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
This Post Has 42 Comments
The A1 looks like a great if somewhat expensive option. Shame it’s a bit underpowered.
I would still like to know how much you can shoot in TTL before overheating shutoff happens. This drives me nuts with Godox.
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I shoot with modifiers most of the time and while I don’t strictly agree in your garbage-in-garbage-out theory, you would certainly gain some power by being able to shoot sans modifier more often. Clearly this would be a pretty big advantage in direct sun. That being said, the Godox v860ii’s are a pretty nice addition to the kit. Maybe they will improve their reflector/diffuser with the resources that come from success. 🙂
the current test just show the A1 bare head lighting is more even fire at wall ,still cannot see how smooth the falloff for the real head shot
i would like to see the test for 2 headshot for direct flash as the article mention smooth gradation from highlights to shadow is better than godox V860II
Thanks for the input Sal. I’m glad that you tested these lights straight up without mods. I often use an unfettered on-camera speedlight outdoors as fill … find the ambient directional key light and use the speed-light to fill the shadows … or as fill for a directional off-camera strobe key light. The less modified the better since all mods do in these situations is lower the level of light reaching the subject making it harder to deal with stronger ambient backgrounds. However, indoors I probably would opt for the dome diffuser made for the A1 … the A1’s round reflector is an advantage when using domes … (last decent one I used was on a Quantum). The other key info is that this A1 is part of a system … so Profoto users are probably the main target audience. It is part of the Profoto AIR protocol which allows full control from the camera position in tandem with Profoto AIR strobes like the B1, B1X, B2. Lastly, as a Profoto studio/and location shooter this little light will solve the need for an on-set accent light that you can place at will … or aux light on location that’s easy to hide … but still can control from camera. Basically, it is like a mini-Profoto studio strobe. When Profoto get around to the Sony version I’ll probably get a couple A1s because I do use the B1 and B2 lights and already have the Sony AIR remote. Thanks again.
test it with AD200 (or 360II) please, someone =) A1 in Ukraine i will get only after November (((
Ad360 is round, right ?
Thanks for publishing these results, but I’m still not impressed by the A1’s light pattern. It’s a little more squarish than a typical speedlight, but it’s still patterned and stripey… not round and smooth as I would have hoped from Profoto’s hype. Yes, it’s an improvement over the V860ii, but that’s only because the V860ii is unusually crappy when it comes to light distribution. (I never have overheating problems with my V860iis, but I have LOTS of problems with its ugly light patterns.)
I can see how the A1 might be a worthwhile expenditure in the professional photographer’s continuing battle to distinguish himself from his competition (“Yeah, but MY flash is round and it costs a thousand dollars!”) but I personally couldn’t see it unless it totally solved the “speedlight problem” — which your tests show it doesn’t.
Thanks for sharing Sal. As others have expressed a good test would be to use modifiers on each I suspect much of the advantage will diminish. It also would have been nice to see those same practical shoots done with the Godox to see how much of that lab difference translated to real three dimensional subjects. I have been using the AD2000 and am blown away by how good it is. I have used many expensive systems over the years now mostly using the Einstein strobes from Paul C. Buff. The AD2000 is my new favorite because it is so compact and powerful. I have recently used it with great effect on a shoot for a mass transit organization shooting large buses quickly and without any assistant. I have been using the fresnel head and the bare bulb and bare bulb frosted glass modifier. The quality of the light and the output is very reliable maybe only missing TTL exposure 1/30 times.
Exactly. Practically speaking Sal, we use modifiers, and 3D objects will not show the difference so starkly. I just got an 860ii, and I will guarantee that the no one will know the difference once I put it in my 24×24 lightbox. Because they’re not looking for light patterns. They’re looking for good exposure, and emotion, like you always talk about. Love ya Sal, but you’re off on this one.
I will have to disagree with you both. 🙂 I am not testing lighting modifiers… I am testing the source of the light. Garbage in garbage out. Quality in quality out. I shoot bare bulb all the time. I mean – ALL THE TIME. As do many other photographers, so that will show. We will have to agree to disagree. 🙂
Understood on the first part but what of the second a practical test in the field of the godox in the same circumstances? I also shoot bare bulb as well I just think a blank white wall while illustrative of the point might not translate when you get to real subjects.
