So I was ready to replace my old White Lightning X800 setup. I grew up shooting with wired sync cords and flash triggered slaves and trusted that system. Back in the day, I shot tens of thousands of school photos with a pair of Photogenic Powerlights and a sync cord. Never had a problem with that system.
Today, my shoots are a little more complex and I have found myself running wires and wire splitters around corners where flash triggering will not work reliably. While it works, this is obviously not much fun.
I wanted to get into radio triggers but was highly skeptical of pretty much everything on the market. The complexity of Pocket Wizards and similar clones was a turn off. Having to keep track of separate transceivers hooked up to each light and working was not something I wanted to deal with. A more elegant solution had to exist so I started researching the Calumet Travelites and Profoto Air system. I eventually ruled out the Calumets due to the quality of the lights, recycle times, and the only wireless control you have of the Travelites is triggering.
But before dropping $2500 on one set of Profoto monolights I rented two heads and a controller from borrowlenses.com for the bargin price of $150. After the very first day my assistants were ready to toss the White Lightnings into the trash. While I thought the WLs were top quality in build and design, the Profotos simply take it to the next level. After a week was up I couldn't bear to return them and asked for another week rental.
On Location Photos
Dialing in power in 1/10th stops makes light setup a breeze.
With this setup and my eye fi wireless SD card I have wireless control of lights and file transfers to a neighboring computer.
The controller is the weak link in the system, but it works.
The Air system works perfectly. Every time. Exposure is dead on. Every time. With the White Lightning system it was normal to see a slight variance in exposure from shot to shot (maybe 1/10th stop, not enough to complain about). However with the Profoto lights the exposure is EXACTLY the same from shot to shot.
Using the Air
Actually using the Air system from the controller isn't so easy. The light gives a short beep when you change 1/10th stops remotely and a long beep when you change full stops. That's great when you are in a studio and when you have the proportional modeling lamp on to see the energy changes. When the lamp is off or set to full power and when you are in a loud building it's hard or impossible to reliably change power settings without walking over to the light and verifying it changed to where you want it. I wish it had an LED screen on the controller so I could see the power settings remotely.
The button system on the controller is a little confusing. After two weeks I am still pressing the wrong buttons at the wrong time. I am sure in a few months I will be able to do it without thinking, but for now it's not really working out. This is coming from a guy who can fly through the menus on a 1Ds2, so I know awkward button systems.
The lights seem like a little too much plastic for my taste. I think the knobs where the light pole attaches aren't very tough. I am betting it's going to break eventually.
The controller is definitely too flimsy. It just slides onto the camera with no kind of lock and I am pretty sure the least little bump is going to break it off. I will be buying an extra transceiver and will keep a sync cord in the light bag for emergencies.
I will be buying a set of these. At $1250 per light they are about double the price of a WL + PW (not to mention the price of the Profoto accessories). I know Paul Buff is coming out with his own integrated solution, but I still don't see them matching the performance of these.
Any questions? Yes, the Profotos work perfectly with my Vagabond II.
Some pics from the last two weeks:
Profoto + Vagabond II on location.
Running two Profotos at full power off one Vagabond II:
Two Profotos + White Lightning all working together: