Daniel McQuillan Photography | A Modern Approach Daniel McQuillan Photography | A Modern Approach

Review // Profoto A1 Speedlight

Why I Returned my Profoto A1

 Profoto A1 Review

UPDATE:. Since releasing my review, it was shared with Profoto by one of their reps thus creating the firmware change to allow for the locking of settings!  Unfortunately I have invested in a different lighting system since and am unable to justify going back to the Profoto A1.  I would however still highly recommend to anyone looking to step up their flash game!

I recently received my pre-ordered Profoto A1 Air-TTL Studio Light and couldn't've of been more excited.  There have not been many advances in the world of onboard flash since the invention of the standard speedlite.  As a wedding photographer, I find myself using flash in a lot of sporadic situations.  Sometimes I will need it to fill an entire room with light, sometimes I will need just a touch of light to fill in some shadows on a face.  I currently use 2 Nikon SB-700's.  So naturally, when I started to learn of the light shaping control and power offered by the Profoto A1, to say I was stoked would be an understatement.  However, as you'll learn, my infatuation with the Profoto A1 was sadly short lived (about 90 minutes to be exact) - I'll explain why.

Here is used the Profoto A1 as a bounce fill to achieve proper exposure on my subjects.

The key feature of the light that excited my was the recycle time.  It uses an Li-ion battery, giving it an almost instant recycle time.  This meant no more missed shots.  In the past, I found my Nikon speedlite would often misfire on keyframes of events that required more 'action' style shooting, such as the bouquet toss.  When I began using the Profoto A1 - it did not disappoint.  I was snapping full power frames like an 'Uncle Bob' while the bride walks down the aisle - The light did not miss one shot.  

Missing a spontaneous group shot like this can be heartbreaking.

Personally the light quality improvement from the Nikon speedlite, which was noticeable right away, was irrelevant to me.  My style of shooting with an onboard flash at weddings is not dependant so much on the quality of light, but much more if the light is even there.  If light quality because the main priority while shooting, which is a possibility when photographing portraits, I am always able to pulls my set of Elinchrom Quadra Rangers.  With that being said and as previously mentioned, there was a notable 'smoothness' to the light that came out of the Profoto A1.  When using my Nikon speedlites, if I look hard enough, I am able to see a texture within the light being generated - This was non-existent when using the Profoto A1.

The light quality of the Profoto A1 combined with clarity of the Nikon D850 is insane.
Why did I return it?  Right away I noticed a design flaw, at least for my style of shooting, in the light itself.  I often shoot the reception using flash compensation, however, I rarely stay in open spot.  The problem actually arose when actually moving from spot to spot within the reception.  I support  my camera(s) using a Holdfast Moneymaker or a Black Rapid RS-7  which both hang my camera(s)s inverted at my hip/leg.  In turn, this also put the control dial of the Profoto A1 at my hip/leg causing the problem.  As I would walk around the reception (which actually involves small bursts of sprints, crawls, slides, etc) my leg would psychically bump the dial of the light, causing the flash compensation to be changed with every step.  Almost every time I went to use my camera, the flash compensation would be at +3.0.   Unfortunately, as far as I know/can tell, there is not a 'Lock Controls' button on the light (if there is, please let me know of my foolishness) which would've prevented this from happened.   Normally I would try to put together a home solution, maybe some tape of the dial of something, but at the price point paid for the light, it was simply not worth the functionality loss for the quality gain.

If the functional flaw was non-existent; The Profoto A1 would totally be worth the money.

TL:DR: I returned my Profoto A1 because my leg would bump the control dial leaving me with incorrect settings.

keywords: Profoto A1 Review, Profoto A1 Speedlight, Nikon D850 and Profoto A1, Profoto A1 weddings, Using the Profoto A1, Should I upgrade to the Profoto A1