Profoto A1


Appearances can be deceptive. You would never guess that I was once a billboard model would you, but I was (fleetingly). Nor do I look like a racing car driver or a chainsaw musician but again I have been, ok so the racing car was a Redbull billy-cart and the music was somewhat less than melodic and more “heavy metal” than Anthrax doing a Metallica cover while dressed up as Sir Lancelot but my point is not to judge a book by its cover. The all-new Profoto A1 is a casing point.

First impressions scream Speedlight and why you may ask would Profoto make a speedlite when Canon and Nikon make some seriously good ones themselves, and you probably have one already if you’re a DSLR sort of person anyway.

Well that’s because it’s not a speedlight it’s the “world’s smallest studio light”. Now firstly I presume they are talking about the light being small and not the studio, in fact if you read the blurb Profoto claim that the A1 makes the entire world your studio and that’s pretty big in my book, but the light is about the size of an um,,,,,,,, Speedlight!, It’s also the same shape as a er,,,,,,,,, Speedlight!

Rather interestingly you can use it as a, wait for it,  Speedlight, amazing eh but don’t get confused because one thing it definitely isn’t is, a SPEEDLIGHT!

So now I have that cleared up let’s have a look at what this “definitely not a Speedlight” can do.

Well firstly you can clip it onto the hot shoe of your camera like you would your, (do I really need to tell you what) and use it in exactly the same way as you would use your (you know what). The A1 is equipped with TTL (we opted for the Canon version) so it will talk to your camera and meter through the lens to achieve the correct exposure just leaving you to tweak it up or down a bit as normal depending on what you are after. It’s stunningly fast recycle time of 1.2 s will keep even the most trigger happy amongst us happy and its interchangeable Li-ion battery packs that last up to 4 times longer that the good old AA’s which will save you money and time.

Also the A1 is equipped with HSS and can cope with shutter speeds up to 1/8000’s of a second and that’s great for freezing fast moving subjects in broad daylight or shallow depth of field portraits whilst outside. Profoto say that their HSS is the most powerful, fastest and most consistent HSS solution on the market and I have no reason to doubt this claim, the A1 is a very slick performer in this area.


Also rather nicely the A1 comes with built in Profoto Air (the Profoto radio triggering system) and this enables easy communication between any Profoto Air equipped kit (other A1 units, Monoblocks, packs and heads etc.). This does give the A1 an advantage over other similar products and opens up a range of possibilities for combining multiple lights both in and out of the studio environment.


Now a little like Frank Sidebottom the A1 sports a rather unusual round head, this makes more of a difference that just pure aesthetics, it matches in well with the majority of Profoto’s other flashes and gives a natural, beautiful light when compared to the normal oblong heads of most speedlights (oops sorry I forgot this is definitely not a Speedlight). A rather nice rotating zoom ring on the head allows for a quick change from a wide setting with gorgeous soft fall off to a more spot like focused narrow beam. (We like twists as photographers so I do like this manual system as its very intuitive). A built in motor zoom is also incorporated incase you have enough twists and turns in your life already.

Now one thing that I always hated about my Canon speedlight was that I had to stick Velcro all over it to hold on any aftermarket light shapers and although this gave it a bit of “street cred” it always seemed a shame to gum up a nice clean bit of kit. The A1 has used a revolutionary new technology called “magnets” to hold on a decent range of light modifiers and this allows for super quick attachment and removal whilst keeping it gum free. We have the full range of attachments here including a dome diffuser, bounce card and wide-angle lens.


Now in my book one massive advantage of the A1 over a speedlight is it comes equipped with a built in LED modeling light, this allows for instant feedback on your lighting and also helps find your dropped car keys.

Lastly a simple user interface means you won’t get lost in endless menus and a massive HI res display on the back helps us poor sighted folks see what’s going on without having to put our specs back on.


So in my opinion this is a Speedlight despite what they say, but it’s also a studio light, it gives the best of both worlds in one elegant compact unit. Profoto have really thought this one out well and I would imagine it is going to become a genuine alternative to speedlights from the main two camera system manufacturers so watch out Canon and Nikon.

I’m giving it an easy 10/10 for my BCR, it looks good and functions superbly, now if I owned any Profoto kit I would have to add one or perhaps even two to my set up.

So next time you need a speedlight why not give the Profoto A1 a go, it’s not a Speedlight, it’s much much MORE than a Speedlight!


Brucie Blogger

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