve high speeds sync but at a lower flash power than the hyper sync technology.
i’ve left the profoto b2 out of my questions because it seems that you loose flash power when using their HSS mode. I am most likely to be looking for the most flash power and fastest shutter speed for my money. i understand that this works due to the flash speed duration, but i am wondering if the action head might be a worthwhile compromise for what i’m looking to achieve.
Thanks for the help, James
The Elinchrom ELB400s do not have the option to do HSS (High-Speed-Sync). That is a feature of the Profoto B1 and B2 units. The only option with the ELB400 (and all Elinchrom strobes at this point) is Hypersync with the right flash heads.
With the action heads, yes you got it – you can only shoot at 1/250th sec or whatever your flash sync speed is for your camera. The flash head as you pointed out is creating a very short bursts of light: with action head as 1/2,800 or 1/4,000 with 2 action heads. Tis short burst of light effectively freezes the motion of you subject even though you are shooting at 1/250th sec shutter speed. Hypersync will not work if you are using the Action heads. Also, please note that Hypersync takes a lot of practice to figure out – it isn’t just a plug and play type deal.
Yes, with HSS you lose a lot of power, which is why the B1 and B2 are mostly aimed at portrait and wedding photographers. Ideally you would have both flash heads or at least one of each depending on what you shoot. I would suggest renting from borrowlenses.com or someone like that to figure out which is the best way to go.
I’ve just exploaded my Jinbei 1200 Pro set. Whaouw an 800$ in a 1/1000s burst of capacitor explosion! It terrible how these chinese units are made don’t try to open one to see what is inside ! Well … even with small plastic poles the + and – can slightly touch themselfs and for sure in stressfull situations you will not easily recognize in which direction you put your battery pack which ends up by a nice smell of death…
Well now it’s time to choose an other brand. 1200Ws was pretty nice when shooting people jumping into the lake with flash at 10 meters. But comparable units are also heavy and very expensive (I’m probalby categorized in “amateur” as you said but was never a fan of HSS nor TTL). So the big question is wheter I’ll be disapointed by 400 or 500Ws units or I’ll try the jump. For me I’have to say that I like the B1 concept since it’s really like grab you pack and that’s hit. It seems that the B1 is not only 5s less to setup it’s really no more the my traditional “whoops I forgot the 5m extension wires” or “where did I put the 3.5mm jack to connect my PW to the unit” or when you get your assistant dressed with wires, battery, PW and many other equipment”. The drawback would probably be the weight of the B1. I would really fear not to have a solid enough pole the could simply break when you want to have mobile light with an assistant.
I have a ranger speed and you can buy a lithium battery to put in its battery shell case . It does work with the standard charger but do not overcharge google it. It recharges at full power at 3.4 secinds instead of 2.9 but loses 5 lbs of weight. it also lasts longer then the stnadard battery. I have two batteries ine standard one lithium makes the kit lighter and more versatile.
David – I have done this with one of my batteries in my Ranger kit. I put a Lithium battery in the battery casing and it works but I think my ten year old Ranger is a bit fired after having used it for a few years now. I have been very careful not to leave it plugged in once it is done charging but still, popping off tons of full power flashes with the Lithium heats the ranger pack up quite hot. It is quite a bit lighter – 5 lbs lighter as you said – which is great.
You made a mistake with your calculations. You cannot combine 4 x 100W to get the equivalent of a 400W light and therefore cannot compare buying 4 speed lights with the cost of a single B1. It would probably take you 8 speed lights to get the equivalent of a 500W light source, even if they were 100W each. You lose light for every additional source you add. any equivalent light sources doubled give only 1.4 times the intensity of a single such source.
For x number of equivalent light sources, the resulting intensity is √x . (Ie, the square root of x.”)
I suggest you research this a little further.
You are right: http://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/16320/does-adding-additional-strobes-cumulatively-add-to-the-flash-power
Sorry for the mistake. I will correct that in the article or make a note of it.
Athol – I just ran a test comparing power output from one ELB 400 (400 Ws) and four Nikon SB-900 Speedlights. With three Speedlights set in Manual mode at full power I was able to get the same power output as one ELB 400 at full power. Hence, I stand by my statements on four Speedlights being equal in power to one ELB400. I used a light meter to measure the power output on both setups and from the same distance. I am not sure how the math works out but in use it seems fairly equivalent.
Hi Michael, regarding the comparison you recently did of speedlights and your ELB’s… what zoom setting was the speed lights on? I’m sure you already know this but the zoom setting affects the output greatly. I recently compared my single SB900 zoomed to 200mm and my B1, and was very surprised to see the same output from both! However, when zoomed to 35mm to provide a similar angle of illumination as the B1, it was 3 stops under.
