Yes, my name is Sal Cincotta and yes, I was the first photographer in the world to really put the Profoto A1 to the test in the field. And yes, I unabashedly LOVE this light. Not because someone has paid me to say it or paid for this post. It’s not a paid post at all. In fact, I purchased my own A1s to replace my aging speedlites.
When I first got a chance to test the A1 my first thoughts were, it’s basically another speedlite. Albeit, one that recycles 4x faster, has rechargeable batteries, and works with the entire Profoto system. Man was I wrong. It is so much more.
If you haven’t watched the video – please watch this when you get a chance. The world is my studio with Sal Cincotta
Now, in this video, I say, “it will change the way I photograph forever.” I love reading internet comments from the peanut gallery. Things like, “that’s IMPOSSIBLE, how can it change the way you photograph, it’s a speed lite?!?!”
Well, I will disagree. Since I am the one who said it, I know why I said it and I know how this will impact me. Perhaps, this will change for you as well. Here is why. I almost never shoot with my light on camera. I don’t want to spend space or time on this post as to why… long and short of it – it looks like shit. It’s flashy, it’s harsh. So, we are taught from early on, get that flash off camera. From the very first frame with the A1 – I LOVED what I was seeing. The results were mind-blowing to me. Here was a flash I was testing on-camera and the results looked nothing like anything I had been able to achieve in the past. I was hooked.
That being said, when the light was first put in my hands the only thing I was able to really test was if it worked. I was under tremendous pressure to shoot during the production schedule. The results were really the only thing that mattered.
Once the product was announced and people started trying to compare it to other speedlites I thought to myself… hmm… this could be a good test. I think the tech specs all speak for themselves. I am not looking to reinvent the wheel here, nor am I qualified really. However, when it comes to the way light looks, the shape of it, the distribution of it, the falloff, the quality, well, I think we can all be experts. We know what we like and we know what we don’t like. It’s that simple. So, you be the judge with what you see below. Which do you want when creating images? Which light appears to be bigger, smoother, softer, evenly distributed, or better quality?
The Test | Profoto A1 vs the Godox V860II
- Kept it super simple. Shot this in my studio on a white wall and closed all the curtains to black out the space.
- Used a light meter to ensure the same power was hitting the wall from both lights. F2.8 at the wall.
- Both lights were zoomed to 105mm to show the lighting pattern. We could have gone wider, but I would have needed a much larger wall to see the pattern.
- Both lights were used in manual mode.
- Canon 5DM4 – raw files. Manual mode. 24mm lens. Same settings for all shots.
- Distance to the wall – 4ft and 8ft
- ***UPDATE*** Many of our readers have asked, “why not test with a modifier?” Keep in mind, I am not testing modifiers. I am testing the quality of the light at the source. I, like many photographers, shoot bare bulb. Of course, we all use modifiers from time to time as well. Keep in mind, the test is in the quality of the light coming out of the unit. Garbage in, garbage out. Quality in, quality out. Using a lighting modifier to mask poor quality isn’t going to alter the results – it will only mask them. End of day, knowledge is power. If you don’t think this is something that will impact you. Ignore the results. 🙂
Not sure anything else matters honestly. Everyone will have an opinion and that’s ok, would love to hear your thoughts, but the reality is that as a photographer, we rely so heavily on light to make our images. That’s a simple undeniable fact. The quality of that light is something we chase all day long. Looking for that perfect light. It can be hard, it can be soft… it’s all tied to what you are looking for, but the quality of that light has to be right. And if you think it won’t matter, then you are kidding yourself.
Quality of light for me… I am looking for a smooth gradation from highlights to shadow, even distribution of light from side to side, smooth fall-off, should look and feel natural, etc.
This is not a post debating the science of light, etc. It’s a post about what my eyes are seeing plain and simple. If your eyes are seeing what my eyes are seeing, then you know there is a HUGE difference in these two lights and that difference is going to impact your final shot. To say it won’t is just silly.
The A1 is creating an incredibly consistent lighting pattern. One which has a smooth gradation between highlights and shadows vs the hard lines of the Godox. That grey area is known as Penumbra. The larger this area the smoother the light fall off will be and the more even your light distribution will ultimately be.
Something you will notice about the A1 is how smooth that transition is from highlight to shadow. This falloff is going to provide you with incredibly pleasing light for your portraits.
The lighting pattern of the Godox is not good. I mean, there is no other way to describe it. The light is uneven, very hard lines, uneven falloff. The line from highlight to shadow is very harsh. This harshness will without a doubt impact your final images. When it comes to quality of light, the images below say it all.
Profoto A1 | 4ft (UNEDITED)
Godox V860II | 4ft (UNEDITED)
Profoto A1 | 8ft (UNEDITED)
Godox V860II | 8ft (UNEDITED)
Well, there are no surprises there. The A1 is SIGNIFICANTLY more than the Godox. So, you will have a choice to make no doubt, just like we all do when it comes to cameras, lenses, and every other type of equipment we purchase. We all have to make that tough decision. I want the best quality light I can get my hands on. I knew in my gut and from the results I was seeing that the A1 was different in a great way. This is why it will change how I shoot. I will now work to create images and shoot a little differently because I know the final results will without a doubt look and feel different. Now, I can see a little bit better the why behind it.
Don’t take my word for it or even the results – “if seeing is believing” doesn’t work for you with my shots… then give it a try on your own. I think you will be impressed with what you see. And I am betting, it just may change the way you shoot… forever.
Real world results and behind the scenes
Profoto A1 On-Camera
Profoto A1 Off-Camera
Profoto A1 On-Camera