Learn from Joey L.

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What Portable Flash Kit Should I Buy? Comparing Einstein, Profoto B1 and the Broncolor Move 1200L

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1,000.00 - 1500.00 Kit: Einstein Flash Kit from Paul C. Buff

Light Head: Einstein E640 Flash Unit

Battery Generator: Vagabond™ Mini Lithium Battery

Modifier: Foldable 47" Octabox

Trigger: CyberSync™ Trigger Transmitter

CyberSync™ Transceiver

Stand: C-Stand

Cheaper Option: CowboyStudio Set of Two 7 feet Stands with Cases

3,000.00 Kit: Profoto B1 and Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Octabox

Light Head: Profoto B1

Battery Generator: None

Modifier: Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Deep OctaBox

Adapter: Elinchrom Rotalux Adapter for Profoto

Trigger: Profoto Air Remote TTL-C

Stand: C-Stand

Extras: Extra B1 Battery
D1 Frosted Globe

7,000.00 Kit: Broncolor Move 1200 L Power Pack With MobiLED Flash Head

Flash Head & Battery Pack: Broncolor Move 1200 L Battery Power Pack with MobiLED Flash Head

Modifier: Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Deep OctaBox

Adapter: Elinchrom Rotalux Adapter for Broncolor

Trigger: Broncolor RFS 2 Transmitter (free if you get package above)

Stand: C-Stand

Since some of my most well-known work was shot with studio lights on location, I'm regularly asked about what kind of gear I take with me for those kinds of shoots. Having gear that is portable, yet powerful is an important part of being able to make those photographs, so I'm going to show you how to piece together an effective lighting kit that fits your price range, whatever that may be.

What I'm going to do is build three lighting kits at three different price levels. I've tested them out side-by-side to see the pros and cons of each setup and the kind of image quality you can achieve with each one. You can watch me test the lights and go into deeper detail by watching the video above.

Now, I am not loyal to any specific brand. The quality of equipment is much more important than the name that's written on it, so I'm only including gear that I have actually used in the past and that I know to be good. All of this equipment is stuff I would buy myself if I was given these specific budgets.

Let's just get one big disclaimer out of the way now. This shit is expensive. The price levels I'm going to go over are $1500.00, $3000.00, and $7000.00. Buying your first strobe kit is a serious investment, so I've designed this tutorial to help first-time buyers, and buyers looking to upgrade their gear, better wrap their heads around the complexities of such a niche market. Keep in mind that the prices for each of these items fluctuates with the time, so the prices I have listed might not be the most current. For the most up-to-date prices you should refer to the seller's website.

I'm a huge fan of owning nice equipment, but I'm also a fan of more scrappy "do-it-yourself" approaches. The kind of money invested into a lighting kit could buy hundreds of fluorescent tubes, LED flashlights, (or perhaps even a mansion in Detroit...) This is not a video about using found DIY materials, but I do try to save nonessential dollars wherever I can.

All the prices I have listed for the gear are the amount for brand new equipment. If you want to save a bit of money, you should think about building your kit from pieces you get from eBay, craigslist, and other photographers selling their equipment. Unlike other electronics and photography gear, a solid lighting kit can hold it's value for quite a long time, but if you keep an eye on the prices, you can find good deals on used equipment.

I feel like a lot of people nit-pick camera specs, and while this is important, what I believe makes a great photo is more the quality of light than the camera used. I've seen so many bloggers that boast the classic line "I only used an iPhone to take this shot", but often times the thousands of dollars of equipment sitting just outside frame is completely left out of the discussion. To me, the light is way more important than the camera used.


Because there are so many different lighting kits available, let's first define the exact criteria of what we are looking for... let's set some rules for ourselves.

1) The kit:

We are defining a kit as having four main items - a flash head, a soft modifier, a power source, and a stand - as well as any other things you need to make your lights fire with your camera. Even with just one light, there's so many things a photographer can do. Once you master using one light, your kit can be expanded to include more.