I have to think, Josh, that the exposure differences on the white wall of the Godox would translate directly to a real subject. Imagine if the eyes are in that underexposed spot of that white wall, they’d be darker than the cheeks when I’d want it opposite (eyes brighter). I would also always have that pattern burned into my brain every time I took a shot with that godox. =P
Honestly, when was the last time you pointed a speedlight directly at your subject? When we do not use modifiers we point the on-camera flash at an object that can reflect the light. And if I do not have a modifier and there is non place to bounce, I flipped on the built in diffuser.
I agree that the light quality when using it “as is” is not as appealing but I will never use it like that. Any modifier will completely diminish all light patterns.
did you look at the pictures above… all are DIRECTLY at the subject… so… um… yeah… so – you might not use it that way, but plenty of photographers do. and honestly… if the results showed the godox was better… would you feel differently. i love how just dismissive people are of what they are seeing with their own eyes. to dismiss the quality of light seems truly amateur (i realize you are not dismissing the quality) – but the reality is – PLENTY of photographers shoot without modifiers. And I for one – now shoot directly at the client – the images above show me doing this and the results. hence why i love this light and the quality – i feel like its opening up new opportunities because i would never do this in the past.
I do not have your experience and you probably will do much better than me pointing a flashgun directly at a client 🙂 The only time I ever dare point my flash directly at my subject would be in mid day. I have only the Nikon flashes to compare to (600, 800, 900, 910) and I honestly doubt anyone can see any difference in mid day light. In fact, compare to Nikon flashes Godox is king.
The Godox System is far from perfect (flashes, radio etc.) but it still gives me amazing results without breaking the bank.
I know, I know, this simple test was just to test quality of light, not price or any other feature, but the thing is Al, you do make it sound like it is now profoundly changing the way you work so yes, I wonder how the quality of the A1 can profoundly change someone’s work. It’s not like we comparing candle light to flashes.
However, we all need and want different things. I am glad to see manufacturers like Godox, Nissin, Phottix etc. coming out with real quality equipment at very reasonable prices. As someone who already broke a couple of lights, I am glad I can have great affordable options at a pro quality level.
curious about your experience of AD200 vs einstein. I drag at least one einstein for the reception part of weddings because I’ve missed too many shots with nikon speed lights (even using battery packs, which helps tons). How are recycle times and battery life?
I bought two AD200 in May and since then have not used my Einsteins. I am finishing my basement home studio and they will be used just for that. The AD200 are so mobile and easy to setup. Recycle is better than the SB-900 and the SB-910. Battery can give around 450 full power exposures.
I agree. Just magmod sphere the v860. Save money. The barebulb mentality reflects his premium shooting style and doesn’t apply to all practices.
My big question is how many shots do you get before the A1 shuts down from overheating? My 860II’s drive me crazy. When I am shooting a subject, it will shut down after 10-20 shots in TTL.
^^^THAT IS A GREAT QUESTION. Ok… tomorrow I will try this for you. And I know what you mean… I teach workshops and ALL THE TIME people with these overheat!!! ALL THE TIME. That to me is a huge performance issue. and one that is very real world to be concerned about.
Thanks Sal. It is the one reason I bought a set of Profoto B2s and a couple of B1s. Still, I love my Godox strobes for quick photo assignments–I’m a newspaper photojournalist. I get more flashes out of my Godox AD200, but in mixed use with the 860II’s, the 860II will stop working or their recycle slows to about 10-20 seconds between shots. It’s just not workable in most situations were you are working a scene to capture a moment and then bam, the strobe won’t fire.
If this thing is so wonderful, then why don’t they even publish their specs like everyone else does?
great question. only profoto can answer that one. i dont own them… yet. 🙂 but seriously… if i had to guess… i am betting (100% guess) there is a standards test that has to be done to ensure all those numbers are right and tested the same way – again – just a guess. i would imagine as the product hits market and they get through that process you will see things like guide numbers, and the host of other industry standard measurements. the tech in us… all want that info. 🙂
also – was poking around – tech specs are here… https://profoto.com/us/a1
They do. It is a 76W light
Were the location shots done with M flash exposure, or were you using TTL? If using TTL, were you using flash exposure comp?
great question. yes to both. the china town was in Manual mode. the very last shot was ttl and hss. this is another one of those things that has expanded for me. i love shooting at 1.2 – i love the milky skin tones and the separation from the background – now with this clean of light… it gives the image that extra something… make sense?
