A wedding photographer friend and I got into conversation about the Profoto B2 and the Elinchrom ELB 400 over coffee this week. It was not a debate. It was simply a conversation that sparked me looking into the ELB 400 deeper since I shoot with the Profoto B2 on a regular basis.
Before I dive in, I don't claim to know everything there is to know about both systems. I am very familiar with the Profoto B2 system since I own two of them and numerous other Profoto items. I have never seen the Elinchrom ELB 400 up close and I'm not going to make this a post about how I feel the Profoto B2 is better. I simply want to compare a lot of things along with the pricing and let you decide if either or neither system is a fit for your needs.
One key reason to consider either system is to have something that is portable and puts out far more power than a speedlite especially when it comes to overpowering the sun. If you have read to this point and think that a speedlite can do everything either of these systems can do, you need to do your research. If you have never shot with either system and are simply thinking, "These systems are expensive. I can do that or that or that with a speedlite," please think twice before commenting. It's true that there are some crossover things that can be done with a speedlite, but when it comes to certain things, a 50W speedlite will not do what a 250W or 424W system will do.
If the only thing to consider were power, the Elinchrom ELB 400 at 424WS wins by not quite a full f/stop over the Profoto B2 (500WS vs. 250WS is a full stop difference.).
Current Pricing Late November 2016
Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit, Includes B2 250 AirTTL Power Pack, B2 Head, Battery, Carrying Bag, Location Bag, Battery Charger $1,995.00 (Adorama)
Elinchrom ELB 400 Action To Go Kit, Includes Quadra Action Head, Quadra Grid Reflector 18cm, EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus $1,839.99 (Adorama)
That's a $155.01 savings if you were to purchase the Elinchrom ELB 400 over the Profoto B2.
Although the Elinchrom comes with a Transmitter, it's not the Elichrom HSS (High Speed Sync) transmitter which is $249.95 additional. But the Profoto B2 (learned the hard way) requires an Air TTL Remote that is $411. So this adds another $161.05 in extra cost if purchasing the Profoto B.
At this point, the two systems are $316.06 difference with the Elinchrom being the winner so far compared to out of pocket cost to this point.
The Elinchrom comes with a grid reflector and the Profoto B2 does not. The Profoto grid reflector (which you will need for certain shooting) is $172 (Adorama). However, I have the older used version that I got off Ebay for under $100. But looking a pure new vs. new, this is another $172 in out of pocket cost when purchasing the Profoto B2 over the Elinchrom ELB 400.
At this point, the two systems are $488.06 difference with the Elinchrom being the winner so far compared to out of pocket cost to this point.
You'll need a second battery for either system. The Elinchrom battery is $389.99 (B&H) compared to the Profoto B2 battery at $229 (Adorama). But the Elinchrom battery provides 100 (ish) more full power flashes than the Profoto battery. However, there are two other things to consider: 1) Size and Weight (Profoto wins). 2) The Profoto recharges from dead to full in 45 minutes and the Elinchrom from dead to full in 90 minutes. The Elinchrom may provide 100 more flashes, but the Profoto can be recharged twice in 90 minutes providing 100 more flashes that way than the Elinchrom.
The battery pricing puts the Profoto B2 $160.99 closer in total cost to the Elinchrom. So with the previous $488.06 difference - $160.99, that leaves the two systems just $327.07 difference.
Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit, Includes B2 250 AirTTL Power Pack, B2 Head, Battery, Carrying Bag, Location Bag, Battery Charger $1995.00 + $411 + $172 + $229 = $2,807
Elinchrom ELB 400 Action To Go Kit, Includes Quadra Action Head, Quadra Grid Reflector 18cm, EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus $1,839.99 + $249.95 + 0 (included) + $389.99 = $2,479.93 ( $327.07 )
There are numerous other things to consider like modifiers, other accessories, mount types, etc., but just like anything, you can find the knock off stuff for either brand if you are trying to save money. There will be differences in cost in this area that are likely to go either way when comparing when comparing alternative options or brand name to brand name, but I'm not going that deep.
Looking at one key spec: Does the $327.07 gap matter?
I hope you have stuck with me to this point, because for me, there is ONE key difference that matters to me that is worth the $327.07. That is TTL.
The Profoto B2 not only has HSS (High Speed Sync), but it has TTL. That takes out a lot of trial and error, guess work and even metering (optional). I love the fact that I can use TTL to get the exposure in line with the Profoto B2 and then lock it in by switching to manual if I'm staying consistent with the lighting.
Yes, I would like the extra power of the Elinchrom (Remember, it's less than a stop.) compared to the Profoto B2, but for me, I'm not giving up TTL for less than 1 stop difference in power. For run and gun, on the go, portable shooting, the TTL has been a wonderful option with the Profoto B2. So for me, it's not worth the $327.07 savings, but then again, I'm already heavily invested in Profoto at this point.
In closing, if you are considering either of these systems or any system that is going to cost you $2,000+, I would look far deeper than what I have included in this post because chances are very good that you will stick with whatever system you choose for years to come. I have no regrets on purchasing the Profoto B2 system, but that doesn't mean that it's the right system for you. It's your money. Use it wisely.
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