The Profoto B1 vs. the B2 and Sony A7 Compatibility.

Sony and Profoto are two companies operating at the top of their game right now. Beautiful designs, top-of-the-line technology, and products that are changing the industry. Unfortunately, because the two products aren't yet designed to be compatible with each other, there are very few resources that discuss using these products together. For that reason, I wanted to write a quick post on how I use my new Profoto B1 with my Sony A7ii.

Before I did that though, I wanted to preface with a quick post on why I chose the Profoto B1 over the B2 Kit. A lot of people have raised concerns about the B2, but in the end none of those concerns were what I considered a dealbeaker for the B2 Kit.

The Profoto B1 versus the B2

So why did I choose the Profoto B1 over the B2 Kit (2 heads & pack)? Well first... I didn't... After weeks of research and debating, I decided on the B2 pack. I had flip-flopped dozens of times on my decision, but in the end I decided that a two light setup was preferable to one light. Note: couldn't drop 4K on the B1 Kit, though I'm sure that day will come.

Power didn't seem like an issue (half power is one stop less than the B1) and having a cable wasn't that big of a deal to me since the battery pack weighed almost nothing. It was the obvious choice for portability. 

I bought the B2 Kit and the first thing I did was sling the pack over my shoulder, plug in the light and voilà, a portable, powerful light setup! I shot a few images holding my A7ii in one hand and my B2 in the other. It weighed almost nothing, the modeling light was super functional, and I could go anywhere with it, right? Uh, not really. 

That was a fun trick, but let's be honest, I would never shoot like that. I don't care a thing about having the massive spider-arm mount to use the light on-camera (that thing would look and feel ridiculous on a mirrorless camera) and I'm too particular about my lighting setup to hold the light. Which leads me to why the B2 seems like impractical setup: the short cable. I know that sounds trivial, but here’s my reasoning.

I attached the head to a stand, tried to raise it up nearly 6' and the cable wasn't long enough to reach from the light to the pack on the ground. If you're trying to photograph someone standing up, and they're more than 4' tall, the light won't be able to extend up and over them, unless you hang the pack from the stand. At that point, you'll need sandbags anyway so the whole super-lightweight, portable setup is kinda shot. Unless you've got an assistant holding the light (which I realized most of the testers on the Profoto blog do).

More importantly, this is why I consider the short cable a deal-breaker: The short cable makes it a super impractical 2 light setup. Not only is a pack hanging from a stand a little sketchy (especially if you're using a lightweight stand because the B2 isn't top-heavy) but it also means the second light you attach to the pack can only be separated a few feet from your first light. I say a few feet because if your cable is plugged into the pack and you don't run them along the ground and up the stand, the cable is taut and just waiting for someone to accidentally walk through it and bring your whole light setup down. That means you'll have to have the $200 extension cable, realistically you'll need two, so another $400 on top of the already expensive B2 Kit! (And don’t forget you lose a little bit of power with the extension cable).

Don't get me wrong, the B2 Kit is super cool and would be a great addition to a Profoto lineup if you've got money to burn. But I wouldn't choose it over the B1.

Using Profoto w/ Sony A7ii

I hope to discuss this more in a future post, but for now let me say, using the B1 with the A7ii is great. TTL doesn’t work with the Sony, but that’s a bonus for me because I don’t ever use TTL and the Air Remote is about $100 cheaper. It controls the power of the light, the model, multiple groups, etc. The only bummer is no HSS, but hopefully one day that will get solved. Until the, just planning on using a ND filter to cut out ambient if I need to. 

But more on that coming soon (with pictures). Thanks for reading!

(Preview of shoot with Strange Fiction. Profoto B1, Fotodiox 60" Silver Umbrella w/ Diffuser, Sony A7ii, Sony Zeiss 24-70 f/2)