Matt – I don’t remember, I think I had them zoomed all the way out for max power and they were about sic feet away from the light meter. I am sure from farther or with the flatheads not zoomed it would not be the same result. But still it was enlightening.
Nice article. I really like the explanation and diagram of high speed sync! Thanks! One part I disagree with….you were wondering why someone would buy a B2 rather than 4 speed lights and the answer is simple….portability and recycle time. The only way to get a short recycle time on the speed lights is to hook up a battery pack. So if you have 4 speed lights hooked up to battery packs (so you’ll have the recycle time comparable to a B2) you have quite a mess compared to the B2. And not everyone needs the power and short flash duration you’re speaking of (freezing the motion of a skier in broad daylight) I think you should give the B2’s a little credit as they do have their place for many photographers, especially portrait photographers.
I have found the Hensel Porty 1200L to be the best thing out there for shooting action in daylight using Hypersync and PW’s. And Hensel are surely working on a lighter weight and lower-powered battery-powered option that will compete with the ELB400 and Profoto B1/B2. There is a a certain feel of solid quality to all the Hensel gear I have used. The others are good as well. But I feel that the Hensel gear is a bit more solid and feels better built.
need to know what best betwem the two units
Did you read the blog post? The whole post tells which unit does what better than the other…I prefer the Elinchrom ELB400.
thank you for this nice review. I’m not a professional photographer, but I’m searching for a flash (indoor/outdoor) to shoot people, etc.
Now, I’m comparing the Profoto B-Series with the ELB400 and the Phottix Indra500 flash and for the ELB400 there is a new Quadra HS Head and the EL-Skyport Plus HS Transmitter. Maybe you can extend your post with this option. When I’m right, HS is a better solution as HSS or Hypersync and it is no need for the Pocketwizzard, right? What do you think about this new head and the Transmitter?
Jacek – I have written a lot about the new HS and Hi-Sync technology as I was one of the two photographers who shot the marketing materials for it. Check out the two blog posts I wrote that are on the Elinchrom website:
Also, check out the latest issue of my Newsletter, which has a review of the Sjyport Plus HS:
My take is that the Hi-Sync is way more capable than the Profoto or Phottix options. And everything I stated in the article you read here still applies.
thank you for this detailed review.
I was woundering if you have some expiriance with using the A-Heads from Ranger RX and Quadra together with the HS functionalty. I know that elinchrom does recommend those heads to be combined with the new Skyport. However I have still an bunch of it and was thiking to give them a try even if they can just sync 1/600.
Did you do any tests with A-Heads?
Jonas – The A Ranger heads have a very fast flash duration. I haven’t tried out that combo but I would be very surprised if you could get any HS functionality at all. I have tried the A head with the Rangers – just a different battery – with the PocketWizard ControlTL system and it would not go above my flash sync. Get the HS head for your Quadra if it is one of the later ones and you should be set.
The one thing that I dislike about the Quadra system is the quality of the head and the mount that it uses to attach to a light stand. You need to buy the extra Elincrom mounting adapter as I have broken three of the mounts by tightening too much. The Quadra heads just feel cheap compared to the Profoto B2 heads. Both are great lights, and I only wish the B2 was 400 watts.
Jim – I hear you. I thought the Quadra heads felt cheap too but they have survived an incredible amount of abuse. I had a head hit the ground very hard right on the back of the head (on hard dirt) recently. It was attached to a 14 pound stand with 30 pounds of sandbags. It also had a Deep Octa softbox attached to it but the head squarely hit the ground. I picked it up thinking I was buying a new head and I was very surprised to find there wasn’t even a scratch on it and it worked just fine. I think it was because the head was so small that it sucked into the softbox and only had minimal impact, a larger Profoto head would not have survived that fall because it is very exposed. I too have broken a few of the mounts by over tightening them, it was an easy repair but something shouldn’t happen.
I am a big fan of Elinchrom. I own lots of their stuff like 3x BXRi heads, 4x D-Lites, 2x Ranger RX, 2 Ranger Quadras and uncounted modifiers and accessories.
All works very well, I really felt in love with the Quadras I often use.
But you know what? I think about a change over to Profoto B1 or B2 stuff.
Because of this: Every head and battery pack I own has a foil display and keyboard. On one of my BXRi, this foil is now broken after 2 years laying in the closet without using. I called the local Elinchrom distributor, they asked me to send the head in for repair that makes about 70 euros/100 dollars. I asked them to send me a foil for self repair – I mean there’s no risk of electric shock or something like that in replacing a sticking foil.
