When photographing portraits on location, we use lots of Profoto 7B 1200 w/s battery strobe packs. At times we rent as many as ten of them on our bigger shoots. It’s a great pack and practically bulletproof, the only drawback is that one of the thing that makes it bulletproof is that it’s powered by a sealed lead-acid motorcycle battery.
I take Profoto AcuteB 600R packs when I don’t need or want to lug a Profoto 7B on the road but a little shoe-mount flash just won’t do. Late last December, just a day after picking up one of the first production AcuteB 600R packs in New York, I was flying down to the Caribbean for exactly the type of shoot I that was perfect for this tiny pack.
I wanted to be able to use an Elinchrom Octabank but I didn’t need to pump 1200 w/s through it. Most of my shoot was going to be available light but I shot one or two portraits each day without every running low on output or power.
Profoto is always on the upper end of pricing (unless you’re a Broncolor user) and this is no exception. The list price is $1,950 for the AcuteB 600 pack and $2,185 for the AcuteB 600R with built-in Pocket Wizard receiver. I bought the R version. I don’t know if Profoto does the same thing in other countries, but MAC group in the US holds about 40 “One-Day Sales” a year where you can buy the stuff for 10% off (that’s what I did) so just ask them when the next event is coming up and have it shipped.
The biggest advantage to the AcuteB 600 over the 7B is size & weight. While the 7B weighs in at a whopping 26 lbs, the AcuteB 600 weighs in at just over 10 lbs so it’s light enough that the shoulder stap it comes with won’t rip your shoulder off… The only disadvantage to this is as Peter suggested, you get a 2-fer with the 7B as it also becomes a 26 lb sandbag if you hang it from the stand. At 10 lbs, the AcuteB is pretty light in that regard.
Same size as the original 600 Acute Packs 7.5 x 7.5 x 5″ (19x19x13 cm.) You can easily fit a pack, head and reflector into a Tenba 300/2.8 long lens bag which makes it easy to carry and small enough to even fit into the overhead compartment of many small planes.
While the AcuteB head is made specifically for this pack and at the moment is the only head that allows you to use its 85 watt modeling light, Acute 2, Acute 2 twin heads, old-school Acute heads and will all work with this pack sans modeling light. There is an adapter called a “Profoto Adapter 85 W” that will be released at some future date that will allow you to replace Acute 250w modeling lights with a 85w, so you won’t have to buy a AcuteB head unless you really must need the modeling light.
I also purchased an Acute Twin head for times that I’d want to combine two packs for 1200 w/s. Each pack has just a single flash socket, so a twin head makes the most sense when you plan to split it between two packs – however even just using one leg of the split flash cord will provide higher flash duration than the regular heads just not as much of a benefit as splitting power between two packs. Because of their shorter u-shaped flashtubes the Profoto bi-tubes have faster flash durations even when each leg is on full power. How much quicker that actually is I’d want to test. This isn’t not much of an issue in terms of flash syncs of 1/250 and below, but with a leaf-shutter on the Hasselblad H-series offering a 1/800 flash sync it may come in handy.
Though I’d much prefer that Profoto not have separate Pro and Acute series heads (this is because the Acute flash trigger voltage is 450w -vs- 900w on Pro-series) but at least they both use all the same modifiers, so any reflectors or banks you have for Pro 6 or Pro 7 will work with Acute.
I did these tests with both Acute 2 and old-school Acute heads and got similar results. I doubt the duration is different in the AcuteB heads. Profoto lists the full power 600w/s flash duration as 1/1000th of a second, but they have always measured “peak-to-peak” duration which is much shorter than actual. Using a flash meter, the actual duration when using either an Acute 2 or older Acute head both appear to produce a flash duration of 1/350th of a second. This means that shooting at full power at 1/500th will clip about 1/2 stop of output and at 1/1000 you’ll clip a full stop of output, so if you need to shoot at 1/500 or higher, you might as well trim the pack to 1/2 power. There are two ways to cut the output of the heads. The first is a 3-position switch for Max, -4 (1/4 power) and -2 (1/2 power) this trims power without lowering the voltage, so going down to 1/2 power this way cuts flash duration to somewhere around 1/800th of a second and even going to 1/1000 of a second only clips 2/10ths of a stop. The second way is a click-stop dial that allows you to trim up to 2 stops in 1/8th stop increments. This is more accurate, but it appears this also trims the voltage so the flash duration doesn’t get cut back as much, so just remember if you want the fastest flash duration, trim the power as much as possible using the 3-position switch – not the dial.
Listed by Profoto as good for 160 full power flashes. While extra 7B batteries weigh the same as the AcuteB Pack, extra AcuteB 600 batteries are just 4 pounds meaning you can throw in a few extras without adding a ton. Extra batteries with cassettes list for $225, but you can buy the batteries alone for $40 when the old ones wear down. I have two extra batteries on order, but they hadn’t shown up in time for the trip. Even so the one battery I took never dropped below 1/2 power. The battery slides in very smoothly from the side which is good. On most battery packs the battery is in the bottom of the pack, which I find always puts too much stress on the clips that hold it in place.
Comes with a Profoto Charger 1A that charges the pack in 5 hours, but can also be used with a Profoto 7B Charger that will top off the pack in less than half the time. For best battery life, keep batteries on a charger all the time when you aren’t shooting.
At 26 lbs, 7B packs put a lot of stress on cases so I find myself repairing my Tenbas on a fairly regular basis. The same was true when I used Hensel Portys. But these packs are so light that you can probably get by with a lighter case for even more weight savings.
The Profoto AcuteB 600 isn’t as much a replacement for the 7B, but rather an option to it. If most of you gear is Acute and you work at lower power it may be the perfect pack to throw in with your A/C Acutes in case there’s no juice. I’ll probably keep using the 7B as a main light but take a pair of AcuteB 600Rs for back lights. It’s also perfect for little jobs where you hate to drag the big packs or for backlights if you typically use 600 w/s or less on those anyway. If you regularly push 1200 w/s through a bank, then a 7B is probably be more cost-effective.