Five-Digit Studio Flash Catfight: Broncolor vs. Profoto

As Profoto and Broncolor battle for supremacy in the high-end studio flash world, things are getting all like, "Rawrrr, nice sweater. Does it come in your size?"

And just like Lexus and Infinity luxury car ads, they each want to point out their being better in some measurable way. Witness this Broncolor-produced "real-world shootout"…

First off, props. The image around which the shootout is based, created for Broncolor by photographer Amber Gray and lighting designer Julian Bernstein is actually pretty cool.

In this round, they choose to compare the nth-degree flash durations from the Profoto Pro8 Air (street price: $12,500 for just the pack) with the Broncolor Scoro A4s (street price: $12,500 for just the pack).

I actually enjoyed the vid very much. Not sure if I need to stop any speeding bullets with my studio flash just yet. My car might need replacing instead. But again, cool BTS built in there.

Then it occurred to me: What we need is a response video from Nashville, Tennessee. Specifically, we need one with the sub-10,000th of a sec flash duration Einstein monobloc.

And in the interest of consistency, we would want the exact same photo, except with a shock-red hair-dyed Paul C. Buff as the model. I can see it now -- face nestled in exotic flowers... heavy on the eye makeup... pouty lips... water sensuously caressing his face, only to be frozen like glass by the under-$500.00 Einstein 640 monobloc.

Yeaah baby, yeeeeeeeaaaahhh.

And I know just the man to shoot it.

C'mon, Paul. Make the call. Fly Jarek in. You know you want to. And I would so run that baby.


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Blogger Everpresent Mess said...

Wow, great stuff. This is the kind of post why i love strobist so much! Thanks!

December 16, 2011 3:44 AM  
Blogger TimF said...

Go Paul, Go! ;-)

Great article David!

December 16, 2011 3:47 AM  
Blogger Wes said...

Einsteins... I would put $ on them! Woot!!!

December 16, 2011 4:21 AM  
OpenID blogwerks said...

I'm totally on-board with this idea. Or, in the vernacular, Amen.

December 16, 2011 4:30 AM  
Blogger KEXINO said...

This is one of the reasons why I've used Broncolor kit exclusively since 1996. In those days it was Pulso A2 and A4 packs.

Yes, Bron is expensive when compared to Profoto or Elinchrom (and CRAZY expensive when you compare accessories such as dishes or grids). But for me it's a question of using the best kit for the job.

December 16, 2011 5:16 AM  
Blogger Ian Servin said...

Man, I don't think you ever sleep. Great video, and hilarious post.

December 16, 2011 5:24 AM  
Blogger budrowilson said...

I'd love to see an additional comparison to the PCB Einstein. Although, having seen Paul in a couple of ads, I think I'd rather have Betty White instead...

December 16, 2011 7:37 AM  
Blogger Rusty said...

I totally agree that we need a follow-up with the White Lightning (or Alienbee). Actually it would be interesting to see what one would get with a speedlight too. And truth be told I would have been happy with either of the photos. Yes when you compare them side by side and zoom right in there is a noticeable but very minor difference. I have a feeling if either one was presented to a client on it's own that they would loved it. I don't think you would hear "Oh you obviously used a Profoto for this, look at the motion blur and the very slight color temperature shift" from them.

December 16, 2011 7:57 AM  
Blogger Alex Solla said...

Thanks David. Makes me even more pleased with my Einstein purchase. I never thought I would be buying another strobe... but after getting my first Einstein, all I want are MORE. I am seriously hoping Santa has a couple in his bag!

December 16, 2011 8:04 AM  
Blogger MasterOfGoingFaster said...

Cool video. But sometimes the flash is too fast and I WANT to see some motion blur for a feeling of motion. I like that Broncolor gives the ability to adjust that.

But I'll be sticking with my old reliable Hensels, which are slow enough to sync at 1/8000 using 1st curtain release triggering (AKA Auto-FP).

December 16, 2011 8:45 AM  
OpenID kenkyee said...

This is an awesome idea!

Broncolor has always had those cool comparisons.
Profoto uses this weird "pre-ignition" pulse, so they in effect push the tail in front of the main pulse. Broncolor continuously rags on them about that :-)

And the AB haters say that PCB is the only company that directly compares themselves to competitors ;-)

December 16, 2011 9:22 AM  
Blogger Simon said...

David, you're one helluva mind reader.

When I checked the video, I was like "Yeah, nice, 1/4900th of a sec. My Einstein monobloc can do better than this...". Only downside is color consistency. Profoto and Broncolor are both fast AND color constant at the same time. With PCB, you gotta choose...

Paul Buff gotta do it. That would be the curveball the big names need !

