Profoto just sent me a prototype lighting kit to test called the Profoto B1 AirTTL. This is a brand-new wireless battery-powered off-camera flash that is designed to work with the Nikon camera system under full TTL control. Previously, Profoto released a TTL B1 kit for Canon, so this is exciting news for Nikon shooters.
I already own a set of Profoto D1 Air studio lights that are powered by traditional A/C electricity. I love the power (energy) and quality of light I get from my Profoto gear, so being able to take a battery-operated off-camera Profoto B1 flash into the field is very cool. Profoto designed the B1 AirTTL lights so that all their light shaping tools work seamlessly, including softboxes, Octas, reflectors, beauty dishes and snoots.
The specific kit they sent me to test was the B1 500 AirTTL Location Kit. The Location Kit is designed to be a portable lighting system that you can take to a remote location and achieve studio-quality light. The kit contains:
2 x B1 off-camera flashes
2 x batteries
1 x Fast Charger
1 x Car Charger
1 x Tailor-made backpack with room to fit additional gear
Since I’m in-between international trips, I had just a short period of time to learn the B1 AirTTL operation and take some sample shots before having to send the prototype kit back to Profoto HQ. After opening the box and unpacked the gear. I mounted the Air Remote TTL-N control unit on the top of my Nikon D800 and turned on the B1 flashes. Setting up the proper channel and groups for operation was a piece of cake and I started taking photographs immediately.
If you have used the Nikon iTTL Wireless Flash system, then adapting to the Profoto AirTTL system will be a piece of cake. There are a few hidden menu items that you’ll find by reading the manual, but overall, the system is ingeniously simple to operate.
Here’s a four-minute video giving a quick overview of the B1 AirTTL system. The video shows how to adjust flash settings and how to use the kit with your Nikon camera.
The flash heads I tested were the 500Ws units. They are adjustable in 1/10 f-stop increments over a 9-stop power range. These AirTTL units will operate in full manual mode or in full TTL mode. In manual mode operation, you have access to the full 9-stop power range from full power (10) to minimum power (2). In TTL mode, you can adjust the flashes from -2.0 EV to +2.0 EV.
The TTL system allows remote setting and independent control of three different groups A, B, and C. Profoto has programmed up to 8 channels, so you can share the room with seven other photographers shooting the same system and each can have independent control of three groups of flashes.
I really only had a few hours available for a test shoot, so I photographed a soccer player on a wet asphalt driveway immediately after a rainstorm. The sky was rapidly changing between sunny and cloudy, so shooting the flashes in TTL mode made it incredibly easy to just shoot and go. I used a Profoto 2’x3′ softbox for the key light and a Profoto umbrella for the rim light behind the soccer player.
I had the soccer player pose, run, jump for about 45 minutes. My guess is that I took about 200 shots during testing and real-world shooting. Each B1 battery still had a bit more than 1/3 charge remaining before I called it a day. I’m happy with that performance, considering the battery pack is fairly small and the B1 heads produce up to 500 Ws of energy per pop.
Profoto has created a high quality, powerful and easy to use location lighting system that I’d take anywhere. The B1 AirTTL flashes were truly a joy to use and I highly recommend them for any pro shooter who wants the best.
You’ll soon be able to purchase your own kit for Nikon at photo retailers everywhere. Here’s a link to the Profoto B1 AirTTL kits at B&H, they should have the Nikon TTL kit available soon:
Profoto AirTTL Lighting Kits at B&H Photo
Here’s a link to the ProFoto Website for more information on the AirTTL system:
Profoto 500 AirTTL Product Information