2) The flash must be more powerful than 500ws:

I know that the wattage describes how much electricity the light draws, not how bright it gets, but since most companies don't list the maximum lumen output of their lights, the wattage is the closest spec we have to indicate how bright the light will probably be able to get.

I know a lot of photographers prefer speedlights when assembling portable kits, but there are a few reasons why I'm leaving them out of these options. While speedlights can be very useful and can create great light, they can't output as much light as strobes can.

Even at that power, speedlights also take several seconds to recycle, which can cramp your shooting style if you're someone who likes or needs to shoot fast.

In this discussion, we are not going to talk about speedlights or camera-mounted flashes. Although speedlights are great and have thousands of uses, we are only comparing more powerful options that have a rating of at least 500ws or over. This will come in handy for over-powering the sun and being more in control of the look of your light.

For more info on speedlights, I recommend reading www.Strobist.com which is a badass site all about speedlights that's run by my friend, David Hobby.

3) The kit must be portable and be able to run by itself on a battery:

I have dedicated years of my life to traveling with gear and working in a number of different environments. I've found that I prefer equipment that works both on location and inside a studio. Your kit should be good indoors and out. If your lights have to plug into a wall to operate, you're limiting your possibilities.

4) The entire kit must must be lightweight:

I'm a big fan of traveling light. A few pounds might not seem like a big deal, but any unnecessary weight on you or your team's backs can be the difference between not only good spirits on set, but good health. It's also worth noting that if you ever fly with your gear, you're going to kick yourself when you have to pay extra because your bag was 5lbs overweight! When I pack, I make sure that every pound I'm putting in my bag counts!

To go along with this rule, I am only going to compare packs that have lithium batteries. In my opinion, lithium is well worth the money over lead batteries. I say this for two reasons. 1) they are much lighter 2) they charge much faster and hold a charge longer.


Let's get the stand out of the way. Your stands are going to be holding up some of your most valuable equipment. In an extreme case, a stand malfunction can ruin a whole shoot. I don't mess around with anything other than C-stands, because they are the most sturdy and reliable. For something this crucial, that's very important not to cheap out. It drives me nuts to see someone using a flimsy $30.00 stand to hold up a $1,000.00 light. It doesn't make any sense. Staaahhp doing that!

If I'm going to invest in a quality light, it makes sense that I'd also invest in a quality stand that will last a long time without breaking. You can get a solid C-stand for about $130.00. Sometimes you can find these at a discounted, secondhand price on sites like craigslist or eBay, but what I've found is that even when buying C-stands used, the prices don't change dramatically. Initially, that might sound like a bad thing, but they don't really lose any value over time because they are pretty hard to mess up. If you do buy a new stand, then decide to resell, you aren't really out any money.

Throughout all of our kits, this is one item that will remain consistent.

If every dollar counts for you, and you absolutely need to get a cheaper stand, I recommend this 7-foot aluminum stand made by CowboyStudio on Amazon. These guys are small and light-weight, but they're NOT capable of holding heavy heads or large modifiers without falling over or breaking.

The Kits

$1,000.00 - $1,500.00 KIT:

Let's take a look at the $1,000.00 to $1,500.00 price range - The Einstein Flash Kit from Paul C Buff.

Some photographers treat Paul C. Buff stuff with a certain stigma, but for this price range I don't believe you're going to find anything close to as good.

In this kit:


  • The Paul C. Buff Octaboxes are surprisingly well made. They are built with durable materials and are easy to set up.
  • The company has good customer service. When you send them a damaged piece, they USUALLY will fix or replace with a brand new light if you are still under their warranty period. After warranty a fix will run you about $50.00 plus shipping.
  • Vagabond Mini Lithium Pros are lightweight and cheap. You can get a replacement battery for $90.00. They last for 400 to 500 full power (640 Ws) flashes per battery charge. Theoretically, even though it goes against Paul C. Buff's recommendations, you can charge just about anything with these packs because they accept a normal AC plug.
  • Einsteins can dial down to 2.5 Ws making it possible to use a shallow depth of field.