Hi Sal – thanks for your review/comments. So I wonder what the results would be if you put a small diffuser on each of the flashes and reran the tests? There are many small, speedlite compatible softboxes that would work that are relatively inexpensive – under $50. Yes, you loose some power but am wondering if that might level the playing field a bit – I can’t remember the time I shot with a bare speedlight…
Good point and one i considered for sure. Here were my thoughts – Garbage in garbage out. Quality in quality out. My goal, was merely to show raw quality of the light and the reflector and investment that went into that. The minute we start adding modifiers, the next round of feedback would be… well, he is not using the right modifiers and they give X light an unfair advantage, etc. So, keep in mind, this was not a test of any given modifier. To that point, I shoot bare bulb all the time – but i would counter here… the reason you dont is because of that image I am showing. How would it change things now seeing the quality of the A1? For me, it has altered my thinking and shooting a bit. The rest… is all about how it works for you in your environment. thanks for reading and hope it helped a little. 🙂
I agree. A modifier changes the game. If you compare EACH flash with the same modifier, I bet the results would be the same. A modifier would definitely spread the light evenly.
Yes, but the FAUXtographers out there will claim that the Godox is better because they can buy 42 of them for the price of one A1 😉
I’m hoping that my comments are in a Q for moderation and not being deleted deliberately?
Andrew – deep breath my man. I can’t sit up approving comments at 3am. Let’s dial down the conspiracy theories. Please.
Faux photographers!!?? Because they won’t buy ludicrously expensive kit?!
Dumbest comment Ive ever seen in years.
On the surface that is a silly statement, but I get what Fred is saying. Should we all not strive to get the best we can afford, and along those lines, constantly look at things that will push us to the next level regardless of price tag? I have some peers that get the cheap stuff over and over and they are stagnant and stuck in their ways. Their work has always been and will continue to be OK. The ones who constantly try new things to learn, grow and get better are the ones I want to associate with. The A1 is definitely on my wish list since I can see it as a great tool to helping me make better images for my clients.
If I can the images I get using Godox then to be blunt. No. The expensive lights won’t make me a better photographer at all. That is just a crap statement. Before the A1 Sal was doing great work. After the A1 he’s doing great work. He’s not a better photographer because of a round fresnel on a flash. It’s a marketing play. Real world a round head or a rectangle head at 6ft won’t give ANY discernable differences. it’s a matter of simple physics in the way light works – it spreads out. It spreads out and the area your lens and hence subjects will be in with be within a circular pattern. Or to put it another way, has Sal’s work BEFORE the A1 been crap?!
I am hoping this set of comments are tied to something else and not the actual article… because no where in the article do i claim it will make you a better photographer. What am I missing here? The results speak for them self. If you dont believe the results will make a difference to your final image… ah… ok – I guess. I mean, it seems impossible to me, yet some how some way, people are still making an argument that lighting pattern wont impact their images… that to me seems like people who just don’t want to accept what their own eyes are seeing.
I’m not saying that at all. Sal is a great photographer regardless of equipment, as are many other people. All I’m saying is that one shouldn’t discount something that might up your game just because it has a disagreeable price tag. If you are perfectly happy with your Godox, then by all means keep using them, but I’m with Sal on this one. When I moved from a cheap starter set of studio lights to Profotos I saw a difference. From what I see here, I would expect the same from the A1.
Sal, sorry if I went off on a bit of a tangent from the intent of the article. Too many of my peers are content resting on their laurels and we have this same argument all the time. I guess it just struck a nerve.
Andrew, I think we just have to agree to disagree. I like playing with new toys and pushing what I do. If your setup works for you and what you do then I’m happy for you. If we were all the same this would be a mighty dull world. =)