For more than four decades, Profoto has been manufacturing some of the highest quality lighting equipment known to the professional photography market. I had always heard that their gear was top-notch but it wasn’t until I actually tested Profoto’s newest product, the Profoto D1 Studio 3 Head Kit, that I really came to appreciate what fine lighting equipment can do for a photographer.
About ten days ago, Profoto shipped their newest kit out for me to test in the real world. The D1 Studio 3 Head Kit includes one D1 Air 1000Ws monolight, two D1 Air 500Ws monolights, two speedrings, two softboxes and one D1 10-degree grid. All of the gear stows nicely in the included trolley bag, which has durable ball-bearing wheels and skid plates on the base. The whole kit is designed with efficiency in mind so you can take it on the road with no hassle.
The test kit arrived just two hours before I was leaving to photograph a fundraising event. I decided to take the Profoto D1 Studio Kit with me and set up a photo studio on location to take portraits of the fundraiser guests. Since I didn’t have any time to familiarize myself with the system, I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t be able to pull off my photo shoot. Just in case, I brought along my full ensemble of Nikon CLS flashes as a back-up.
The fundraising event was at the Tacoma Museum of Glass, so I staked out a location in front of the museum’s hot shop, which had a very interesting brushed steel background. I knew this backdrop would be bright and shiny which was exactly the look I was after for these images.
An assistant and I setup the lighting equipment in approximately 15 minutes. I used the 1000Ws monolight for the key, and one of the 500Ws monolights for the fill. I set up the third 500Ws light for the background and had it fire directly on the brushed steel to make it appear bright in the final images.
My assistant and I fired off a few test shots for the light meter and then we were ready to begin taking pics of all the guests. I utilized the D1 Air Remote system to control each of the heads independently. The D1 Air Remote allows full control of up to six different groups of flashes within a single channel. In the case of this kit, you’ll be using three groups, but the ability to use up to six total groups means you’ll be able to easily expand your Profoto lighting equipment in the future.
I programmed the monolights for Group A (key), Group B (fill), and Group C (background). Adjusting power output for each flash head was very simple and was accomplished by pushing a few buttons on the D1 Air transmitter. The transmitter mounts to the camera’s hotshoe and operated on two AAA batteries. It is lightweight and unobtrusive, so doesn’t get in the way of your shooting.
The shots from the fundraiser turned out very well. My initial fears were absolutely unfounded which is a true testament to the ease of operation and overall quality of the Profoto equipment. The equipment performed flawlessly and allowed me to focus on my job – taking photos. There wasn’t a single glitch or failure in hundreds and hundreds of shots. The Profoto gear was reliable, consistent, and excellent.
The next day
Bolstered by the success of my fundraiser photo shoot, I spent a few hours the next day fully learning the detailed operation of the D1 Air system. The D1 Air monolight control panel is designed very well. All settings are intuitive to program and exceedingly easy to set up. All the power adjustments are represented in terms of stops, with the ability to fine-tune adjustments in tenths-of-a-stop increments. The D1 heads have a seven-stop range with level 4 indicating the lowest power setting and level 10 indicating the max power setting. I found that flash output from shot to shot was extremely consistent and I didn’t have to do any post production brightness or exposure adjustments in Lightroom 4 afterwards. Again, this is a testament to the high quality engineering of the Profoto D1 monolights.
The D1 monolights have a very quick recycle time. During my real-world use of the system, recycle time was never once an issue. In fact, I could pretty much take photos as fast as I wanted to. In almost every situation I photographed, recycle times were much faster than one second. A full-power dump resulted in a recycle time of 2 seconds while recycle times for lower power settings were almost instantaneous. At these lower power settings, the Profoto monolights could easily keep up with shooting rates of 3-4 frames per second.
Quality of light is one of the Profoto D1 Air’s strong suits. Profoto’s light shapers are top-notch and designed with the highest-quality materials. I shot a sequence of still-life images in my studio using a bouquet of flowers and was immediately impressed with the smoothness of the light from the D1 strobes. Honestly, there is a look and feel to the light that is elegant and absolutely beautiful.
As I mentioned earlier, the Studio 3-Light Kit comes with two soft boxes and one grid. The softboxes set up very quickly and the rods are even color-coded for correct placement into the speedrings. The grid simply snaps onto the end of the Profoto Air with no fuss. It is a 10 degree grid, so is perfect for individual portraiture where you want to brighten up the background or hit the person with a beautiful rim light.
Profoto’s light shapers are some of the best in the business. Having used lower-quality softboxes in the past, I can really appreciate the attention to detail that Profoto used when designing their products. Once you start using Profoto’s light shapers, you won’t want to go back to any other manufacturer’s equipment. As you build your Profoto lighting equipment over time, know that the entire range of Profoto Light Shapers is quite extensive. They manufacture just about everything from beauty dishes to strip lights to parabolic umbrellas to ring lights.
One of the very cool features of the Profoto lighting system is the ability to control each head wirelessly from a Mac or Windows based computer. The Profoto Studio Air software allows you to visually see the power of each head and make adjustments as needed with the on-screen controls. You can even save your custom lighting setups for use at a later time.
I have nothing but great things to say about the Profoto D1 Studio kit. During my test period, every aspect of the system operates flawlessly and without error. It proved to be tough, durable, and easy to use in every situation.
Profoto equipment makes it easy for photographers to create beautiful images. The equipment gets out of your way and lets you do what you do best – produce great photographs. I love the Profoto D1 Studio Kit and highly recommend it for anyone who wants to shoot with the best.
Here please find a video showing Mike testing the new system.
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