They told me that this wouldn’t be possible.
Second, I have four lead batteries for the Quadras and two lithium ones. One of the lithiums I got replaced some weeks after I bought it because of malfunction. This particular one died now – you may know it – laying in the closet for longer time, but frequently charged in the meantime.
Sadly, warranty is over for more than one year, so no replacement.
My conclusion: I think about selling all my Elinchrom stuff which is overkill anyway for my changing business and by some tough gear with real knobs and dials instead of those foil toy rubbish. Gear that lasts as long as I want to.
Great post. But I have a question. if you use phase one camera, what will your recommendations be, when you want to use the HS head and hi-sync?
Per – I have a Hasselblad. With the leaf shutter you can shoot normally without Hi-Sync up to the top shutter speeds. Hence, when using the Phase One or Hasselblad cameras I use the Action head as the flash duration needs to be faster than the shutter speed you are shooting at. And I shoot in normal flash mode on the Skyport Plus HS. I do change the Skyport Plus HS over two Speed Mode but that is it. The HS head isn’t a good option for shooting with leaf shutters. I am not sure it works with Phase One’s non-leaf shutter lenses.
Well I use both Canon and phase One. So I’m a little confused about what system to use and if I need 2 Skyport Plus HS when you have Canon and phase one?
You can use the Canon Skyport Plus HS on both. With the Canon, to do HS, you’ll want the HS heads (if using the ELB400) and use the Canon and Skyport Plus HS in Hi-Sync mode to get access to the higher shutter speeds. For the Phase One (with Leaf Shutter lenses) use the Skyport Plus HS in Speed Mode and with the Action heads (if using the ELB400). If you are using other Elinchrom strobes, like the ELC Pro HD you will have to experiment to see how well they do with the HS techniques. They should do fine with the Phase One.
So I need 2 differentieret heads?
And the EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus HS for Canon Works fine with other camereas like phase then?
Yes, and Yes. Read this blog post for all the info: https://blog.michaelclarkphoto.com/?p=4590
So if I understand correctly buy the Action head for phase one and the HS head for the Canon. And it can be used together for shoot where i don’t need the HS. And then get the EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus HS for Canon to control everything on both cameras
Per – You would use one head or the other, not both on the same shot. If you need more than one head then you need multiples of each flash head. If you want three lights using HS for the Canon then you need three HS heads. If you want three lights for the Phase, then you need three Action heads. If you only want to buy one head then get the Pro heads but realize the HS won’t be anywhere near as good as with the HS heads and the Pro heads don’t have the action stopping power of the Action heads. They are a compromise.
Yes I didn’t meant to use 2 different heads for HS but to use 2 heads when I dont need to
use hs. But can you buy a head alone or you can only buy them with a pack as that would be more expensive? I haven’t seen them without the pack?
Hoping you can help me with this issue. I just bought the ELB 400 Hi-Sync to go kit and I can’t even get it to power on. The unit only seems to turn on with the battery charger plugged in – Am I missing something here?
Did you put the fuse into the battery and charge the battery?
Do you think there will be a 1,000 watt version of the ELB400 coming out? I am considering buying the Ranger RX, but heard they are not great for hi sync.
I hope so. I bet Elinchrom is working on it but I don’t know if or when it will be released.
Thank you much for such a detailed and fair review/comparison. I have and old Elinchrom Ranger Quadra set with 2 standard heads and I was thinking to buy myself another similar set even if it is a used one. I do not really need HS heads since I am doing portrait/fitness/glamour photography. I am more certain in buying myself another Quadra set after reading this awesome article now. I do not really get all this hype around super-expensive B1s now. Not even mentioning the Broncolor Siros L sets!!!
A lot of interesting debates going on here and I’ll give my 2 cents worth here too:-)
My current equipment: I have 4 Elinchrom BX500Ri strobes for studio stuff along with various Rotalux modifiers and a big beauty dish, which are all fine for general studio applications, people, fashion, products, whatever, but I can probably achieve similar results with most other companies. The major difference would depend on the variety of light modifiers available for any given system.
The two areas which become interesting are:
1. Action freezing shots in the studio such as water splashes etc. where flash is the only light source and it needs to work fast.
