I write this review
because it's hard to find unbiased content out there. While saying that, I should start off this post by telling the readers that I own the Indra500 since about 6 months back. In the months of ownership, the Indra500 has produced great results, but there are a few limitations which triggered me to borrow a B1 and do this shootout. I find it strange that these limitations have not been brought up in other reviews, but there you have it.
What's the difference (specs) between B1 and Indra500
Not much really. Feature-wise, they both come with 500Ws, High Speed Sync, built-in wireless receivers and TTL. They are also battery powered, lightweight and portable. On paper, the B1 claims +-150k in color temperature and the Indra500 +-200k. Flash duration is similar and the B1 can do .1 stop increments while the Indra500 does 1/3 stop increments. The B1 is also completely cordless while the Indra500 has a separate head (with capacitors) and a separate battery pack. B1 cannot get its power from an outlet, compared to the Indra500 which has an optional AC adapter.
Light modifiers are readily available for Profoto due to the wide range of modifiers and other manufacturers creating adapters for it, but the same rings true for Indra500 since it uses a Bowens-S mount which is also widespread. Most manufacturers (I know of) support both these mounts.
So minor advantage in specs to Profoto B1, pretty identical except the design. But then there's the price. The B1 is about 50% more expensive. Hard to leave that out of the review...
Why did I originally get the Indra500 over the B1?
- I have a couple of Nikon speedlights and with the Phottix Odin controller it was possible to reuse these speedlights, allowing me to both set their power remotely with the controller and allow High Speed Sync with the Indra500 working in unison with the speedlights. Very handy.
- The head is lighter by about 1kg and it doesn't have a built-in reflector like the B1. Instead its light spread is 180 degrees. The fact that it's not completely cordless is irrelevant for me personally. I much rather prefer if the head is lighter.
- The price difference was not the deciding factor, but of course hard to ignore.
Actually, most important for me was the lighter head and the light spread since I use a parabolic umbrella from Broncolor. The Para 88. On a Para, you place the head on a focusing rod, and if you want a soft light, the head is hanging far from the light stand which causes it to be (very) front heavy. Also, you don't get the "ring flash"-effect if you don't have a 180 degree light spread. You can fit the B1 with an optional glass dome, but from what I've heard it still doesn't match the light spread of an open flash tube.
Some of the photographs I've taken using the Indra500.
Enough small talk, how are they in practice
Alright, alright. Let's get to the nitty gritty. Since I've owned the Indra500 for about half a year, let's start off with how we've gotten along, and make a small comparison to the B1 which I've borrowed for a weekend.
Build quality. The Indra500 is well built and feels rugged. It's not as rugged as a B1 which feels like I could drop it from ten feet into concrete and still produce great results, but it has a weight to it and is pretty solid. The head display looks good on both units, but the Indra500 "scroll button" is a bit flimsy and not very accurate. It doesn't cause any problems in practice however. The B1 AirTTL-remote is more beautiful than the Odin remote, but well, I don't even know if that's relevant... The fan in the Indra500 is annoying when you're not outdoors, it's pretty noisy to be honest. In comparison, I barely notice the B1's fan.
Reliability. The Indra500 and the Odin remote is very reliable, at least for me. I don't think it has ever misfired. I haven't measured power output consistency, but I certainly haven't noticed any inconsistencies enough to warrant further inspection. How reliable is the B1? I really don't know since I've only had it over the weekend, but in that time it hasn't missed a beat either. Battery life is impressive on the Indra500, it goes and goes and goes, I'm sure the B1 is equally impressive.
Features like High Speed Sync, TTL and modelling light. High speed sync is a feature I really wanted and which ruled out a lot of other options when it came to portable battery driven studio lights.
In theory, Indra500 would have an advantage since it's theoretically possible to shoot HSS in any power level. B1 is automatically limited to the 8-10 power range. In reality, they are the same. When testing this I got black banding on the Indra500 in 1/8 power and under. 1/4 and above had a perfect exposure. See example below.
First picture (indra500): f/2, 1/4000s. Power level: 1/8. Second picture (indra500): f/4, 1/4000s. Power level: 1/4. Third picture (B1): f/2, 1/4000s. Power level 8/10. Notice the black gradient at the bottom of the first picture. Camera profile: camera standard, unlike the rest of the images further down where a colorchecker passport profile has been created.
