Stockholm was a pretty wonderful whirlwind. I need to thank Photo Life, Profoto Canada and Profoto Global for making it such an unforgettable experience. I’ll be writing more extensively about the Photo Quest adventure in the next issue of the magazine, but I wanted to quickly touch base with you about the big star of that show: the Profoto A1.
I won’t get into details and specs here...all of those can easily be found around the web. I just want to address a couple of points that may interest some of you.
I had the Canon version of the A1 a couple of weeks before leaving for Sweden—to work on the magazine article. I tried everything to make it trigger on my Fuji cameras but nothing would do the trick, apart from using the older universal remote (single pin). I eventually had to make peace with the fact that it simply wasn’t compatible. Fast forward to day one of Photo Quest, when a few of us noticed a menu item in the A1 flash settings labeled X-Sync. At lunchtime we’re sitting around the table and I ask about this to Andres Prieto, marketing manager at Profoto Canada (great guy). He tells us this is a way for the flash to bypass all attempts at TTL communication...at which point my eyes widen. I grab an A1, put it on my X-Pro2, switch on X-Sync: bingo. Let there be on-camera light.
I’ve since tried this setting on both the Nikon and Canon versions and can confirm that it works with both. There’s no TTL and no HSS in this mode—it's all manual—but until we get the recently announced native Fuji remote, this will do the job just fine.
It’s just an expensive speedlight...
No, it’s not. Is it a smaller, camera-mountable flash? Yup. Does it have as much power as some speedlights? Nope. Is it a game changer? Hell yes. Two reasons as far as I’m concerned: refresh rate and the light itself. I met two incredibly talented Canadian photographers on this trip—Lanny Mann and Erika Jensen—who were chosen for one of the promo videos. They said they shot over 7000 frames during a party, on a single battery, without a misfire. That’s seven followed by three zeros. Which is why I don’t shoot weddings. But that number is simply insane.
And then there’s the light: round is not a gimmick. This, combined with the wide-angle beam and included dome diffuser, effectively creates a fall-off that you can play with and feather the way you would a softbox. There’s a heck of a lot of engineering going on, all for the sake of scattering those photons—and it works.
A real light. Not some crazy hold-down-a-button-while-the-flash-goes-into-strobe-mode preview but an actual LED. Trivial? Not in my book. And the kicker is that it’s powerful enough to be used as a light source—complete with zooming (and there's a really cool story behind this). It’s like a bonus.
So, this morning I unpacked my own A1 (a gift for all the guests...huge thx) and thought I’d put points #1 and #2 to the test. Weird looking male model but meh... he was available. First, the Franken-setup:
That’s an A1 on top of a Cactus V5 (a pair of old triggers I dug out), in a plastic holder in a clamp...all on a C-stand. Unwieldy, fragile and definitely not something I’d travel with but, it did the job* (again, all manual). I set the Profoto A1 to X-Sync and, sure enough, everything fired perfectly: one trigger in TX, the other in RX. I used the Dome Diffuser (included), set the A1 camera-left, about two feet away, and angled it slightly above my head to catch the edge of the dome (as opposed to its centre); same thing I’d do with any modifier.
Selfies like these are never easy and I’m not winning any prizes here, but I think the light itself—in terms of structure—is rather impressive. Especially when you consider I spent all of 15 minutes on this. Btw that shine on my face is from the crazy 40ºC weather we're struggling with...summer is over right?... Anyway, I won’t be ditching my Deep Octa just yet but this opens up a lot of possibilities...big possibilities that fit in my bag.
More Stockholm in the coming days.
*Except now I’m stuck with AAA batteries again. Sigh. Go Profoto/Fuji remote...