That is, if you can afford it. The B10 may stand above other options, but it’s far from the most affordable way to get great lighting. Here are some of our favorite photo and video lights for different disciplines and budgets.
Why you should buy this: High flash output in a compact form factor for bringing the studio to the field.
The Profoto B10 combines studio lighting power with go-anywhere portability. With 250 watt-seconds of output, it is considerably brighter than the average external flash, yet the rechargeable battery still grants 400 full-powered flashes. Power can be turned down by as many 10 stops, giving a flexible range to balance the flash with a wide variety of ambient light levels. Depending on the power, the flash recharges as quickly as 0.05 seconds, or just 2 seconds at full power. It also connects directly to Profoto lighting modifiers like beauty dishes and soft boxes with an easy-to-use slide-on collar system.
Beyond the flash capability, there is also a dimmable, color-temperature-adjustable LED modeling lamp that can output up to 2,500 lumens, enough for some video applications. This wouldn’t be our first recommendation for a dedicated video light, but hybrid shooters will appreciate the option.
While it’s undoubtedly a very advanced light, it is also incredibly easy to use thanks to a simple user interface and support for TTL metering for automatic exposure control with Nikon, Canon, and Sony cameras (an optional universal trigger will work with other brands, but without TTL or high-speed sync functionality). It’s almost a shame that the B10 costs so much, as it would otherwise make for an excellent choice for beginners in addition to photographers making money with their craft.
Profoto now makes a B10 Plus, as well, which offers twice the flash power but is longer and nearly a pound heavier. We feel the original B10 still hits the sweet spot between output and portability, and that’s why it’s our pick.
The Flashpoint XPLOR 400 Pro, like the Profoto B10, is a portable, battery-powered studio light with wireless connectivity and TTL support (which goes beyond the big tree of Canon, Nikon, and Sony to also include Fujifilm and Olympus/Panasonic). It lacks the same level of refinement as the B10, but it offers 400 watt-seconds of output, up to 390 full-power flashes from the rechargeable battery, 1-second recycle time at full power, and a 30-watt modeling lamp — all for significantly less money than the B10. In fact, the EXPLOR 400 Pro costs about as much as a high-end Canon or Nikon speedlight.
Other features include a 9-stop adjustable power range, five wireless control groups, and a native Godox modifier mount for attaching lighting modifiers (Flashpoint is a rebrand of Godox, a popular Chinese lighting manufacturer).
The XPLOR 400 Pro is noticeably bigger than the B10 and over a pound heavier at 4.6 pounds, and it’s interface isn’t exactly as straightforward, but the cost savings make it a very attractive choice for photographers who want to be able to create studio-quality lighting virtually anywhere. If you’re looking to improve your lighting game, this is a product that can take you from beginner through to professional, growing with you as you learn.
Dubbed as an ideal cheapÂ photography lighting kit for beginners, the Interfit FLA2002 Studio Essentials kitÂ sits at a happy medium between price, features and build. Unlike the cheap lighting kits on Amazon, the Interfit isn’t a continuous lighting set and even includes a remote to trigger the lights cord-free. While you’ll need an AC outlet cord — finding a battery powered strobe lighting kit for a similar price is pretty much impossible — the wireless capability in a strobe kit is a big plus.
The two flash heads included with the kit offers up to 200 Ws, with power adjustable by five stops. That’s not as versatile as some high-end light kits, but plenty for beginners and the price point. The recycle time is about two seconds when using a full powered burst of light. An essential feature for beginners, a 75w modeling light option allows new photographers to preview how the position of the light affects the image before snapping a photo. And while opting for a studio slave instead of continuous lighting already cuts down the heat, the lights are also fan cooled.
Along with the two strobe lights, the kit also includes two 7.5 foot stands and two softboxes. Compatible with Bowens accessories, adding additional modifiers is easy to do as well. The wireless radio receiver is also included, along with a carrying bag.