TTL is something I basically never use, so I can't really comment on it. Both give the same exposure in the controlled environment I used for testing color temperature in the next chapter. What the B1 has as an advantage over Indra500 in this respect is that you can do a TTL exposure, and if you like it you can go manual and it will keep the power setting. Indra500 doesn't do this, you will never know which power setting it used when you do TTL.
Modelling light is weak on the Indra500, it's barely enough in the dark to help you acquire focus. The B1 is another story, much more powerful. Modelling light is not a deal breaker for me, so I won't comment on it further.
Color temperature. This is where it gets interesting, and I guess this is where you really get what you pay for... I have dedicated the next chapter to this.
Color temperature - Sometimes you get what you pay for
I noticed a while ago, well it was hard not to notice, that the color temperature stability was really funky when you went below 1/32 in power with the Indra500. So I did a little test. First a word about the test setup: not an ideal setup by any means, but all ambient was blacked out, I used the accompanying reflector with the Indra500 and the built-in reflector for the B1. Both lights were placed at the same place, same angle and same distance to the colorchecker. Take the temperature numbers with a grain of salt as it can be polluted by the surrounding area, take it rather as a guidance.
Since both B1 and Indra500 can control its power through its remote (which is how I want to use it), let's show a series of images with color temp set to a reference number and see how they fare.
Profoto B1, color temp set to 6200, tint: 0 in Lightroom for all images. Power settings from left to right: 2 to 9, f/1.4 to f/16. Shutter 1/200s for all. Overall kelvin between 6000 - 6250, tint -5 to 0. Used the gray patch bottom row third from the right. Click each image to see color temp and tint.
Phottix Indra500, color temp set to 6200, tint: 0 in Lightroom for all images. Power settings from left to right: 1/128 to 1/2, f/2 to f/16. Shutter 1/200s for all. Overall kelvin between 6150 - 8200, tint 0 to +24. Used the gray patch bottom row third from the right. Click each image to see color temp and tint.
B1 is really exemplary in its color stability. In stark contrast, something happens with Indra500 around 1/32 and under in power. It was also a tad brighter in TTL-mode compared to fully manual, which still puzzles me...
Indra500 and color instability
So why is Indra500 so unstable under 1/32? The answer is TTL.
To set power through the remote control, the Indra500 must be set to TTL. And even though you select manual on the remote, the Indra500 will do a pre-flash as per TTL and the Indra500 doesn't cope with this in 1/32 and under.
This means that if you want to go full TTL, hope that you stay above 1/32. Otherwise the color temp will be off by several thousand kelvins...
The B1 does not exhibit this behaviour, even if you use TTL in its truest sense.
To get near the color temperature stability the B1 has, the Indra500 must be set to completely manual. So I did this final test, same settings as before when testing the Indra500, but everything set to manual and left the remote out of the equation:
Overall kelvin between 6100 - 6300, tint between -2 and +1. Much better. Now it's comparable to Profoto. When I asked Phottix support about this they said:
Will they fix this? Who knows. I'm pretty sure that if you want full TTL this is not fixable, but I sure hope there is a fix in the future if you want to do manual through the Odin remote. But then again, it depends on their implementation. I don't have my hopes up.
It bothers me, if you haven't noticed already, that if you want color temp stability with Phottix Indra 500, you can't use the Odin remote to achieve this. You really need to set the power on the head itself to be sure. Otherwise it's a pretty good package.
As an owner of the Indra500, when you get to use Profoto B1 you go "oh, this is what consistency is". Profoto B1 on the other hand has a few things that makes it a no go for me. I need the light spread, I need a head which doesn't weigh over 3kg. But you have to admire how well it performs.
I wish Profoto made a B1 with separate head and battery like the B2 and removed the built-in reflector. Call it the B3.
Feel free to leave any comments below if you have any thoughts on this review!
Update 1: Added info on the optional glass dome for B1, light modifier options and AC adapter for Indra500.
Update 2: Redid my tests with the Indra500 using the latest firmware 1.06 which added a "Color" mode. Unfortunately, the results were the same.