2. Outdoor location photography where overpowering strong sunlight and using wide apertures is required.
In scenario 1 short flash duration speed is the name of the game. As far as I am aware until recently Broncolor had the fastest monolights until Profoto recently came out with the D2 monolight advertised as the fastest monolight in the world with the shortest flash duration of 1/63000 of a second, admittedly at its lowest power setting of 1 Ws (which makes this probably the most useless piece of information provided for a flash specs. Who ever uses 1 ws of power? WTF?) I have yet to see the specs for usable power outputs like 1/2, 1/4, 1/8. The best flash duration for Elinchrom’s top ELC Pro HD is 1/5000s so I presume the D2 will quite easily top that, although as I said, I have yet to see the appropriate specs. I’ll settle for 1/10000s at a practical working power setting and they’re mine! In any case, it seems that both Profoto and Broncolor outshine Elinchrom in having state of the art equipment. Do I have to mention that it took Elinchrom quite a while to come up with their EL Skyport HS transmitter? Could they not have done that before Profoto launched theirs? So, in conclusion to scenario 1 Profoto D2 is no. 1. Elinchrom is third place at best.
2. Going back to the outdoor scenario things get a lot more complicated because apart from the flash specifications themselves the actual handling also becomes an issue and I guess different photographers have different areas of applications which contribute to their choice of equipment. As for me, probably like most photographers, I started off with using speedlights with HSS functionality. In my case that means using 2 Nikon SB900 with pocket wizards. This actually works quite well for me in most cases, however I am looking to upgrade that substantially. What I dislike most about this is not even the actual power output but the hassle to set things up and the fragility of all the hotshoe connections involved, especially when moving to different locations.
Since I rarely have my flashes high up and basically just beyond head height the Profoto B1 has got to be the best option. No cables, nothing. A solid head holding any light modifier. You can separate head from tripod in an instant and move location. True, you can do that with an ELB 400 or a B2 but you do have that extra cable, 2 pieces and no solid handle to hold the head, even though it is lightweight. I’m not talking about having 2 heads on the same battery pack. I won’t even consider that as an option, having an even longer cable to trip over. Major pain…So, I’m not sure at all that even from a portability point of view it’s preferable to carry around 2 ELB 400 battery packs each with its separate head rather than just 2 B1’s.
Another factor to take into account is spare batteries. Admittedly the B1 battery has less juice than an ELB 400 battery pack but you can easily have one or even 2 spare B1 batteries which will extend your shooting capabilities tremendously. That’s still a lot less heavy than carrying an extra battery for the ELB 400. Can you really be sure that the ELB 400 will last you the entire photo shoot without a battery backup? If it’s an important shoot you can’t take that chance. So in the end having 2 ELB 400’s with spare batteries must be a lot more cumbersome than 2 B1’s with a couple of their batteries.
I’m not seriously considering the B2 as an option at all because it just doesn’t have enough juice, and since I already own Elinchrom modifiers I might as well go for the ELB 400 in the first place. No great news here from Profoto. To argue that the B2 is only one stop lower in power than the B1 as if that were insignificant is like persuading a guy who wants to buy a sports car to go for the 16 seconds 0-100m version rather than the 8 seconds one. It’s only a few seconds, right? Wow. Maybe Porsche will adopt that as a marketing strategy.
I try not to shoot at full power in order to have faster recycling times so if I start off with 500 ws and shoot at 1/2 or 1/4 power I still have enough power but if I start off with only 250…
Regarding safety, having a relatively large unit like the B1 high up on a stand is certainly not ideal and here it depends on how high. Holding the B1 on a hand held boom is not really a great idea so if that’s your intention perhaps look for another solution. In my case if the stand is heavy enough it should be OK. By the way, I never understood the reasoning of having light weight stands which are then loaded with lots of weights or sand bags. Why not set up a heavy stand like the Avenger A110 in the first place instead of carrying all that extra crap around? (or do you carry a shovel too and look for sand to fill up on location? Does anyone actually do that??)
HSS in B1 vs. HiSync in the ELB400, that’s an issue that needs to be addressed and which most people probably don’t take into consideration. Getting more power to light people from further away, especially any kind of sports action where you definitely want to have your flashes as far away as possible so they will survive to fire another day is certainly a valid point.
But most of my outdoor stuff is fashion and portraits, so how badly do I need it? Will I expand my vision if I have new possibilities? perhaps.
Despite all advantages and disadvantages of each set we’re talking about high quality lighting tools so I won’t compare them to much cheaper options like the GODOX AD360ii which is capable of HSS up to 1/8000s and with a price tag of 1/3 or so or less of any of the other options here. Sure, it has its limitations but not long ago this was not an existing option at all and now it’s here I’m sure many people will opt for this relatively superb value-for-money alternative.
