How Many Hot-Shoe Strobes Are In A Monoblock?

Oct 19, 2014

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

How Many Hot-Shoe Strobes Are In A Monoblock?

Oct 19, 2014

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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This is an interesting question. On the Red corner we have hot shoe strobes: they are (relatively) cheap, small and portable and recycle pretty fast, but they need lots of AA batteries. On the Blue corner we have monoblocks; They are big and more cumbersome but they give A LOT of light.

So whats the trade off, when are you better getting several small hot shoe strobes and when are you better off using one big light? This is not a trivial question to answer especially since hot shoe strobes measure in GN, while monoblocks measure in Watt-seconds. now with TTL monoblocks this becomes a really interesting question.

Neil van Niekerk did an empirical test trying to answer that question. His comparison addresses the power aspect while leaving convenience, price, light shape and modularity out, but even at that it gives a good idea about how to begin dealing with the trade offs involved.

Neil conducted two tests, both with a 34m GN Nikon SB910 (set to 50mm zoom) – full power vs. a 500WS Profoto D1 (similar to the TTL enabled 500WS Profoto B1 only with no battery) set to full power as well.

The test shows that the B1 is about 2.7 stops stronger than then the 910.

The 500 WS juice from the Profoto D1 gave us nearly 3 stops difference in output. Actually closer to 2.7 stops judging by the light-meter and the photos

That means that for power, you would have to get about 6-7 hot shoe strobes to match one B1 strobe.

For sheer brute power though, it can’t match a studio-type light. And this is where the Profoto B1 battery powered flash (vendor) shines. True wireless control and with TTL capability, it becomes very easy to use and set up on location.

This also takes us in an interesting direction. It is quite often mentioned that portable studio lights such as the Profoto B1 are quite expensive. But if you break it down into a comparable number of speedlights and wireless transmitters (and possibly battery packs), then the all-speedlight option becomes quite expensive. An interesting consideration

You can read the full comparison over at Neil’s blog.

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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3 responses to “How Many Hot-Shoe Strobes Are In A Monoblock?”

  1. Wil Fry Avatar
    Wil Fry

    Considering the great amount of light I get (more than enough) with a couple of LumoPro speedlights — and sometimes a Yongnuo thrown in for good measure — I guess this answers my question about whether I need a monoblock (I don’t).

    1. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      I have 3 youngnuo 560-iii with a ttl 468-ii as a key light should i need to go that route… I can control all 560s with the new 560 TX trigger controller … suffice to say that i would be hard pressed to go above and beyond that… why??? Well if i can do this with these speedlite why would I go with strobes … I would be very hard pressed to justify to my significant other a set of 3 heads B1profotos or any other of those combinations… LOL!.

  2. Frank Nazario Avatar
    Frank Nazario

    have 3 youngnuo 560-iii with a ttl 468-ii as a key light should i need to go that route… I can control all 560s with the new 560 TX trigger controller … suffice to say that i would be hard pressed to go above and beyond that… why??? Well if i can do this with these speedlite why would I go with strobes … I would be very hard pressed to justify to my significant other a set of 3 heads B1profotos or any other of those combinations… LOL!.