While the Interfit kit may be basic, the set offers a lot of features for the price point. There are cheaper options, but they typically use a continuous light source instead of strobes, a less quality build, or don’t include a wireless transmitter in the set, instead relying on a wired connection to the camera.
Who’s it for:Â Photography enthusiasts, pros, and any photographer serious about optimal light quality
There are many reasons why the Profoto A1X is the best camera flash, but one of the biggest perks to the Profoto A1X is obvious without taking a dive into the technical specifications — the shape. While most flashes use a rectangular flash head, the Profoto A1X uses a round flash head. That shape lends to more natural light fall-off at the edges, considering natural light (i.e. the sun) is also round. That round shape is also more similar to studio strobes.
But besides the unusual shape, the recently updated A1X has a number of perks, including a 450 shot battery life and one second recycle time, both improvements over the earlier version of this flash, without the X in the name. The flash is compatible with all the auto features you’d expect from a high-end flash, including TTL, high-speed sync, and a built-in autofocus assist beam. For using manual settings, the flash has a wide range from 1/1 to 1/256 and a 32mm to 105mm zoom range.
Off camera, the A1X uses a built-in transceiver, allowing the light to trigger other Profoto lights. To trigger the without one mounted on top of your camera, you’ll need to Profoto Air transmitter, but don’t need to add a receiver to your bag. The flashes offers 20 wireless channels in six groups, making it ideal for multi-light set-ups. A modeling light is also built-in, allowing photographers new to off-camera lighting to easily see how the light will look before the shot.
Those features are wrapped up in a flash that weighs roughly a pound and a quarter. And while the flash head design is a bit different, the head still rotates and tilts for bounce. The control scheme is also straight forward, making the sysm simpler to use despite the long list of features. The downside? The price of the Profoto A1X sits at four figures.
A good flash doesn’t have to cost more than the camera body itself, and the Godox Ving 860II is the best cheap camera flash you can buy — and as good or better than many higher-priced first-party options. packs in a lot of power and advanced features considering the much lower price point. Coming from a brand favored for more budget-friendly lighting solutions, the Godox Ving 860II still sits at a 197-foot guide number, making it a good choice for most photographers on a budget, unless you really need that flash paired with a lens longer than 200mm. The flash also comes in versions compatible with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus,Â and Panasonic, so chances are, it’s compatible with your camera system.
The 860II offers a respectable 1.5-second recycle time for the price point at full power. Both TTL and manual mode are included, along with high-speed sync for going beyond your camera’s flash sync speed, and an autofocus assist beam. The flash head both tilts and rotates for bounce possibilities.
But despite the budget category, the 860II will go off-camera easily, thanks to a built-in radio wireless transmission system with a 328-foot range and 32 channels. The flash can be controlled with a second flash or using a Godox transmitter.
The 860II also eliminates one of the major annoyances with name brand flashes — the need for AA batteries. The 860II uses a rechargeable li-ion battery pack. With the battery, the flash weighs around a pound.
Videographers can easily spend thousands on a high-end continuous lighting kit, but for versatile, portable lighting, an inexpensive LED panel like the Viltrox L116T RA will do the trick for many videographers, and even photographers looking for some continuous light to shoot faster than what’s possible with flash or to assist the autofocus in low light scenes. With 987 lumens, the inexpensive LED is bright enough for many different applications.
Used on camera or off, the L116T can be used at full power or all the way down to 20 percent. Color temperature settings between 3300-5600K further allow videographers and photographers to match the added light to the light that’s already in the scene. Both settings are accessible from an LCD panel at the back that also makes the light easy to use for newbies.
At just over an inch thick, the Viltrox is also easy to bring on site, while the 7.6-inch by 5-inch front dimensions make for a light that’s large enough for softer light but small enough to easily tuck into a camera bag. The included battery lasts for more than two hours, and accessories to use with a cold shoe mount or tripod are also included.
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