Johannes – Nicely thought through. As for Scenario #1, I’d say yes, Broncolor has the fastest flash durations at super low power settings – or now I suppose the Profoto Pro-10 has even faster flash durations but for most folks stopping water splashes like that is pretty specialized. In terms of scenario #2, Elinchrom has the fastest flash durations at full power and the higher power settings and they blow the doors off Broncolor and Profoto in this realm. I don’t need 1/63,000th second at the lowest power setting. I need 1/3,000th second or faster flash duration at the highest power setting. That was my point in the comparison. The Profoto B1 is a great unit but not for what I do. Check out this link where I was shooting with the ELB400’s on a BMX shoot to see how powerful they are for action: https://blog.michaelclarkphoto.com/?p=4697
Would it be possible for Elinchrom to provide us with the flash duration times for their flash units at the lowest power setting? All Elinchrom provides is the t.5 flash duration at maximum power. Some manufacturers of less expensive speed lights provide flash duration times for the entire power range, yet Elinchrom, which is a greater investment, fails to provide this basic information.
At the time being, I am reliant on the test data of other manufacturers (https://www.paulcbuff.com/e640.php). Please Elinchrom, don’t keep us in the dark on this. Thank you.
Do you know if there is a good quality of collapsible Beauty Dish like the profoto OCF Beauty Dish that fit the elinchrom elb 400? Itcould be with an adapter?;
I would be great if I could use all the withthe rest of the OCF Light Shaping Tools you get for the profoto b1 and b2?
I am pretty sure Chimera makes one that will fit Elinchrom – you just have to get the right speeding.
I asked Chimera if they did do make an adapter to fit the Profoto equipment to the elb 400 but they didn’t. They only make for their own equipment.
So could there be another way to fit Profoto equipment into the ELB 400?
I don’t know of anyone that makes adapters like that. Elinchrom makes adapters for the other way around, i.e. Elinchrom modifiers to Profoto speeding. I thought you were asking about third party modifiers that can fit onto Elinchrom flash heads. Didn’t know you had a Profoto beauty dish you were trying to mount on an Elinchrom head. I’s say sell it and buy one that will work with your Elinchroms, unless you own both systems. The Elinchrom Beauty Dish is pretty nice. Hard to travel with but very nice.
I was looking to something light thats why all the Profoto OCF Light Shaping Tools was interesting. The metal beautydish is a pain to travel with.
So it’s botht a beautydish and some other ligh shaping tools that are lightfit and fit the elb 400
Michael, there is no doubt that you creating fantastic images and know how to use strobe
lights for your advantage. But for years I did searched for the right strobe lights shooting
action in dark lit places, such as barrel races and bull rides in indoor arenas.
I tested and acquired tree different strobes in a pair and in the order of Speedotron Force
10, Hensel Porty1200 Speed., and Elinchrom 600 S/RX.. Now they just set in my closet.
The Speedotron were great high output lights, easy to reach out to 90 ft + with their 10”
sport reflector ,but the flash duration was slow.
The Hensel had fast flash duration but even at 1200 w/s was not enough power in an
arena and slow recycling time just would not cut it.
The Elinchrom 600’s were my favorites, light in weight, easy to set up out of harms way
and good enough recycling time and fast flash duration.
All of these stobes were dependent on power hook up, that sometime was not easy,
blowing the existing fuse on the ground.
The new ELB 400 seems promising for my type of action photography. That is if the
head can be installed on a camera bracket next to the camera and be able to shoot from
the “hip”. The photographer in some cases such as rough stock events must be flexible
and move fast as needed.
Again this extreme sport is different then others and I would like to know your take for
Sandor – I would suggest that you rent the ELB 400 and try it out first. It might work great for that use but hard to say as I am not sure what exactly you need it to do.
I’m just getting ready to buy the ELB 400, but I have one last question.
I’m thinking to get one battery with 1 the action head and 1 HS head.
My question is if I shoot at night time or maybe studio and use the action head for main can I use the HS head for fill light at background or hair in studio?
Or will there be some problems with this setup or issues I have to be aware of?
And if I put a 10m cable for HS head for fill – would it still be possible to get enough power
Per – I haven’t tried mixing heads. I don’t think that will work very well with the different flash durations. I use all action heads or all HS heads. I don’t mix them in the same image. As for the 10 M cable, I don’t know. Where can you get a ten meter cable?
Thanks for the informative posts. Could you please clarify in which instances would you prefer to use a short flash duration in order to freeze action rather than using HS.
Any time I am shooting at or below my cameras flash sync speed (i.e. 1/250th second or below) then I use a fast flash duration to freeze the motion.
And now Profoto B10 added to the equation. This article is a must!