When Profoto launched the B1X battery-powered wireless monochrome light in 2017, I was somewhat skeptical. Why should a company release a new light if it offers minor improvements over the old model? Faster recycling, better battery life, and more modeling lamp output isn’t quite as groundbreaking. However, the build quality, the ability to freeze movement, and the number of flashes per charge make this light worth every penny.
Quality design and build
The design is typical of Profoto monoculars and something hasn’t changed significantly since the introduction of the D1.
It’s convenient – if you put a heavy modifier on the light, just use the handle to slide it into place. The large handle will hold the light in place and keep it firmly. I’ve never had a problem with the joint being fluffy. In fact, the whole light feels safe and durable and it looks like this light can survive a war. I think it’s one of the most well built lights on the market.
The special thing about the top is that you can change the flash tube yourself, which many professionals will appreciate. For the price of such an excellent product, it definitely looks like one.
Coming in at 6.6 lbs (3 kg) including the battery, this is not a lightweight solution. If you take the B1X on your set, make sure you have good light mounts as they can get very heavy very quickly, especially if you add a large RFi.
The size is the same as a D2 or B1: it measures 12.2 x 8.3 x 5.5 inches (31 x 21 x 14 cm), so the light is pretty bulky. Look at the B10X Plus if you want 500 watts in a small package.
There are 4 buttons and a knob on the back of the light which also features a bright LCD screen. The power knob is made in such a way that it is easy to make precise 0.1-stop incremental adjustments. Press and turn and you’ll change power at full stops. The other buttons are lamp design, sync, standby, and test (also on off). You will never turn off the B1X by accident because the test button must be held for 3 seconds for this to happen.
The buttons have a nice feel and most functions are easy to figure out, although I sometimes find it difficult to change groups and sync patterns. It can be much easier with adding a menu as in D2.
You can choose from 8 antenna channels and 5 groups that support AC, including TTL. The air works reliably and will flash within 300m without a problem. I had nothing wrong with the air working poorly.
TTL adds convenience to the package. It will provide a great starting point for connecting to your own power of light. Other than that, TTL is useful on-site because it can greatly speed up the shooting process. I often turn to TTL when I have limited time for photography or when the light changes a lot. The TTL does a good job of keeping the exposure similar on the subject so that you can rely on it to adjust the power up and down if the ambient light keeps changing.
The HSS was rather poor in the B1 because it was offered in a small powerband. With the introduction of the B1X, the HSS range is now a full 9 stops. In the past, you’ve been enabling HSS on B1 and it will automatically reduce the maximum output by a few stops. In general, HSS is reliable, but I wouldn’t recommend using it to freeze motion because there are better ways to do this, like flash duration.
The B1X delivers 500 watts of power. That’s plenty for both studio and on-site work. Since it is only one stop higher than the B2 or B10X, there is still a noticeable difference between the light output.
If you’re working in the studio, the B1X also gives you enough power to light a black frame. 500W of light is the same amount that Profoto puts into its most popular monocular: the Profoto D2. It’s popular in studios, and most photographers don’t complain about not having enough power. Even at big mods like a 4×6 softbox, you won’t be short on power.
If you’re like me and shoot fashion, the B1X will be enough to light up a scene at ISO 100 and f/11. However, I have no problem getting ISO 400 on my Canon 5DS, as the sensor can display the image fairly well even at Relatively high ISO level. If you don’t mind raising your ISO, the B1X will always have enough power for you.
The B1X is fine in the studio, but really shines on location. 500 watts of power is the maximum that Profoto offers at the moment. The B1X is designed to be a light on site. If you are shooting weddings, you will only need one B1X camera to light up the entire hall. If you want to take selfies outdoors, the B1X will also have enough output light to mix with sunlight in a natural way.
Let’s talk about other important characteristics: consistency, flash duration, and recycle time.
The power output is similar to most Profoto units: consistent. I can count on the flash to give me the same power all day long without a glitch.
The temperature is also incredibly consistent across the entire power range, and I didn’t notice the slightest shift in color temperature across the entire power range. This is very good news for me because it means I can have a lot of B1X bulbs in different modes and power levels that give me the same temperature. The more uniform the lights, the more “expensive” and professional the image will be. B1 was also incredibly consistent.
The battery life is much better than the B1. I own both B1 and B1X batteries, and there is a distinct difference. The B1X battery will give you anywhere from 300 to 325 flashes of full power. I can go through a photoshoot without needing parts.
If you have three batteries and a fast charger, you can shoot all day and not worry about running out of power. By the time you are done using one battery, a new battery is charged. This is if you are shooting at full power with a full modeling lamp. Unfortunately, you cannot charge the B1X while using it which I find very annoying as it would make a lot of sense. For me, it’s no different than the Profoto B2 or B10 which can be charged while in use.
The LED modeling light is powerful and can be used for video. Keep in mind that since it is battery powered, it will not be a good solution for long range video light. Look towards the B10X or B10X Plus for video capabilities.
The output in the B1X is 80% higher than the original B1, and has an LED with 90+ CRI, 24W or output. It can be set to free or proportional.
Flash duration on the B1X is somewhat disappointing. It’s 1/1000 second at max power, but if you drop the power it will quickly shorten to a maximum of 1/19000 sec (in freeze mode). It’s good enough to freeze work on site, but if you need a freeze on action and the budget allows it: hire a Pro-11 and don’t worry.
Recycling times are good but not great. 1.9 seconds at full power is too long for a very advanced light. If Profoto can recycle D2 at 0.6, it can recycle B1X faster than at 1.9. It’s not horrible of course, but it can slow down the shooting process a bit. However, he is better than B1 who is over 2 seconds. B1X will recycle the same with B1 or B1X batteries.
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Are there alternatives?
Profoto offers another 500W battery-powered light: the B10X Plus. It will recycle much slower, have a shorter battery life, and won’t be as reliable and powerful as the B1X. On the other hand, it is more compact, has a brighter LED modeling light, supports AirX, and can be charged while in use. It is also cheaper than B1X.
Godox has the famous 600 AD which will have longer flash duration and will not be consistent and build quality will be worse. But on the other hand, you’ll enjoy a longer battery life, the ability to use it from a power source (with an adapter), and a lower price tag.
Elinchrom has a 500 Watt package and a head system that has crisper heads, longer recycle time, and is generally larger. But it has a much better flash time (1/3000 seconds), longer battery life, and supports two asymmetric lights.
Should you buy it?
If you have the budget to spend on it and shoot on location, then yes, you should buy B1X. The B1X is designed to be an on-site light and will be a reliable solution for many shots.
If you shoot in a studio, you should move away from the B1X and look towards the Profoto D2. The Profoto D2 with Jackery 1000 generator can be an alternative to purchasing a B1X.