December 16, 2011 9:45 AM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

Lighting Designer? Ok, I never heard of that class in college!
I can see Mr. Buff taking up your challenge. He's got a great personality!

December 16, 2011 9:46 AM  
Blogger Doug Howell said...

Maybe Buff could set that up for a live demo next month at Imaging... thanks for the post. Now Mr. Strobist... how close can a speed light get to this result? Even sort of close?

December 16, 2011 10:00 AM  
Blogger Doug Sundseth said...

I can see the tagline now:

"Do you want your spouse to see this: [Broncolor/Profoto invoice for 3-4 heads]

"... or this: [Picture of new Lexus with a big red bow.]"

December 16, 2011 10:21 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Broncolor's talked smack in the past:

December 16, 2011 10:39 AM  
OpenID AE5X said...

Now how many of us are more interested in doing a similar shoot than we are in the point of this video?!

December 16, 2011 11:17 AM  
Blogger ------------------------------- said...

The flash duration of a SB800 or a Canon 580EXII gets close to 1/30,000th of a second in a low power setting. David, you and McNally should "shoot it out" to see which system will work the best!

December 16, 2011 11:34 AM  
Blogger R. J. Kern said...

Way to be such a positive instigator, David! Amen!

December 16, 2011 12:14 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

My first reaction as they started the shoot was, "Why are they waterboarding the model?!?!" I realize it's not the same thing, but it looked incredibly uncomfortable.

December 16, 2011 12:22 PM  
Blogger stopspammingjeff said...

well, what about a whole bunch of old speedlights at 1/16th power.... shot through an old softbox or shower curtain.... maybe at say F8-11 rather than F16.... maybe 400 iSO rather than 100 ISO....

December 16, 2011 12:28 PM  
Blogger Ron Nabity said...

First of all, I have nothing at stake in the outcome of this comparison, I won't be buying either of them. It would be great to see a lower-budget product compared to both.

From a standpoint of comparing on a level playing field, two things popped into my head:

First, the white balance is set to 5000K - sounds like the correct number for Broncolor, but maybe if you were using Profoto regularly, couldn't it be a slightly different number?

Second - the blur could be a result of the Profoto's modeling lights being stronger, producing a little more ambient - it isn't clear from the video that they accounted for that. If they showed the same light reading from the modeling lights, then I'd be convinced.

Amazing photos for sure, they certainly make the viewer pay attention.

And yeah, it looked uncomfortable.

December 16, 2011 1:11 PM  
Blogger JacksPixels said...

Yes it could be cool to see what we can get with the Einstein serie !

December 16, 2011 1:54 PM  
Blogger Awesomefest said...

I just made a go at it using high speed sync and four speedlites. I froze the water but couldn't get the big fat drops like in the Broncolor shot. But I am no water photography expert, and so this may just require a method that is more advanced than just using a cheap shower head.

My images:

December 16, 2011 2:12 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

You guys can waterboard the model all you want, but I bet you'll wish she would just shut up after talking for 30 seconds like most of them!

December 16, 2011 2:18 PM  
OpenID kenkyee said...

Ron: read that other Broncolor comparison. The blur is caused by their pre-flash warmup as I mentioned...

December 16, 2011 2:53 PM  
Blogger stopspammingjeff said...

ok, so I can scrounge up 10 old Sunpak 433/422/etc flashes. Does anyone know how to wire them up to 1 flash trigger... cheaply? They're 6-12 volts each, so any trigger that handles 150 volts should work....

I could get a bunch of wires and flash shoes, but I'm wondering if I can simply use low-tech stuff like stripped wires taped to bits of foil on contacts?

December 16, 2011 2:53 PM  
Blogger Jenika said...

What an interesting BTS, aside from the cool side-by-side. Not being a commercial photographer, I'd probably never need to shoot a face in exotic flowers with splashy water, but you never know. Thanks for sharing the video!

December 16, 2011 3:15 PM  
Blogger Yugo said...

Great fun watching the $10k+ packs shoot it out, and very much looking forward to PCB / AB / speedlight versions!

Another art and marketing point, though - I actually liked the Profoto image better! The warmer color "shift"and the reduced number of droplets, not to mention model's expression, hair and light shape on the face - looks better on the Profoto. (And that's assuming the color "shift" wasn't a methodology problem - hard to prove without showing the Profoto at different durations to show inconsistency.)

I love geeking out over numbers and specifications and pure technical capabilities, but... seriously, Profoto? For an imaging company to come out and talk smack, they should have picked a better comparison photo from the shoot! For such an expensive product, you'd think they could spend the marketing pennies for a photo editor to pick a good one. Sure, the point of the shootout is technical, but if the target market is fashion shooters, they've self-sabotaged their pitch miserably.

