Friday, August 14, 2009

My Profoto Acute B 600r lights...

OK, so I've had my Profoto Acute B 600r packs/lights for a couple years now. I bought them when they were still pretty new to the market, when pretty much nobody was using them yet. In fact, they were so new that people were linking to MY initial online review of the packs!

Well, now a bunch of photographers are using them, probably some more skilled than I am. A few great reviews have popped up online. There is good info to be found on these superb packs. However, I'm not sure anyone has done a long term evaluation yet, so I guess I'll be the first again...

First off, these lights are GREAT!!! If you know what to do with them, you can really get creative with your images. They are durable, compact, versatile and easy to use. Of course, they are expensive and much more of a hassle than working with natural light or a small Speedlight-style off-camera flash. They also won't have the quick flash duration or recycle time that a big studio pack will have. But, they do have an excellent, all-around convenience.

Comparing them to the big studio packs:

Sure, you can get more power, faster recycling and shorter flash duration from a big power pack and head, but you have to plug it in to the wall. Plus, it will be three or four times the size and weight of this setup. For on location shooting, the Acute B is a snap. It is light, quick to set up and gives great performance.

Comparing to using natural light or a small off/on camera flash:

Sure, setting up the Acute B takes a few minutes, maybe five minutes including the softbox and test shot. However fast and convenient the available/natural light option is (meter and start shooting - it doesn't get much easier/faster), you won't always have the quality of light available to you. There have been plenty of shoots that I intended to use natural light, but wound up breaking out my Acute B kit as plan B. Either the light disappeared or the light didn't match the feeling that I needed for the shot.

And forget about comparing it to a Speedlight, or even a Strobist-style setup. I have purposely gone with my Canon 580 flash before, looking for a very specific style of light, but you just can't do everything this kit can do without a LOT of extra effort. The only real advantage to the Strobist kit is the cost (with most full kits being around a thousand to fifteen hundred bucks. My Acute B kit totals six grand with everything included).

Now, what about details on the gear? Well...

I carry two Acute B 600r's, two heads, two compact Manfrotto stands and a Pocket Wizard MultiMax, all in a Pelican 1560 rolling case. It is heavy to lift, but way less heavy than the plug in lights I used to lug around, and way more powerful than the tiny portable light kit I used to use. Plus, the wheeled case makes it easy enough to get from point A to point B. In addition, the Pelican case doubles as a step stool, allowing me to stand on it for extra shooting height.

The only things that don't fit in the case are my camera and the softboxes with ring adaptors. I can carry everything in on one trip and don't need to search for a wall plug. The lights always last through a whole photo shoot, usually a couple hundred frames at reduced power (around minus two setting and halfway cranked up on the knob). My batteries are now a couple years old, but don't show signs of replacing, yet. I bet I can get another year out of them.

The cables from the packs to the heads are still like new, the heads fire perfectly, I have a small dent in one of the reflectors, but that's fine. Speaking of the reflectors, I still find them to be nearly useless. They were designed to be extra-compact, but that makes them suffer in the light-shaping department. Larger Profoto reflectors will fit them, but make them bulkier to transport. I often shoot with a softbox or a bare bulb, so it's not the end of the world to me.

The packs have the most damage to them. One of the knobs needs to be refitted and tightened down. It still moves and clicks, but it isn't pointing at the correct dash. It has approximately ten dashes that represent the different power levels, and mine points off in totally different direction. I need to retighten it, but for now, I can just count the clicks to know what power setting I'm on. Annoying, but it can be easily fixed... I'm just lazy.

Next, I just recently lost one of the feet on the bottom of the pack. It sill works fine, but wobbles a bit when set on the floor. Absolutely no performance is affected, it's just a minor detail. I bet I could get Profoto to send me one for a few bucks. Let's hope their service department is cool like that.

The 600r is a 600 watt pack with a radio receiver built in. I turn them on, pop the Pocket Wizard MultiMax and they are ready to go. Super easy to use. The receivers never gave me any trouble, though they seemed to like certain Pocket Wizard channels/frequencies better than others. The 600 watt seconds is enough power to light most anything in front of me. I use two packs, and heads so I am actually carrying 1200 watts of juice! I can light big groups and small rooms without a problem.

The packs still recycle really fast when used on a reduced power setting, and can recycle at a decent shooting speed even when pumping out full power. Only outside during high noon Texas sun have I needed full power, mostly I will shoot on minus two stops and sometimes minus four! At these levels, the packs will recycle fast and shoot almost all day long.

I also have a Profoto ringlight for these packs, which works fine. But, that review will be for a different day.

There you have it. Good packs, especially for location shooting. I even use them in the studio sometimes, though I have dedicated studio packs. The only issue with the 600r packs in the studio is that full power flash duration is too slow to really stop fast action tack sharp. But, you are talking about maxing out a small 600 watt pack, compared to setting my giant 2400 watt Speedotron pack on it's lowest setting and getting a similar power output and better flash duration.

It's REALLY silly to compare the two, since one is a specialized studio pack and the other is an SUV or cross-trainer type of pack. Honestly, if I could only have one, I'd go for the all around pack over the specialized pack, because I can do a lot more with the Acute B with a LOT less effort.

Do you want or need more info regarding this kit? Let me know and I'll try to post more details. Many of the images you see from me were taken with these lights. I shoot for magazines and newspapers around the world, and have put these lights to work, constantly shooting with them. I have shot so many frames (tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of frames by now) with these lights, that I should be able to answer any question you might have regarding them.



Blogger Chris said...

Great Review. Thanks for sharing. Came across your blog. Great Stuff...will drop by often! :-)

September 14, 2009 11:47 AM  
Blogger Marko said...

Thanks for good Acute B 600 review. I would be interested to hear your opinions how well the battery pack performs in outdoor (cold or wet) use and if you have any recommendations for portable light modifiers (differences between large soft boxes & octa boxes and what comes to the required time to set them up & size when packed).

October 27, 2009 11:19 AM  
Blogger luca said...

I'm going to buy 2AcuteB. I would like to know if they have a great light quality like profoto 7b for example or there is a differnece in quality between PRO-series and Acute- series. I'm speaking only about "quality of light" (color temperatur, ...) and not other features like for example flash duration that I think are better on Profoto Pro-SERIES THAN aCUTE-SERIES.
Thank you

December 14, 2009 7:20 AM  
Blogger troyfreund said...

Can you share some pics you've made with your "B"s?

January 25, 2010 5:44 AM  
Blogger Jason Janik: Life as a Dallas Photographer said...

Hi, Troy. You can thumb through my blog and see plenty of photos shot with the AcuteB lights. Just about everything that isn't a live concert or an iphone pic was shot with them. I use them EVERYWHERE!!!

January 25, 2010 9:15 AM  

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