When Profoto announced their first truly portable setup with the Profoto B1 500 AirTTL battery powered flash last year, the news immediately caught my attention and I requested to get a sample unit for a review. The reason was fairly simple for me – I got tired of lugging around a huge and heavy battery pack for my Elinchrom Ranger lights when working on remote jobs. Speedlights are great for indoors and low-light environments, but they just do not have the juice to run big light modifiers or overpower the sun in mid-day lighting conditions (unless you use packs of them like Joe McNally does). For these reasons, I have been using big lights for sometime now, but with the huge inconvenience of carrying a heavy portable battery. Although the Profoto B1 lights have less power in comparison with a total of 500 watts, I realized that I rarely go full power with my Elinchrom Rangers anyway, so the B1 was plenty for most of my work. The biggest advantage that I saw in the Profoto B1 was portability – no need for any external power sources! Just attach a battery on the side of the head and you are ready to go. And with a built-in slave trigger, the head can be controlled with a radio or infrared remote units wirelessly.
One big news that nobody seems to be paying attention to at the moment due to the much-anticipated Canon 5D Mark III release, is the Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite announcement. Why big news? Because it is the first flash unit (speedlite in Canon language, speedlight in Nikon language) that actually has a built-in wireless radio capability. Historically, both Canon and Nikon used flash units that would communicate wirelessly only via infrared signal. While infrared works fine in some environments, it has problems with daylight (sun rays), range and it often requires direct visibility. Because of this problems, many photographers, including myself, have been relying on external radio transmitters and receivers such as PocketWizard for a more enhanced and reliable communication between flash units.