December 17, 2011 6:51 AM  
Blogger Ron Nabity said...

@kenkyee: thanks for pointing that out, I missed the other link in the earlier comments.

December 17, 2011 11:47 AM  
Blogger Ujwal B. said...

Thats called Waterboarding the model.


December 17, 2011 7:27 PM  
Blogger Levy Moroshan said...

I've done a whole series of water type shoots and nothing works better then the Einsteins.

December 18, 2011 4:12 AM  
Blogger Cancun Wedding Flowers said...

Or do it Strobist style and save enough to buy that sexy lens you've always wanted.

December 18, 2011 2:27 PM  
Blogger PK said...

Interesting BTS. But... I dislike it when companies do this ("we are THIS much better than the other companies when it comes to this particular thing"-type of comparison videos). What are they trying to compensate for?

December 18, 2011 4:33 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

put Mr Buff AND Mr Syl Arena in the same frame and I'll sign up to buy!

December 18, 2011 6:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

So I have the Einstein head and Vagabond Mini pack. I'll shoot this for you all if you want to make the arrangements...flesse

December 18, 2011 7:30 PM  
Blogger AMP said...

Posted a real quick experiment pitting Einstein against a DLite and my off-camera flash.

Not as much WOW factor as the video, but I like seeing the results.

December 18, 2011 7:51 PM  
Blogger Arti Agarwal said...

Great post...thanks !!

December 19, 2011 5:13 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

since when do we separate photographer and lighting designer? in my humble opinion, in order to be a photographer you need to design your own light. does a painter have someone else mix and apply the paint? does a composer have someone else plot the notes on the sheet music?
same thing with these digital artists... a photographer does things in camera... if you assemble all the pieces in photoshop you are not a photographer, you are something else... call it what you want, but don't call it photography.
...and if you use someone else to assemble your digital pieces for you, you can't call yourself much of anything.

December 19, 2011 1:55 PM  
Blogger AMP said...

With regards to separate lighting designer v.s. painter and paint mixer... well, yes. Painters do not necessarily mix their own paints. Artists such as Michelangelo did have other people to assist in mixing paints, setting up scaffolding, and even some amount of actual painting.
The concept is that of the painter's or the photographer's design, but assistants help make that a reality more quickly, and allow the master to pay attention to the details, not the mechanics.
Sadly, I am rarely in a position to have assistants. When I do, it is helpful. :-)

December 19, 2011 5:09 PM  
Blogger Marcin Bencer said...

My picture might be not as good as one taken with bronclor, but I was shooting 2 yongnuo flashes (so you can buy more then 400 for one broncolor or prophoto :-)

All pictureres from this sesion:

December 20, 2011 7:57 AM  
Blogger akoloskov said...

The same type of shots with PCB Einsteins? Easy:-)

Check out ones without red lock in it.

December 21, 2011 9:54 AM  
OpenID jpetersphoto said...

Einsteins are great units but in my experience they do not come close to holding up to professional use. As an assistant I cringe when I see them on set.

December 25, 2011 5:09 PM  
OpenID 7d1e2830-32b5-11e1-877a-000bcdcb8a73 said...

I agree JPeters

The color consistency is not good on the Einstein when in speed mode.

December 30, 2011 2:11 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I agree JPeters

The color consistency is not good on the Einstein when in speed mode. You can only do one or the other.

December 30, 2011 2:12 AM  
Blogger mitchell said...

shoot medium format where you can sync at any shutter speed and u solve that problem on the profoto pack. stupid dslr

December 30, 2011 11:14 PM  
Blogger mitchell said...

any anyone who's saying AB's the color on those things is all over the place

December 30, 2011 11:15 PM  
Blogger mitchell said...

@ Marcin Bencer, yeah any flash will work when your shooting wide open and probably at a higher iso. plus you should give us a nice crop into the water drops!

December 31, 2011 12:44 AM  
Blogger aa4077 said...

Just remember the video was made by Broncolor. They of course set up a shoot that would show Broncolor packs are better.

Here is a link that shows a flash duration test at different power levels, you will need to look at durations for different power levels.

January 04, 2012 4:50 PM  
Blogger Paul Guba Imaging said...

OMG 12K for just a pack. How many of those do they think they will sell? Broncolor always did this stuff to justify their cost. I remember years ago they used to say their packs delivered more power. Water stops looking like water when it frozen it looks like ice. OH just an FYI I used to work with Ascors sun guns big fast and we called them the assistant killers for a reason.

January 05, 2012 8:26 PM  
Blogger hipster.brah said...

awesome post!

January 08, 2012 4:39 AM  

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