Lighting Review: Profoto B1X Battery-Powered Monolight
November 9, 2017
Profoto’s B1X retains the same slim, portable design of the path-breaking B1 but gains a longer battery life, a stronger modeling light and more power control.
When the B1 was launched, it blazed a new trail. The B1X has far more competition but is still an excellent value.
It’s fair to say that Profoto’s B1 kicked off a mini revolution in strobe design when it was introduced in 2013, nudging a slew of manufacturers to introduce battery-powered monolights all their own. With the B1X, Profoto is replacing the flash that started it all. We collaborated with N.J. photographer and director David Patiño to see how it measured up.
If you needed a one-word summary of how the B1X compares to its predecessor, it’s “more.” There’s more battery life. The new 500 W/s B1X offers an upgraded battery that delivers 50 percent more energy for up to 325 full-power flashes while retaining the size and weight of the original B1 battery. The new B1X battery can be used in the B1 to deliver that additional battery life. It can also be charged using a B1 battery charger—which is a nice touch.
You can expect better performance from the modeling light, too. It delivers 80 percent more light output with a higher CRI (90+). It’s now an LED, too.
Profoto also tweaked High Speed Sync mode to give you more control. The B1X has the same power range in HSS mode as in normal flash mode: 9 f-stops for all compatible cameras. (B1 users also gained that capability via a free firmware update.)
Some things haven’t changed. Like the B1, the B1X supports TTL metering using the Air remote. Recycle times clock in at 0.1 -1.9 seconds and flash durations between 1/11,000 and 1/1000 sec. (t0.5).
Shortly after the B1X was launched, Profoto issued a recall on the unit’s battery. According to the company, at issue was a battery sold in Europe from the initial manufacturing run. There have been no issues with the
new batteries. For our part, we had none.
Profoto didn’t go back to the drawing board for much of the B1X’s external design: It’s the same weight, shape and has the same intuitive set of controls as its forebear.
While other battery-powered lights have hit the market, the B1X is still relatively light compared to its peers despite its durable build. It’s lighter than the Broncolor Siros and just a bit heavier than the Interfit S1.
Patiño, who owns B1s, has had issues with a plastic clamp that holds the battery in place (it can break if you pack the strobe and travel with the battery in place). The B1X uses the same plastic clamp, so be sure not to toss the B1X in a bag before removing the battery.
Image Quality & Performance
Patiño used the B1X for on-location shoots for a large campaign for a N.J. college. He says he snapped about 1,900 images using both Canon and Sony Air remotes—without a single misfire. He tells us the color consistency and recycling performance were on par with the B1, which is to say excellent. If you were impressed with the B1, the B1X delivers that plus a much improved battery.
He also turned on the LED modeling lamp for video recording but tells us that if you’ve been using it as a strobe and the unit is getting hot, the fan will be noisy enough that you could pick it up on a microphone. You could use it as a video light “in a pinch,” he says.
At 350 full-powered flashes, the B1X is at the middle of pack when it comes to battery life. Recycling times, however are at the top.
Where the original B1 had no real competitors, the B1X enters a very different market. Competitors like Broncolor have taken unique approaches by adding Wi-Fi control to its battery-powered strobes, while lower-cost brands like Godox and Interfit have undercut the B1’s price tag. Despite the rush of rivals, the B1X is still the battery-powered strobe to beat.
If you own a B1, though, springing for the new B1X battery and installing the new firmware should meet your needs—at that point you’re only missing out on the higher-powered modeling light. If you’ve been on the fence, the B1X makes the compelling B1 that much more tempting.
PROS: Improved battery life; 9 stops of power control during HSS; more powerful modeling light; excellent build quality.
CONS: Battery life still lags some competitors; plastic battery clamp can break during transport.
PRICE: $2,095 (includes a battery, charger and a carrying bag).