  • These are Dustin Snipes most frequently replaced item in his kit. They aren't really built to last.
  • Buttons on the back get pushed during travel and get stuck/short out. This can result in a malfunction that causes the lights to fire repeatedly like a "strobe light" in a haunted house.
  • The color temperature and output are inconsistent.

Overall Verdict:

This is some cheap shit. I'm amazed at what you can get for the price, but at the same time, you get what you pay for.
To watch me test this light out and hear a little more in-depth information, go to timecode 07:56 of the video above.

$3,000.00 KIT:

And here's our second lighting kit - The new Profoto B1 flash head with an Elinchrom 39" Rotalux Octabox.

The guys over at Profoto are probably going to have a heart attack when they see that I've "contaminated" their beloved Profoto B1 with an Elinchrom modifier.... It's a bit sacrilegious if you will, but I believe that Elinchrom makes some of the most beautiful lighting modifiers on the photography market. I'm not a huge fan of their flash heads, but their modifiers are unbeatable in my opinion. So in this kit, I've mixed-and-matched together an ideal setup for this price range.

In this kit:


  • Small and light without compromising light quality
  • Well designed and simple to use
  • 220 Full Power Flashes
  • Modeling lamp lasts 1.5 hour on a full charge
  • Batteries are super small and cheap to replace. (I'd argue that you really need one onset to be charging while you're using the one in the strobe or you'd have to take at least an hour break to charge every battery cycle.)
  • High quality materials, durable and built to last
  • The Profoto TTL Air Remote can control the flash power from far away, and even turn the modeling light on.


  • These lights are 500 ws max, which is on the low end of the power range I like to use.
  • The unit can not be plugged into the wall and "trickle charge" while unit is in use.

Overall Verdict:

So far the B1 doesn't have any real competition. It's the first light of it's kind and it's really a game changer. I can't imagine it will be too long before other lighting companies come out with an answer to this and we're laughing, remembering the days that we used to lug around these huge, heavy battery packs!

Now, I don't use TTL, but it is important to a lot of photographers, especially those who are leaving speedlights behind and upgrading to their first strobe kit. If you are going to use TTL, I recommend getting your basic exposure with it, then tweaking from there to get exactly what you're looking for.

To watch me test this light out, hear a little more in-depth information, and to see the final images, go to timecode 13:56 of the video above.

$7,000.00 KIT:

$7,000.00 KIT: Let's take a look at our final kit at a whopping $7,000.00 price level.

This kit comes with a soft case for the pack and a trolley backpack, among other things when you buy it through B&H. The kit they sell includes a Broncolor Flex Softbox ($250.00 value) but I can't wholeheartedly endorse it the way I do the Elinchrom Deep Octa. That doesn't mean that I think that all of Broncolor's modifiers are bad. If you have an unlimited budget, you should check out the Broncolor Para 177. That thing is a f*cking goddess.

Not to get too "gear-review-esque," but when you compare the Broncolor Move pack to the Profoto equivalent, the B4, the Broncolor is cheaper by about $2,500.00 (not to mention lighter by almost 8lbs.) !

In this kit:


  • As the name suggests, it is 1,200 ws making it way more powerful than any of the other kits I have listed
  • The LED modeling lamp can run for up to 2 hours on a full charge
  • Up to 230 full power flashes
  • Quick charging
  • Easy / user friendly LED display
  • High quality materials that are durable and built to last
  • Unit can be plugged into the wall and "trickle charge" while unit is in use


  • Price?
  • The way Broncolor modifiers mount to the head totally sucks

To watch me test this light out, hear a little more in-depth information, and to see the final images, go to timecode 20:46 of the video above.

Conclusion - Overall Verdict

In short, if money is not an issue and you want the best shit you can get, you should consider Broncolor Move 1200 L. For the most bang for your buck, it's the Profoto B1. If you're just starting out or don't want to invest too much into studio light, the Einstein is the way to go.

Let me reiterate that this tutorial was not made to COMPARE these kits. It's obvious that the more expensive you go, the better the quality. When comparing these images, there are slight variances in light color. The Einstein's having a lot more of a warm/red light output. It's only in the field and using these for an extended period of time will you see the true difference between the systems.